When former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll signed with the Eagles this week, it came as a bit of a surprise. It had seemed like Carroll, who started 22 games the past two seasons, was looking for starter's money in free agency. Carroll ended up taking a surprisingly low offer to sign with the Eagles. The exact numbers are 2 years at $3.65 million with only $750,000 guaranteed.
The contract number makes it seem like Carroll came to Philadelphia to be a backup to the Eagles' 2013 starting cornerbacks: Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. But according to Carroll, that's not the case. In an introductory press conference with the Philadelphia media on Friday afternoon, Carroll said he has bigger plans. "Coach Kelly told me I’ll come in and compete for a starting spot and help out on special teams as well," Carroll explained.
Fletcher and Williams were solid starters on the outside for the Eagles in 2013, but they were hardly spectacular. Both could be upgraded upon. Carroll will legitimately have the chance to win a starting job if he outplays his competition.
Carroll is a perfect fit what the Eagles want in their cornerbacks. He has the size and length the team values: 6', 205 lbs. His addition also makes sense stylistically. Carroll was a physical press corner for the Dolphins. That won't change when he plays for the Eagles. "That’s all I did, really. That’s what they view me as. That’s my skill set. That’s what I bring to the table," he said.
Even if Carroll doesn't contribute as a starter, his role as a backup will be just as important. Last year the Eagles barely had any cornerback depth. Williams and Fletcher were the starters on the outside and the Eagles didn't want to take Brandon Boykin out of the slot. When Fletcher went down to injury, the Eagles were forced to put Roc Carmichael into action. Carmichael gave his best, but he's ideally more of a dime corner than he is a full time starter on the outside at this point. The signing of Carroll is a big boost to the Eagles' depth.
Beyond his cornerback play, Carroll is also a valuable addition from a special teams perspective. And we all know how much special teams matters to Chip Kelly. Carroll has experience working with current Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, who used to be an assistant ST coach with the Dolphins.
Carroll really figures to be a real quality free agent signing for the Eagles. At best, they potentially signed a solid starting cornerback on the cheap. At worst, they got themselves a quality backup with starting experience who can also contribute on special teams.