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March 02, 2017

Eagles probably won't spend big on cornerbacks in free agency

Eagles NFL

INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday morning at the NFL Combine, there was a flurry of rumors about the Philadelphia Eagles. One report said that the Birds were discussing a trade with the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Another said that Philly is among four teams expected to pursue soon-to-be free agent Alshon Jeffery.

The Eagles have also been heavily linked to DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, Pierre Garcon, and pretty much any other receiver with a heartbeat and opposable thumbs.

Noticeably absent from the rumor mill are any mentions of the Eagles and their interest in any of the cornerbacks in this year's free agent class, despite corner being every bit as big a need as wide receiver. 

"It’s no secret when you look at that position right now, one of our (2016) starters (Nolan Carroll) is a free agent," Howie Roseman acknowledged on Wednesday. "The other (Leodis McKelvin) we cut."

When you look at the Eagles' depth chart at corner, it might look something like this if the season started today:

 CB1CB2 Slot 
 Jalen Mills? C.J. Smith?Ron Brooks? (could be cut) 
 Dwayne Gratz?Aaron Grymes? Mitchell White? 

The question marks above indicate the fact that I really have no earthly clue what their depth chart would look like at corner if the Eagles had to play today. They'd be beyond screwed.

Still, Roseman insists that he would be willing to look at the abomination above for a while if the value simply isn't there in free agency.

"We’re going to try to minimize our risk," he said. "We’re not going to go out and try and sign a high-priced free agent if we don’t think the value is there, even if it might be hard to look at that depth chart for a couple of months. It’s just not the right thing to do for our football team and our organization. That’s a hard thing to do to look at an open spot on your depth chart. But it might be the right thing to do for the long-term of our team."

Roseman is right, although it took a while for that realization to sink in. Since 2010, the Eagles have counted on seven free agent corners, many of whom were highly paid, to start for them. That list includes Ellis Hobbs, Nnamdi Asomugha, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Byron Maxwell and Leodis McKelvin. 

In a word... Barf.

"You’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, and certainly in the next couple of weeks, a lot of guys that have been signed (in free agency) the last couple of years have been cut and been in a position where they’re going back on the market," said Roseman. "You’re just trying to find guys who fit your scheme, fit what you’re trying to do from an offense-defense-special teams perspective. When you’re bringing in a guy who played in a different scheme, it’s all projection. It’s hard. That’s why there’s not a great hit rate on free agents and high-priced free agents."

The cornerback class in this year's draft pool is stacked, according to every legitimate analyst covering the NFL. While Roseman continues to say that the Eagles will draft the best player available, there's a pretty good chance that the best player available when they're on the clock at various points in the draft will be a corner. That's far less likely at the wide receiver position.

If the Eagles make a splash with their limited fiscal resources in free agency, don't expect it to be at corner.

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