Just when we were starting to write a column questioning why the Eagles have been mostly dormant this NFL offseason, general manager Howie Roseman pulled off a stunner and acquired the Pro Bowl cornerback the Eagles so desperately need.
After missing out on two free-agent corners – Dallas’ Byron Jones and Carolina’s James Bradberry – Roseman hit a home run, trading for Pro Bowler Darius Slay of Detroit. And now, for the first time since Asante Samuel left after the 2011 season, the Eagles have a legitimate lock-down cornerback who will make the entire defense better.
And all it cost was third- and fifth-round draft picks this year.
That may seem like a steep price to some, but the Eagles’ last five third-round picks were cornerback Rasul Douglas, offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, linebacker Jordan Hicks, wide receiver Josh Huff and defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
Would you trade any or all of them for a Pro Bowl cornerback? So would we. Besides, the Eagles have an extra third-rounder this year, a compensatory pick for losing quarterback Nick Foles to free agency last season.
It will also cost a lot of money to acquire Slay – a contract extension that is reportedly worth $50 million over three years, with $30 million guaranteed – but in the NFL of the 21st Century, that isn’t too much for a player like Slay. Not only is he good – he was selected to the last three Pro Bowls – but he also fills a glaring need.
Until Roseman struck his deal with Detroit, it appeared the Eagles were going to swing and miss in free agency.
The Eagles went into the 2020 NFL offseason with some specific needs, and if you’ve paid attention at all you know what they are – wide receiver, cornerback and edge pass rusher, to name three. And there were some very good ones at those positions going into free agency and, until Thursday, the Eagles had acquired … none of them.
Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins went to Buffalo and Arizona, respectively, while Amari Cooper stayed in Dallas. And cornerback Byron Jones, who many so-called experts said was the Eagles’ No. 1 target in free agency, agreed to terms with Miami, while cornerback James Bradberry did the same with the New York Giants.
And, just like that, it appeared the Eagles were shut out of their top priorities in the first 48 hours of free agency. In fact, the biggest news the Eagles had made is not somebody they acquired, but somebody they let go – safety Malcolm Jenkins, a Pro Bowl player who was the undisputed leader of the Eagles defense on and off the field. Apparently, the Eagles weren’t willing to pay Jenkins what he believes he is worth, and there’s little doubt that if a poll was taken of Eagles fans, they would agree with the player and not the team.
So, once again, the big questions for those fans was: Do you trust Howie Roseman? The Eagles general manager has made some terrific moves in the past – including signing Jenkins as a free agent from New Orleans four years ago (ironically, Jenkins will now return to the Saints). But he’s also made some terrible moves, like almost all NFL general managers.
What was baffling to Eagles fans was that Roseman, who has always been a wheeler and dealer when it comes to personnel moves, was doing next to nothing, other than to sign defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from Pittsburgh, a solid, if not spectacular move.
Now, Eagles fans are breathing a sigh of relief because their team finally made a big offseason splash.
Slay has played in the last three Pro Bowls and he’s 29, which means he’s in the prime of his career. And he’s a perfect fit for the Eagles defense – defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was the head coach in Detroit when the Lions drafted Slay in the second round in 2013.
So, this part of the NFL offseason is already a success. Now, let’s see what Roseman has up his sleeve for Part 2.