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Darius Slay trade: Eagles acquire Lions cornerback and sign him to an extension [UPDATE]

Here’s the big splash?

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly acquiring Darius Slay in exchange for two 2020 draft picks: a third-round selection and a fifth-round selection.

Slay’s new contract makes him the NFL’s highest paid cornerback on an annual basis. His $16.7 million edges out what Byron Jones got at $16.5 million per year.

Now that we know the details, grade the Slay trade:


Grade the Eagles’ trade for Darius Slay

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The first official day of 2020 NFL free agency was pretty uneventful for the Philadelphia Eagles. That is, until you went to bed at a normal time and potentially missed this big news reported by ESPN. Apparently, the Eagles might be acquiring three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions:

BGN highlighted Slay among remaining cornerback options for the Eagles after the team struck out on top free agent target Byron Jones (and yes, they really did want him before the Miami Dolphins signed him instead). Albeit in dismissive fashion:

Many Eagles fans who wanted Jones have pivoted to clamoring for Slay. It is worth noting the three-time Pro Bowl selection was drafted in the second-round during Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s last year as the Lions’ head coach. But I don’t see the Eagles trading for Slay. He turned 29 earlier this year, he’s had some injury issues, he likely costs draft compensation, and he wants to be the highest paid corner in football. If the Eagles were going to invest in a big money corner, they would’ve just signed Jones. Jones is younger, doesn’t have an injury history, and wouldn’t have cost a pick.

Acquiring Slay figures to make the Eagles’ secondary better on paper. He’s an accomplished player and he’d fill one of the two holes at starting outside cornerback, assuming the recently re-signed Jalen Mills truly lines up as a safety.

Since entering the league in 2013, Slay has logged 347 tackles, 104 passes defensed (!), 19 interceptions, one forced fumble, one sack, and one defensive touchdown. He co-led the league in picks in 2017 with eight.

Slay is relatively durable in that he’s never missed more than three games in one season. He’s played in 103 out of 112 possible matchups. That count is a little misleading, though, because he’s dealt with some nagging issues. That was especially the case last season.

Speaking of 2019, Slay did not fare well last year. Pro Football Focus graded him 97th out of 133 cornerbacks (minimum 20% defensive snaps). For perspective, the aforementioned Mills ranked 100th. PFF grades aren’t the be-all and end-all, of course, but all accounts indicate he didn’t play well last season. That’s not the most encouraging sign.

The Eagles have reached a point where their free agents cornerback options aren’t looking great, so, Slay might very well be their best chance to upgrade the position. But one must wonder about Howie Roseman’s decision to give up an asset(s) for an aging, expensive player. Slay is currently due a $10 million salary on the final year of his contract. Any extension the Eagles sign him to figures to be lucrative. Is Slay going to still be able to play at a high level after turning 29 on January 1? Does this move really jibe with Roseman’s stated goal of getting younger?

Here’s some Lions perspective on Slay from a conversation I had with Pride Of Detroit’s Alex Reno:

“I think he’ll continue to be a top five corner in the NFL elsewhere, but I don’t think he’s a complete shut down man corner. He’s more of a play-maker that’s better in zone but, with his back to the ball sometimes, he struggles. The Lions ask him to have his back to the ball way too often. [...] In 2019, he seemed to always get hurt mid-game then come back in. It was weird. Just small, nagging, lower body stuff. It never seemed super serious but it was annoying that he’d miss some plays. [...] I think he’s good here, but will continue to be elite in other schemes. I just don’t think he’s a Matt Patricia guy.”

Stay tuned to Bleeding Green Nation as we wait to see if/when there are more details regarding trade compensation and Slay’s new contract.

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