The Eagles began yesterday’s legal tampering period of free agency by plugging the interior of their defensive line with former Steeler DT Javon Hargrave.
While Eagles fans were pretty high on the idea of making a splash signing with Byron Jones, Howie was never planning on overpaying at the position and yesterday they were priced out of the market for top end corners.
While that may be disappointing, there are a handful of mid-tier options they can hope to steal on a moderate contract, and a slew of young corners coming off their rookie deals who never quite panned out but still have the tools to blossom in a new environment.
Waynes is an ideal mid-level option. He’s an experienced starter, relatively young (28), and fits Schwartz’s scheme well. The suspicion is that some team will pay him close to CB1 money and price the Birds out of contention, but if he can be had at a fair number for his services then he’s an obvious choice.
Amukamura (31 years old) is the ideal veteran option in my opinion. He should be cheaper than Chris Harris, and seamlessly fills a hole on the outside. Obviously he’s on the older side but he’s still producing at a starting level; he could fit a nice two to three year window for the team. He’s a physical tackler who allowed just one catch every 14.5 coverage snaps in 2019 (according to PFF), good for seventh among corners in a supposed down year for him.
Obviously Harris (31) is a name most fans are familiar with, and he might just be the guy to come in and provide the impact they missed out on with Byron Jones. The question is if he can be had at a reasonable price—I like Harris but he’s not even close to worth paying the big money he’s asking for at this stage of his career.
Trufant turns 30 in September, so he’s not in a terrible spot to produce career average production in the right situation. He’s overstayed his welcome in Atlanta but he could be welcome 1-2 year stability in a secondary that’s been anything but stable in recent seasons. It’s hard to gauge what his interest/price will be like, but his connection with Eagles secondary coach Marquand Manuel (2015-18 in ATL) makes this a real possibility.
Smith (32) is another vet who has legitimate experience and is still playing at a decent level, though not quite as well as Harris or Amukamura. He’s physical and should be a good fallback option to those players—assuming the team wants to go in the direction of a veteran.
Apple had a rotten start to his career in New York but found relative stability after a trade to the Saints. He’s turns 25 in August and still possesses great man-to-man tools, but that probably doesn’t interest Schwartz and the Birds as much as it should other teams. He probably won’t be an Eagle—though he was raised in Camden—but he’s a guy to watch coming off his rookie contract. *His high school teammate, Logan Ryan, is likely re-signing with TEN.
Hargreaves (25) didn’t quite click in Tampa and a stint in Houston was worse, but he’s still the talented player he was coming out of college. He should be cheap and while he’ll never be a top end player in your secondary, he can certainly be a contributing piece in the right organization. With the current bodies in the cornerback room the Birds shouldn’t be above taking fliers on guys like this.
Obviously the most direct way to improve an ailing secondary is through injecting talent into the secondary, duh. But an elite pass rush goes a long way in hiding/helping an otherwise suspect back end, and Eagles fans know that well after an elite pass rush helped mask a weak secondary on the way to a Super Bowl in 2017.
Here are some names the team can add to supplement a pass rush that needs a little more juice to push it into the top tier of the league.
Adding Quinn paid off for a Dallas team desperate for pass rushers in 2019, and he’s looking to buoy an 11 sack (22.5 QB hit) season into a nice contract. If his age (30) keeps his number low then his speed could be a good fit helping get after the quarterback. This isn’t a likely move but it’s not impossible.
Griffen is already 32 but he’s a 4x pro-bowler who’s still producing—eight sacks, 24 QB hits in 2019. It’s unclear what his market looks like right now but his fit here is obvious. I know the Vikings want to bring him back, but if their cap situation prevents them from doing so then Howie could be lying in wait.
At this point Wake is a pure pass rusher who will fill a third down role that lets him pin his ears back and let loose. He feels like the perfect veteran for Schwartz to deploy 15-20 snaps a game—that’s all he’ll need to produce. He may be 38 but he’s got a little gas left in the tank, and if he wants to spend that chasing a Super Bowl then Philly could fit.
Beasley is a pure pass rusher who would benefit from being in a more situational role. After posting 15.5 sacks in 2016 he’s yet to replicate that production, but teams won’t be able to shake that potential when considering him as a free agent. He may opt for a bigger role or more money, but there’s no doubting he would thrive in a third down role under Schwartz. His market will dictate if Howie gets involved.