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March 10, 2023

Eagles mailbag: Trading Darius Slay is a topic of discussion, apparently?

In a new mailbag, Jimmy Kempski casts aside the idea of trading away Darius Slay, discusses future Eagles compensatory picks and more.

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Darius_Slay_Eagles_Giants_091922_KateFrese143.jpg Kate Frese/PhillyVoice

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay.

Earlier this week, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part I of what will be a two-part mailbag.

Question from @BirdsfaninKS: Any chance one of the big 3 on D (C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry) come back?

Three days ago, I had Bradberry as highly likely to go, Gardner-Johnson as likely to go, and Hargrave somewhere close to 50-50, but I leaned stay. To update that:

  1. No change on Bradberry.
  2. I'm less inclined to think Gardner-Johnson will stay. 📉
  3. I'm still close to 50-50 on Hargrave, but I'm now leaning go. 📉

So I guess this mailbag isn't off to the most optimistic start.

Question from @tweetbit: What are the likeliest Eagles due for a contract restructure to create more cap space?

As an answer to this question both now and just generally speaking, go to the Eagles page at, and take a look at the players with big numbers in the "Base Salary" column. Those base salaries can be converted into signing bonuses and spread out over future years, creating immediate savings but kicking the can down the road. This year, the Eagles don't have many players with big numbers in that column. It's just Darius Slay ($17 million), Lane Johnson ($14,155,000), and to a lesser degree, Jake Elliott ($3,995,000).

Update: Elliott's restructure happened this morning.

Question from @MichaelBertino1: Would the Eagles consider trading Slay for draft capital and cap savings if it meant starting Zech McPhearson and Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez next season? I like Slay so I hope not but it could make some sense.

This is a very common question I've received of late, and I'm not quite sure what the origin is. Maybe because of the report that linked Slay nemesis Matt Patricia to the Eagles' linebacker job, which has since been filled? Anyway, trading the only proven outside cornerback on a Super Bowl contending team would be quite a bold move. 

As noted in the question, there would indeed be some cap savings. Let's touch on that first.

Because the Eagles have already restructured Slay's contract and kicked the can down the road once before, they have some dead money cap hits on the horizon no matter how it plays out. If you trade him, you're taking on $22,409,000 in dead money: 

  1. If that trade is before June 1, you're taking the full $22,409,000 hit in 2023, but you would actually save $3,702,000 on his 2023 cap number of $26,111,000.
  2. If that trade is after June 1, you're taking on $8,611,000 in dead money in 2023, and $13,798,000 in 2024. The immediate savings on the 2023 cap would be $17.5 million, but if you receive draft pick compensation in return, it will be in 2024 and beyond, when the Eagles are already loaded with picks.
  3. If Slay plays out the final year of his contract in 2023 and is not brought back in 2024, he'll count for $13,798,000 in dead money in 2024.

The benefit of trading him would be to not have to pay his $17 million in base salary + $500K in workout bonuses.

So what kind of draft pick compensation should the Eagles expect in return if they traded Slay? Well, when they traded for him during the 2020 offseason, the cost was a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick. That was when he was 29 years old. He's now 32 (#math).

Forget about a possible Slay trade from the Eagles' perspective for a moment, on focus on potential suitors. Is there a team out there that wants to trade decent draft pick compensation + pay him $17.5 million in 2023 or extend him on deal Slay deems better than one year at $17.5 million... at age 32, when it's one of the better cornerback drafts in recent memory? My guess is no.

Question from @danpsu09: Make the case that a corner before pick 20 makes sense. In the modern game it feels like a corner at the most important games is erased because of the rules and modern QB/WR play. When you look at title winners, home grown top 20 pick corners just are not a thing.

Sometimes we think a little bit too hard about the last game that we saw and make big philosophical statements that are based on those most recent experiences. While I would agree that the Chiefs did a great job scheming around the Eagles' advantage at cornerback over the Chiefs' average wide receivers, the notion that cornerbacks are not valuable in important games, to me, is just... 🤯. If the Eagles had faced the Bengals in the Super Bowl instead, you better have good corners to go up against guys like JaMarr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, etc.

I also wouldn't agree that Super Bowl winners typically don't have stellar corners. Two recent Super Bowl winners (Rams, Patriots) had arguably the best corners in the NFL at the time they won their titles in Jalen Ramsey and Stephon Gilmore. Ramsey went fifth overall; Gilmore went 10th overall. I understand that each of those teams didn't draft Ramsey or Gilmore, but they did pay hefty prices to land them. If the argument is that pro corners are easier to scout than college corners, that's a different discussion. But certainly, having good corners is important! 

When I look at building a title contender, I think the Eagles have the right idea in that after quarterback they prioritize the trenches, followed by pass catchers and cornerbacks in that next tier, and positions like running back, linebacker, and safety thereafter.

They have the quarterback. They have the offensive line. They have pass rushers (though they could use reinforcements). They have two star receivers. At corner, they're losing an All-Pro this offseason, and there's a pretty good chance their CB1 won't be with the team after 2023.

Defensively, if you have holes, opposing offenses will find them. If you don't have good corners, you're in for some nightmare games. I mean, look at what the Eagles themselves did to teams with crappy corners like the Vikings, Steelers, Titans and Giants in 2022. Hell, look at those Eagles teams that had guys like Leodis McKelvin, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, etc.

I think it's also noteworthy that the best corners in the NFL are typically drafted top 20. The three All-Pro corners this year other than Bradberry were Sauce Gardner (4th overall), Patrick Surtain (9th overall), and Jaire Alexander (18th overall). 

Of course, you don't just take a corner top 20 to take one. They better be pretty damn good prospects, and I think there are a few of them this year. 

Question from @wikiperrya: As the foremost expert, what is your prediction for total number (and rounds) of Eagles comp picks in 2024?

They're going to get four comp picks in 2024 for the free agents they lose in 2023. Book it. And if I had to guess, I'll say they get a 3 for Hargrave, 4's for Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson, and a 5 for Seumalo.

Question from @ArchAng48808288: Will the Birds get comp picks for Jonathan Gannon and Shane Steichen? The 49ers got picks for DeMeco Ryans and Ran Carthon (GM).

In November of 2020, the NFL approved a proposal that rewards teams for developing minority coaches and front office executives who go on to become head coaches and general managers for other organizations. If a team loses a minority coach or executive to a head coach or general manager position with another team, they will receive a pair of third-round picks in return. They are called "Resolution JC-2A" picks, but function in a similar way to compensatory picks.

The Eagles did not receive draft pick compensation when they lost Gannon to the Cardinals and Shane Steichen to the Indianapolis Colts, because they are not minorities. Ryans and Carthon are both African American, so the Niners received draft pick compensation in return.

Going forward, all three of the Eagles' current coordinators are minorities. Brian Johnson and Michael Clay are both African American, and Sean Desai is of Indian descent. If they perform well in their new roles and land head coaching jobs down the line, the Eagles would receive draft pick compensation in return.

Question from @mattkrady: Which first round pick is more likely to be a trade down? I see a lot of people saying 10, but 30 feels like a spot where a team comes up to get a 5th year option on a player.

I think the fifth-year option is particularly valuable for quarterbacks, and the last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, they traded that 30s pick to the Ravens, who took Lamar Jackson. Is there a quarterback who could go in that 30s range? Maybe Hendon Hooker of Tennessee?

Question from @GreaseThePoles: Last year, we saw Howie get value trading 2022 draft picks for 2023 picks with the Saints. This year, with only 6 picks in 2023 and potentially 12 in 2024 (8 + likely 4 comp picks)… might we see the opposite with Howie overpaying 2024 picks for more 2023?

I think that when you said "overpaying," you used the correct word. One of the NFL's obvious market inefficiencies is that some teams view future picks as substantially less valuable than current ones. Roseman has taken full advantage of that market inefficiency, and I can't see him paying a hefty premium to convert 2024 picks into 2023 picks tempting as it may be. 

Question from @StaysUnfazed: Do you think Nick and Howie underestimated filling positions on the coaching staff?  It’s easier to get position coaches, quality control coaches, etc., in January rather than March. Slim pickens!

Well, it's hard to hire coaches when (a) you're trying to win a Super Bowl, and (b) you haven't lost any coaches yet from your Super Bowl staff.

Question from @DoughertyJ: Odell Beckham Jr?


Question from @jennifermcgraw_: What was your favorite part of covering the Eagles this season?

It's fun whenever the team you cover is really good, and you might be a part of something special. They didn't finish, but the ride was fun, and this was probably the best Eagles team I've ever seen. 

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