It seems that at the beginning of every offseason Eagles fans go through this roller-coaster charade. A fan-favorite leaves, or is expected to leave, the fanbase gets vehemently upset, and the Eagles end up making the smart move anyway.
Last year it was Fletcher Cox and this year, it’s Darius Slay.
According to Dianna Russini, the Eagles have allowed Slay and his representation to seek out a trade should the two sides not come to a restructured agreement. The news sent shockwaves throughout the NFL and the city of Philadelphia. Slay is coming off a pro-bowl season, his second straight since becoming an Eagle with three interceptions and having a penchant for locking down the opposing team’s top wide receiver.
But while everyone seems to be in an uproar over potentially letting the shutdown corner walk, there is a reason why Philly is letting this happen. And it might be the best thing for the organization to let their star cornerback walk.
Darius Slay is 32 years old. As good as he has been later on in his career, paying and restructuring a contract for a mid-30s player is always a gamble for any team.
In 2018, the Eagles did exactly that with some of their key pieces and it ended up blowing up in their face. You can never predict how an older player will look from season to season and that is why you’re seeing a lot of older players end up on the open market. Adam Theilen is another great example.
Paying players over the age of 30 is a very risky strategy because the downside is that you’re paying players to perform poorly during Jalen Hurts’ prime years. The next few years should be about building a team around Hurts that is young, hungry, and won’t cost as much.
Slay may be hungry, but he’ll cost a lot and isn’t young anymore.
An inevitable lack of Production
It’s easy to say that the team should keep Slay because he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down after two pro-bowl and second-team all-pro nominations. But that isn’t how father time works.
And it doesn’t help that Darius Slay showed some evidence of slowing down later in the year. Outside of being the corner that Kenny Golladay scored his only touchdown as a Giant, Slay did have moments of weakness, particularly late in the year.
Could that be a cause for concern when he’s playing at 32? It certainly is something that needs to be considered.
While he did shut down some truly great receivers like Justin Jefferson early in the year, the former Lion showed signs of slowing down late in the season. It wasn’t pronounced as badly because the defense had tremendous amounts of talent, but the end of the year could be a precursor to more decline in 2023.
People will say that the recent core of leaders on the Eagles was a reason they got to the Super Bowl. In a way, they are right. But they also ignore the main truth of the entire franchise.
The franchise now goes as Jalen Hurts goes. As long as he’s healthy, and the Eagles find competent replacements for their defensive players that are leaving, there’s no reason to suspect that the team won’t be back in the postseason next year.
Philadelphia needs new blood regardless. They have that on offense, but it’s on the defensive side where younger players like Nakobe Dean, Josh Sweat, and others need to begin to take the reigns as vocal leaders. It’s not the end of the world if the Eagles put those players in those positions as soon as possible for the betterment of future success.
The Kansas City Model
There was only one team that got the better of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022-2023. It also helps that the certain team that did give the Eagles the blueprint for their next steps as well.
Kansas City won the Super Bowl this year with a brand new secondary than in previous years. Trent McDuffie, Juan Thornhill, and L’Jarius Sneed were all drafted by the team in recent years and were thrown into the fire in 2022. They started out slow to begin the year but then dominated later on in the season on their way to a championship.
It’s pretty simple. While the Eagles’ secondary was fantastic, they were not the sole reason the team got to Arizona. It also is impossible to see the team pay each secondary member to return. So how does the team stay competitive? By following the KC model. Having young, competent corners allows the team to not have to worry about pouring funds into the position and paying other key players along their offensive and defensive lines.
If Philadelphia follows this mold, and Jalen Hurts continues to develop, the need for Darius Slay on a massive extension would only be a hindrance to the roster.
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