Darius Slay will not be returning to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2023.
The veteran cornerback announced his departure on Wednesday morning:
Nothing but love Philly!! Lets see where we heading next..— Darius Slay (@bigplay24slay) March 15, 2023
Shortly thereafter, multiple NFL insiders confirmed that Slay was indeed being released. And specifically to be designated as a post-June 1 cut, which will ultimately clear $17.5 million in cap space (his 2023 base salary and his $500K workout bonus). But those savings will not actually come into effect until June 1.
Slay’s departure isn’t coming out of nowhere. It was reported late last week that the Eagles gave his agent (Drew Rosenhaus) permission to seek a trade. Coming off his fifth Pro Bowl season over the last six years, Slay went on the record to say he wanted an extension.
The Eagles were clearly not on the same page with the terms he was seeking. This is reportedly what he was looking for:
Sources say Darius Slay is asking for a 3yr guaranteed deal .. the eagles will not comply with that. If the birds cannot find a trade partner … they more than likely will cut him— Derrick Gunn (@RealDGunn) March 15, 2023
If the Eagles had their druthers, they likely would’ve preferred to rework his contract in order to lower his 2023 cap number of $26.1 million. But they likely did not want to guarantee a lot more money to a cornerback entering his 32 season age.
The Eagles originally acquired Slay during the 2020 offseason. He struggled in his first year with Philly, allowing a 111.9 passer rating when targeted. Slay bounced back in 2021 and got off to a hot start in 2022. His signature performance came in Week 2 when he absolutely locked up Justin Jefferson to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
But Slay did not finish strong:
Darius Slay 2022 via @PFF— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 15, 2023
Week 1 thru Week 6: Targeted 32 times, 14 catches allowed for 168 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 31.8 passer rating
Week 7 thru Super Bowl: Targeted 51 times, 33 catches allowed for 391 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 114.1 passer rating
Started hot, finished cold.#Eagles
Amidst relative struggles, he made a habit of exonerating himself of blame on Twitter for various allowed catches. Doing so subsequently threw his teammates under the bus in the process, intended or not. Perhaps not the best behavior to come from a player who was named a team captain? Big Loser Energy vibes.
Make no mistake: the Eagles are a worse team with Slay leaving. They had one of the league’s better cornerbacks tandems on paper with him and the recently re-signed James Bradberry in the fold.
But if Slay and the team couldn’t get on the same page to move forward, what other option was there? Keeping him at such a huge cap number in 2023? Unrealistic. And he clearly didn’t have much of a trade market. Consider that Jalen Ramsey only went for a third-round pick while Stephon Gilmore just got traded for a fifth-round selection.
It’ll be interesting to see where Slay lands; he’ll undoubtedly draw interest from other teams looking for corner help.
The Eagles will move forward with Bradberry as one of their starting cornerbacks. As for the other spot? To be determined. Zech McPhearson is the top internal option but he’s not a proven commodity. The Eagles could very well add a cornerback or two in the 2023 NFL Draft, which boasts a lot of young talent at the position. Christian Gonzalez and Devon Weatherspoon are popular Eagles mock draft targets with the No. 10 overall pick.
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