The Eagles have built an elite secondary but at what cost?

NFL: AUG 04 Arizona Cardinals Training Camp
GLENDALE, AZ – AUGUST 04: Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tay Gowan (32) celebrates a big play during Arizona Cardinals training camp on August 4, 2021 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

It’s been a huge offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles. The A.J Brown trade may well go down as a franchise-defining moment when all is said and done, and the cherry on the cake was undoubtedly the signing of James Bradberry. The former Giants CB may well be the missing piece in this secondary, but his arrival comes at the expense of several key names.

The Eagles have transformed their secondary

In the months leading to the signing of James Bradberry, it appeared as though the Eagles had a very natural plan at cornerback. They traded for the services of young CB’s Tay Gowan and Kary Vincent Jr. Just a few months beforehand, they’d drafted nickel corner Zech McPhearson.

What the Eagles didn’t anticipate was Avonte Maddox having a breakout year in the nickel. They should’ve, the only reason he hadn’t up to that point was because he was being asked to play everywhere but his natural position. His huge 2021 campaign resulted in a juicy contract extension. It was one that was absolutely deserved, but a glass ceiling may have been placed over the head of McPhearson, whose time on the boundary was almost a mirror of what we saw with Maddox, perhaps limiting him to playing inside.

On the boundary, it looked as though the Eagles had a plan. Darius Slay was the CB1, there was a Draft filled with potential All-Pro corners, and they had a flurry of developmental names on their roster. After holding fire on drafting a first-round corner, or any for that matter, Roseman got a lucky break in being able to acquire James Bradberry. His presence gives the Eagles a dominant starting trio at corner, but again, it’s placed a glass ceiling over names like Gowan, Vincent, and even UDFA Mario Goodrich.

What about the young guys?

There are worse problems to have than having too much talent, but it does become an issue when you have a clash of mentalities. It feels as though the Eagles initially planned their future for the CB position to be a gradual process in which Gannon can develop younger corners who were dirt cheap for the team. Given that the Birds were in a transitional phase, there was expected to be a 2-3 year window which would allow for them to find their footing and one to really cement themselves a CB2 while the team explore avenues to find a long-term heir to Slay’s throne, be that through the Draft or otherwise.

But now, the Eagles have essentially thrown caution to the wind and to be honest, I’d expect any NFL GM worth his salt to do the same when flaunted such attractive opportunities. Within the space of a few months, this team went from being a fun team to watch grow without the pressures of having to win, to a team primed to do take a much bigger leap, but one that is now expected.

As a result, the four or five young corners who would’ve otherwise been looking for a sniff of a starting role are now fighting for their NFL futures on the edge of the 53-man roster. Every action has a reaction. Yes, this Eagles team is looking like one of the true wildcards in the NFL that could catch many off guard and make a real run in the next year or two. But when it comes to the cornerback decision, it’s come at the expense of a years worth of investment into young, cheap, and hungry talent, that will now likely be forced to ride the bench, or even worse, the waiver wire.

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Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire