For half a decade, the Eagles searched
high and low low and lower to find a replacement for Brian Dawkins and bring stability at safety. They finally found it with Malcolm Jenkins. This offseason, they have (another) chance to find stability with the other half of the secondary: filling the void at corner that has existed since the departure of Asante Samuel in 2012.
They could pursue just about any avenue to get one—and more than one. But that also means they have plenty of places to go wrong.
This draft is rich in cornerbacks, with multiple 1st round prospects and day two of the draft offering a bevy of talent as well. Given that, the long term need at the position, and the NFL at a point where nickle is a base defense, the Eagles should take two. Perhaps they will take one in the 1st and 2nd rounds as they did in 2002 with Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown (and right before Brown they took another long term starter in the secondary in Michael Lewis). In this draft, it would be justified, especially if they are active in free agency to plug holes on offense. Or perhaps they will take a route similar to how their predecessors, Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor were acquired—one through free agency, one through the draft (though they were acquired in back-to-back years).
Though it’s a stacked class, there’s always busts and disappointments, and the track records of Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas at cornerback are uninspiring. And even if they hit on the draft, cornerbacks are rarely impact players in their rookie seasons, even Sheppard and Brown weren’t full time starters until their third years. If the Eagles are going to be active in free agency again, entering camp with rookies, Jalen Mills—whose future probably isn’t on the outside—and Dwayne Gratz competing for spots at outside corner would run counter to filling gaps with veterans everywhere else. So a free agent corner is a need as well.
But, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to Eagles fans, free agency has its problems, beyond the rational, crippling fear of another top cornerback taking the money and then massively disappointing in a different system. Stephon Gilmore, if he’s even available (the Bills might franchise tag him) will be expensive. AJ Bouye wasn’t a starter until 2016. Logan Ryan, Dre Kirkpatrick and Trumaine Johnson have never started a full season, Prince Amukamara hasn’t since 2013. A lower cost stop gap signing would be easier on the cap, and possibly not much worse on the eyes.
So options are plenty at a position of dire need, but none of them may be the quick fix the Eagles need. This week, we’ll take a look at them, because they could all be in play.