Do the Eagles need to completely rebuild their secondary in 2024?

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback Darius Slay (2) reacts after making an interception in the fourth quarter during the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles fell drastically short of expectations in 2023 and a flailing defense played a large role in the downfall of the team. A change in coordinators only made matters worse, and the Birds ended up with the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL. While a deep dive would present plenty of contributing factors, the Eagles struggled to get anything remotely consistent out of their secondary and now find themselves likely facing a total overhaul.

With Vic Fangio entering the fray, the Eagles will be deploying a slightly different scheme in 2024 and may well want to find some players better-suited to it. Even if they’re comfortable with the current names, you could make a case for anyone not-named Reed Blankenship to be placed on the trade block.

Before we go into the starters from 2023, it’s important to remember who the Eagles have waiting in the wings. Developmental corners such as Josh Jobe and Kelee Ringo would relish expanded opportunities, especially considering that there was no real drop-off in production from the starters to the backups last year. They were given plenty of reps due to nagging injuries in the secondary and it’s not like they were any more worrisome in coverage than the likes of Slay and Bradberry.

So, with that in mind, does it make sense to pass a baton or two and see if some assets could be recouped for players who either lost a step or have other concerns going into 2024?

Darius Slay

There were just as many concerns on the field as there were off of it. Whether it was taking to social media to blow his own trumpet in an otherwise demoralizing defeat, or simply giving up his highest season-long completion percentage since 2020, it became clear that Slay, as a captain on the team, wasn’t really performing in a way the team needed him to.

LANDOVER, MD – JANUARY 02: Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) waits for the game to start during the Philadelphia Eagles versus Washington Football Team National Football League game at FedEx Field on January 2, 2022 in Landover, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

He now comes into an offseason carrying a cap-hit of over $10M at 33-years-old. How much meat is left on the bone for Slay, and even if there’s enough, is he the right kind of leader for an otherwise young secondary? Parting ways wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing in the world when someone like Kelee Ringo is waiting in the wings.

James Bradberry

James Bradberry was much quieter off the field, but unfortunately all of his shortcomings came on it. He gave up a career-worst 11 touchdowns in 2023. His previous highest total was 8. Bradberry was excellent in 2022 but looked like a shell of that player after securing himself a new contract to keep him in Philadelphia.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) makes a touchdown catch in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 20-17. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

He only carries a $4.8M cap-hit so it’s not like the team is going to feel forced to move him on. However, trying to find a partner willing to part with an asset to bring Bradberry in is likely going to be easier said than done. He’ll likely be here next year as a CB2 candidate with no real risk attached to his name, but he’ll need to play better than he did last season.

Avonte Maddox

When healthy, Avonte Maddox is one of the best slot corners in the NFL. The key there is ‘when healthy’. He was limited to 9 games in 2022 and just 4 in 2023 which forced the Eagles to bring in corners like Bradley Roby to try and stop the bleeding, to no avail.

Eagles avonte maddox
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 21: Philadelphia Eagles free safety Avonte Maddox (29) during the Philadelphia Eagles OTA on May 21, 2019 at the Novacare Training Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

A contract year for Maddox sees him carry a $9M cap-hit into 2024. The Eagles just haven’t been able to hang their hat on him due to a real battle against constant minor injuries. They let him play out a contract year once before, he balled out, and secured an extension he hasn’t been healthy enough to live up to. They drafted Zech McPhearson for a reason. Giving him a shot or finding someone more reliable seems like a good plan.

Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard was a great addition to the locker room as a leader, but his production on the field was lagging. They can save $13.5M by cutting him, which feels like an unfortunate no-brainier for a player who was acquired so late into the season that it was almost impossible for him to get up to speed and make a difference.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Kevin Byard (31) intercepts a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson (84) as Eagles linebacker Zach Cunningham (52) watches during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

The Eagles would be better off using that money to poach a potential free agent or trade for a younger player who still has time to grow and can be afforded multiple years to do so.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire