July 26, 2017
The Eagles have a cornerback problem, one they need to remedy before training camp breaks if they hope to solidify what could otherwise be a strong defense.
In each of the first two days of camp, both head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz expressed the team's desire to upgrade the position by looking at options outside the NovaCare Complex.
“It’s a position we continue to look outside, like we do every position,” Pederson said Monday. “But we’re going to look to try to bring in guys that we can to try to create as much competition at that spot.”
A day later, Schwartz echoed the head coaches sentiment.
“We’re going to have to keep an open mind and let it play,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I think if we close that competition too soon, I don’t know if we serve the team the best way. Let the chips fall.”
Currently, Patrick Robinson and Ron Brooks are penciled in as the starters at corner. Robinson, who like Brooks has been somewhat injury prone, has made 49 career starts. That's 41 more than Brooks, who is next among Eagles cornerbacks in terms of experience; eight of his 53 games played came as the starter.
That leaves Jalen Mills, who appeared in all 16 games (two starts) as a rookie last season, and a pair of fellow second-year CBs, C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes. Of course, there’s also rookie Sidney Jones, but he’s still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon and won’t play much (if at all) this season.
As you can see, the Eagles lack a top-tier corner and simultaneously lack any depth whatsoever at the position, which could be a problem in a division that features Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and others.
So what can Howie Roseman do between now and the start of the season to give Schwartz's defense the help it appears to so desperately need?
First, he could try making a trade.
Earlier this offseason, we wrote about the potential for a deal between the Birds and Bears, ones that would bring cornerback Kyle Fuller to Philly in exchange for either Mychal Kendricks or Nelson Agholor, both of whom could be in danger of not making the 53-man roster.
Interestingly enough, the same can apparently be said about Fuller. According to ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson, the 2014 first-round pick could be on his way out of Chicago:
Fuller faces an uphill battle to make the Bears' 53-man roster after he missed the entire 2016 season due to a routine knee scope performed in August of that year. The Bears even attempted to bring Fuller back off of injured reserve late in the season, but the former first-round pick told the club he wasn't ready to play. That doesn’t bode well for a player drafted by old regime of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, not the current one of Ryan Pace and John Fox. Chicago showed the football world what they thought of Fuller when they signed veteran cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in free agency -- guaranteeing the players $7 million and $6 million respectively for 2017. If that doesn't signal that the Bears are ready to move on from Fuller, I don't know what does. [espn.com]
For what it's worth, Dickerson didn't have Fuller on the Bears when he released his latest 53-man roster projection.
Fuller, who was taken 12 picks before the Eagles drafted Marcus Smith in 2014, started 30 games over his first two seasons before knee surgery cost him all of the 2016 season. The six-foot, 195-pound corner has six career interceptions and 19 passes defended in that time.
Of course, trading for Fuller means giving up one of your own players. But if the Eagles were able to trade away a guy they didn't think would make their final roster anyway, it technically not costing them anything. Or, if they prefer, they could wait and hope the Bears release Fuller, who will be a free agent after this season anyway.
But there's incentive for the Bears to make a deal rather than let Fuller walk. I'll let Jimmy Kempski explain:
If the Bears were to cut Fuller outright, he would count for $3,082,227 in dead money on their 2017 cap, with no savings. If they were to trade him, they would have $1,341,273 in dead money, with a savings of $1,740,954. In other words, the Bears would be better served to trade Fuller for literally anything just to get the roughly $1.7 million in savings in cap space. [MORE]
But if Roseman isn't interested in making a trade, there are still several free agent cornerbacks on the market. Here's a look at five of them:
It doesn't seem like all that long ago that Revis, 32, was the best cornerback in the land. Now, he's without a team and is training on his own in the hopes of catching on somewhere before the start of the season. But there's a catch. Revis is collecting $6 million from the Jets this season whether he plays or not. So if a team offered him an $8 million deal, it would essentially be like signing for $2 million (since he's getting the first six no matter what, even if he spends every Sunday on his lazy boy watching the games on TV).
Flowers, 31, is still a solid NFL cornerback ... when he's healthy. That, coupled with the $9 million he was due to make this season, ultimately led to his release. Concussions cost him 10 games last year after he missed five games the year before. But there's still interest. Here's more from ESPN's Tim McManus:
The former Chargers and Chiefs defensive back is visiting with the Cardinals on Wednesday and also has been talking with the Patriots, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. It wouldn't be surprising if the Eagles kicked the tires at some point. [espn.com]
Given his age and injury history, maybe a one-year deal would interest the Eagles, allowing Flowers to prove he can remain healthy for a season before any longer-term commitments are made.
Speaking of concussions, Sam Shields is also a free agent. Again, this may work best as a one-year "show me" deal give the fact that he appeared in just one game for the Packers last season and there's a chance he never play football again. He still hasn't been cleared by the league after suffering his fifth (documented) concussion last season and it's starting to seem like there's a decent chance he misses all of 2017 as well.
The former Bears CB would instantly become the most experienced at his position if he signed with the Eagles. In his nine-year career (spread across five different teams), Porter has started 88 games and recorded 13 interceptions.
I'm kidding, you guys. Originally this spot was reserved for Alterraun Verner, but he signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins on Tuesday.
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