The Philadelphia Eagles are prepared to see a number of key free agents walk out the door when NFL free agency begins next week.
They are also apparently open to seeing another key defensive starter traded.
The Eagles have allowed Darius Slay’s agent (Drew Rosenhaus, ever heard of him?) to seek a trade, according to a report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini. She adds that the team is “still hopeful to find a solution where Slay remains an Eagle.”
Russini was also among multiple reporters who stated that Slay did not request a trade.
So, what’s to make of this?
Well, Slay himself said he wants a new contract:
“I want an extension with the Eagles. I love the Eagles. I love that money, so of course I’m going to be talking about it this offseason. “— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) March 10, 2023
— Darius Slay recently on @MontgomeryCoPod.
Whether he asked for permission to seek a trade or not, Slay likely wants to gauge his value.
But his desires might not line up with what the Eagles have in mind. Do they want to sign Slay, who turned 32 in January, to a multi-year deal at the number he’s looking for?
The answer to that question is “clearly not” if they’re allowing Slay’s agent to look for a team who will give him what he wants.
Now, that isn’t to say the Eagles will definitely move on from Slay. They would probably prefer to keep him while restructuring his contract to lower his $26.1 million cap number this year. But can the two sides agree on a path to move forward?
For what it’s worth, the Eagles can only clear $3.7 million in cap space by trading Slay ahead of June 1. And that’s with $22.4 million in dead money. The Eagles would clear $8.6 million in 2023 and $13.8 million in 2024 if they traded him after June 1 ... but having to wait that long would not be ideal. It’s hard to see the market for his services getting better after teams sign corners in free agency and select them in a 2023 NFL Draft class that’s expected to offer quality talent at the position.
Some have wondered if the Eagles having a willingness to ship out Slay means they plan to keep James Bradberry instead. That’s probably not the case. Again, it’s not like trading Slay frees up a lot of funds. And Bradberry is expected to command a big money contract in free agency. The Eagles don’t seem poised to beat out all other multi-year offers for a cornerback entering his age 30 season.
Some have also wondered how the Eagles passing on Dennard Wilson (whom Slay notably endorsed) at defensive coordinator and/or their rumored interest in Matt Patricia (whom Slay clearly does not like) have factored in to this situation. Those are definitely notable wrinkles but the source of contention
I could be wrong but the guess here is that Slay’s agent won’t be able to find a team that is both 1) willing to pay Slay what he wants AND 2) surrender a return that the Eagles deem to be commensurate trade value. But does that development prompt Slay to back off his demand for a new deal? Will the Eagles give in? We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.
The Eagles would certainly be a worse team without Slay in 2023. But there’s a case to be made that moving on is a prudent long-term decision, especially if it means avoiding dedicating more money to a player at a position that doesn’t age well.
The Eagles are likely going to retool their entire defense and take a step back, but it feels like it's Howie Roseman saying "we got old, slow, and expensive real quick after the last Super Bowl and that will not happen again."— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) March 10, 2023
Slay has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons and in five of the last six (missed it in a down year in 2020). He’s demonstrated the ability to erase opposing No. 1 wide receivers, such as he did with Justin Jefferson in Week 2 last year.
But it’s hard to argue that Slay finished the season as strong as he started it. The guy who nicknamed himself “Big Play” had zero interceptions after picking off Cooper Rush in Week 6. He also made a habit of throwing teammates under the bus (via absolving himself of blame) despite being named a team captain.
If Slay isn’t back, the Eagles could potentially have an entirely new starting secondary next season. Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are expected to leave in free agency. Marcus Epps is also set to hit the market, though retaining him is a possibility. Even so, that’s just one returning starter. And the secondary will be under a new position coach with Wilson departing Philly to join the Baltimore Ravens.
Should the Eagles trade Darius Slay?
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