Despite adding some much needed defensive talent during this year’s NFL Draft, Howie Roseman failed to address arguably the Eagles biggest need: CB2.
Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox are slated to resume their roles in Jonathan Gannon’s defense as CB1 and nickel respectively, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding the CB2 spot. Perhaps the team has a lot of faith in the young talent they’ve acquired at the position over the past year or so. Zech McPhearson and Tay Gowan headline the young crop of corners at the Eagles disposal, but neither bring much NFL experience to the table. Not to mention, neither of them entered the league with high expectations either.
Obviously, that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. But as we’ve seen Howie do in the past, he rarely enters a season solely relying on young players at any given position. Last offseason, the team signed Steven Nelson just days before the start of camp and he remained the team’s second corner all season. Even though we’re in the late stages of the offseason, there are still a variety of different flavors on the cornerback market.
Here are five free agent corners Roseman and Co. could look to sign now that the draft has passed.
Former first-round pick Trae Waynes has had an up and down NFL career. Upon entering the league in 2015, Waynes has appeared in 79 games and has made 57 starts. For the most part, he’s been a very serviceable corner. From 2016-’18, Waynes recorded six interceptions, 30 pass defensed, with 133 solo tackles. Standing at 6-foot, 190 pounds, Waynes is a physical corner who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the run game. From 2016-’19, Waynes posted an average PFF run-defense grade of 79.6, along with an average tackling grade of 74.5.
The only major red flag with Waynes is his recent injury history. During training camp in 2020, Waynes suffered a Grade 3 pectoral tear and missed the entire season. Waynes again injured himself during training camp the following year, pulling his hamstring and missing the first three weeks of the season. He then re-aggravated the hamstring in Week 5 and was placed on IR, missing the next eight games.
Still, at 29 years old and with a ton of experience under his belt, it may be worth taking a flier on Waynes. When healthy, he’s proven to be a capable CB2.
Joe Haden is far past his prime at this point, but he’s still better than what the Eagles currently have at the CB2 spot. As recent as 2019, Haden was a Pro Bowl corner. Since then his game has dipped a bit, but he’s still consistent in coverage. Last year, Haden allowed a completion percentage of 60 and a passer rating of 100.1 when targeted. The year prior, he allowed a completion percentage of 50.6 and a passer rating of 75.9 when thrown to. If the Eagles are just looking for a stop-gap option at corner (which they most likely are), then signing a guy like Haden makes a lot of sense.
If the Eagles want to bring someone in who’s familiar with Gannon’s scheme and has had success in it, Xavier Rhodes is their guy. After allowing a passer rating of 123.8 in 2019, Rhodes bounced back under Gannon in 2020, allowing a completion percentage of 51.9 and a passer rating of 84.5. At this point in his career, Rhodes is a bit inconsistent, but he still comes through with a vintage performance every few weeks. Last season, Rhodes posted two games where he graded out as a top-10 cornerback, per PFF. He’s a veteran who knows Gannon’s system, signing Rhodes at this stage of the offseason almost makes too much sense.
Janoris ‘Jackrabbit’ Jenkins has been a steady force since entering the league in 2012. He’s provided competent play at each of his four destinations and can fit into almost any defensive scheme. Last year as a member of the Titans, Jenkins started 13 games and tallied one interception while allowing a completion percentage of 61.1 and a passer rating of 100.2 when targeted. He’s never been an elite corner, but as a stop-gap CB2 option, he checks all the boxes.
A former second-round pick, Kevin King could actually be a long-term option for the Eagles if everything worked out. He’s still just 26 years old and is coming off a solid season for Green Bay, posting an overall PFF grade of 70.6 for the year. King is a big, lengthy corner, coming in at 6-foot-3 and weighing 200 pounds. He could theoretically play safety as well, another need for the Eagles. King spent his first two collegiate seasons as a safety. During his best outing in 2019, King started 14 games and recorded five interceptions while allowing a completion percentage of 58.8 and a passer rating of 84.6 when targeted.