Despite the cornerback position being arguably the biggest need facing the Eagles this offseason, Howie Roseman has done little to sure up the position. Aside from Darius Slay, the cornerback depth chart looks pretty bleak.
Avonte Maddox has started on the outside throughout his career due to circumstance, but he’s often struggled against big, physical wideouts. Zech McPhearson, the team’s fourth round selection this year, is a nice prospect, but starting a fourth round pick from day one isn’t ideal. After those two, you have a handful of guys who are leftovers from last year’s roster.
While the team doesn’t have much cap space to make any kind of significant signing the remainder of this offseason, they may have enough to grab someone who’s at least capable of starting on the outside. Once Zach Ertz is traded — which should be any day now — Roseman should look to pick up a veteran corner from the remaining free agency pool.
Here are three corners still available on the open market and could garner interest from the Eagles.
After spending two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Steven Nelson was cut this offseason for cap reasons. While Nelson hasn’t been a great player throughout his career by any means, he’s been reliable and consistently healthy — two things the Eagles often have trouble finding in their corners.
Over the past three years, Nelson has started 46 out of 48 games, while recording seven interceptions, 32 pass defenses, and 177 total tackles. During that time, Nelson has also allowed a completion percentage of 52.1% when targeted.
With a 80.3 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus in 2019, Nelson ranked out as a top-25 player at his position.
At 27 years old and coming off three straight solid seasons, it’s a bit surprising Nelson is even available. He’s probably the best option remaining on the market, so he won’t be cheap. But if the Eagles can swing it with their remaining cap room, he’d be a nice addition to help sure up this secondary.
I wrote about the possibility of signing Gareon Conley earlier this offseason. He would’ve been a cheap, low-risk, high-reward option then, and he may be even cheaper now.
The former first round pick struggled during his first few years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, but he had a nice bounce back when he was traded to Houston. There, he allowed a completion percentage of 52.2%, gave up two touchdowns, and allowed a QB rating of 87.1 when targeted. According to PFF, Conely has forced incompletions on 22.2% of his targets since 2017, the second-highest rate in the entire league during that time.
Conley strikes me as a player who may just need a fresh start to get his career on track. He’ll only be 26 years old heading into next season and he would more than likely be the starter opposite of Slay during camp.
He’s been overlooked mostly due to the fact that he missed the entire 2020 season because of complications with offseason ankle surgery. But Conley presents enough upside for a corner-needy team to take a flier on him.
While Bashaud Breeland isn’t very exciting as a long-term option at cornerback, as a one-year stopgap, you can’t ask for much more than what Breeland brings to the table.
He’s recorded at least two interceptions in each year of his seven-year NFL career, with the exception of 2017. Breeland certainly has his moments, but overall, he’s been inconsistent for the vast majority of his career.
At this point in his NFL tenure, Breeland will likely be a journey man who hops around the league filling immediate holes that the team couldn’t otherwise address. He’d be an upgrade in Philly for sure, but banking on him beyond one year would be a stretch.
PFF projects that Breeland will sign for one-year at just $2.5 million. That’s more than affordable, even for the Eagles. He’s a name to keep an eye on as the offseason hits its lull period.
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