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What do the Malcolm Jenkins and Darius Slay moves tell us about the Eagles’ offseason plans?

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It’s been a busy couple days!

Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It’s been a while, but Patrick and Dave are back to riff on the week’s news and happenings! Welcome (back) to TGIF: Two Guys Internetting Football.

Patrick Wall: Dave, my friend, we’re back! I don’t think you and I have chatted on BGN since the end of the Chip Kelly era. I’d call this TGIF, but it’s not Friday—even though every day now feels like both a Friday and a Tuesday.

But I digress. After a slow first couple days of free agency, we have some Eagles moves to talk about!

Let’s start with maybe the most impactful news of the week. The Eagles and Malcolm Jenkins could not find common ground on a new contract, and the former Saints safety is now a current Saints safety.

Two things: what did you make of the Eagles’ decision to let him go, and where does he rank on your list of All-Time Eagles?

Dave Mangels: Fucking pissed. Malcolm Jenkins was my favorite active Eagle. The worst part is that this was entirely predictable. It’s like seeing a car crash that you can’t avoid. Gee that $12.5 million they needlessly guaranteed Alshon Jeffery would come in pretty handy. And for what? So they could give up two picks for a 29 year old they then paid top of the market money to?

PW: Here’s what I keep thinking - would that money have even mattered? This feels like a negotiation where two sides want very different things.

On the Eagles’ side, it’d be malpractice to agree on a long-term deal with Jenkins. He’ll be 33 this season, and although he’s been perhaps the most durable player in the NFL since signing with the Eagles in 2014, health is not something you can count on.

Last season, we saw example after example of older players hitting a wall and being unable to stay on the field. Again, that isn’t to say that Malcolm wouldn’t be the exception. In fact, I’d put money on him being more durable at 33 than most anyone on the roster. But with Carson Wentz locked in as the franchise quarterback (with franchise quarterback money), Howie Roseman is balancing long-term needs and short-terms gains.

Meanwhile, what’s the incentive for Jenkins to sign a short-term deal? He’d been the captain of the Eagles defense for years, and was a huge part of the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Heck, it barely took any time for him to sign a four-year deal. I can imagine him saying in the negotiations, “You need me. What are you going to do without me, start Jalen Mills at safety?” Welp.

Staying in the defensive backfield, the Eagles took some of that “savings” and put it toward giving newly-minted Eagle Darius Slay a three-year, $50 million contract, with $30 million guaranteed. This makes Slay the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history by yearly salary standards. I’m guessing from your tone that you’re not exactly in love with this move, either.

DM: You’re right that it’s risky to sign players his age to extensions. But a year ago they gave Jason Kelce one (he was 31 at the time). Giving Jenkins, who is just as important to the defense as Kelce is to the offense, wouldn’t have been out of line. All he really wanted was some guarantees for 2021, and he was deserving of them. He’s only getting $16.5M guaranteed in New Orleans.

The Slay trade has a lot to dissect. Let’s look at them individually.

1. Is he still a good player? Probably, but we can’t be certain. By all accounts he had a down year. Was that because he was dealing with an injury? He had a hamstring that bothered him for a while and caused him to miss time. I can easily see a bounce back. I found this to be encouraging, but if you @ that reporter with a sarcastic tweet about PFF grades he will quickly tell you that he struggled when he wasn’t matched up. (Lighten up.) And you have to like that he can go all over the field, though will Jim Schwartz use him that way?

And for all the hoopla about his age (and I’m about to make some in a moment), he is younger than Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Malik Jackson. He’s also younger than Zach Ertz. I don’t recall anyone worrying about Cox or Ertz being old.

2. Was it a good trade in terms of value? I’m going to go with yes. Slay is the best player at his position, a premium position at that, available for trade and the cost was a Day 2 and Day 3 pick. They paid a fair price. The Giants gave up the same for Leonard Williams. I’m also slightly encouraged that the Lions, who are a low key terribly run team, are moving on from him in part because of nonsense like this:

Making trades with poorly run teams is generally a good strategy. However, there are some horror stories with teams acquiring CBs Slay’s age. They do not age gracefully.

3. Was this the best of use of resources? This is where the Eagles lose me. Howie Roseman said the team wanted to get younger, and the Javon Hargrave signing, as out of left field as it was, was in line with that. Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat were the only DL Hargrave’s age or younger to play at least 33% of snaps.

Letting Malcolm Jenkins go and sort of replacing him with Jalen Mills was also in keeping with the philosophy. If the Eagles said hey, this season we’re going to go younger and live with the outcome of taking a step back to take a few forward in 2021 and beyond, that would be fine. Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, DeSean Jackson and the kids on offense; to say nothing of Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson, Jalen Mills and the kids on defense. You can sell that. That’s “retooling.” Going into the draft with 10 picks would be exciting, and man do we need some excitement in this world right now.

Trading two picks for a 29 year old is antithetical to that.

The Darius Slay trade makes sense. It also makes no sense.

PW: The age thing is less of an issue for me. If you’re looking to spend big for a quality corner in free agency, Byron Jones was your top option. There were rumors that he didn’t want to stay in the NFC East. If that’s the case, there’s not much you can do about him pulling a Peyton Manning. But even if he had been interested in coming here, Jones is only a year younger than Slay. The Eagles have been a mess at corner for a while now, despite the team’s best efforts to recreate the Lito Sheppard/Sheldon Brown draft.

I get wanting to go younger, and it’s past time for that. But you have to be willing to make exceptions to every rule, and that goes double for when you have a position that requires serious resource allocation like this. I see the Slay acquisition as less of a deviation from the new norm and more about the Eagles making the best of a bad situation. I’m with you - the compensation seems fair, and they still have their compensatory picks in both the third and fifth rounds. What gets me is that the Eagles’ past choices put them in a position where they had to spend assets and big money on a gamble like this, no matter how good it looks short-term.

Let’s wrap up by talking about where they go from here. With most of the significant free agents off the market, the name on everyone’s lips is Jaguars lineman Yannick Ngakoue. There’s a lot to love about bringing him on board: he’s only 24, he’s had at least eight sacks in every year of his career, and he appears to have some interest in playing in Philadelphia. But it’d take a lot to trade for him. The Eagles already have a ton of cap space tied up in Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Hargrove, Malik Jackson and Derek Barnett *deep breath*. The talent is undeniable, but how spicy are you willing to get when it comes time to negotiate with the Jags?

DM: I think Byron Jones’ “I don’t want to play in the NFC East” is agent speak for “he wanted top dollar in a no income tax state.” And I’m fine with missing out on Jones. Don’t sign guys whose top priority is being the highest paid player, and I am completely unimpressed with the lack of plays he makes. Nnamdi had more INTs in his Eagles career than Jones has in his career. Good player on an elite contract. Pass.

Yannick Ngakoue... Well the Jags are another poorly run team that you should be inclined to trade with, and they don’t have a lot of leverage here, he held out last year and whoever trades for him will have to give him a new contract. He certainly fits the get younger approach. But man that’s a lot of eggs in one basket. Really tasty eggs though.

Eggs, remember those? They haven’t had them in stores for a while.