The Eagles have had one of the best offseasons in recent memory this year. A collection of top free agents, value signings, and excellent draft picks have culminated in a unit that has gone from mediocre to great. But, they could still do with some more depth at the cornerback position.
While many fans and analysts feel that the offseason is complete following the signing of Jacquiski Tartt, the Eagles are never really out of any free agent conversation. It’s a concept that has helped the Eagles over the last 20 years and helped them grow from plunky franchise to one of the league’s best.
The Eagles have one of the best cornerback tandems in football with Darius Slay and James Bradberry. With the signing of Tartt, the team solidified the safety position by adding a third solid starting option.
That is not the same at corner.
While Slay, Bradberry, and even Avonte Maddox all are solid and dependable starters, the depth chart is filled with young and developmental talent. It feels like the front office have taken a more aggressive approach to their roster construction over the past six months due to a realization that the team could be much closer to competing than first imagined. The CB room has been no exception, but the bottom of the depth chart doesn’t really have any players for Gannon to hang his hat on in the event of an emergency.
Right now, the backup corners are Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan, and Kary Vincent. While the youth could end up helping the team in the long run, a roster full of win-now players should mean that they need more experienced players backing up the two pro-bowlers.
Who is Available?
The top names in free agency at the moment are Chris Harris Jr., Kevin King, and Xavier Rhodes. While Rhodes and Harris are at the twilight of their respective careers, there’s no reason for experienced and talented players like these to be on the open market.
Could a corner-needy team outspend on one of these players during camp? Absolutely.
However, I think it’s important to note that Rhodes, Harris or even King as backups would only help solidify the Eagles cornerback position. The pressure on McPhearson or Gowan to produce in case of an injury wouldn’t be there, and Rhodes in particular has a history of working and thriving under Jonathan Gannon, while playing on the same Colts team that saw the offense coached by Nick Sirianni as well.
Avonte Maddox Conundrum
In the event of an injury to Slay or Bradberry, Gannon may feel the need to push Avonte Maddox outside. The Pitt product has played the boundary spot before, but to say he struggled in comparison to how he plays inside would be an understatement.
The slot corner is becoming more and more important in today’s NFL. Maddox is easily among the best at his position and compromising that in the event of an injury wouldn’t exactly be ideal.
New man Jaquiski Tartt could play the nickel role in the event of a shuffle, but Zech McPhearson would be the next man up. If Bradberry or Slay were to go down, using a Xavier Rhodes-type player on the outside could save a lot of headache and avoid there being one glaring weakness opening on the defense for quarterbacks to attack.
If the main issue last year was QB’s dicing up a defense that lacked the personnel to execute the scheme, one has to wonder if the same thing would happen to the current backups on the roster. At least Rhodes has plenty of familiarity with a scheme that borrows its fundamentals from Minnesota.
For the Eagles, the depth throughout their roster is excellent but for one position. Adding some extra bulk certainly wouldn’t hurt.
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