No one knows what the future holds for Jalen Mills. However, the Eagles’ starting cornerback has left a few hints as free agency hits.
Mills enters the 2020 NFL season as an unrestricted free agent after playing out the final year of his rookie deal in 2019. The self-nicknamed “Green Goblin” has been the team’s best cornerback since 2016, punctuated by a breakout 2017 campaign where he recorded three interceptions and 14 pass break-ups.
Teams can start negotiating with free agents starting on March 11 and then sign them on March 13. There were no reports of any contract discussions between the Eagles and Mills during the regular season.
While there is a feeling around the organization that Mills will be back in Philadelphia, it is far from a sure thing. In fact, Mills posted a pseudo-farewell to the city and Eagles fans in a recent Instagram post where he reflected on the season and even mentioned that “it’s been a great 4 years here in Philly.”
What’s next? No one knows. Making matters worse, the 25-year-old starter out of LSU will be asking for a decent-sized pay increase, likely in the range of $10 million per year.
Mills wrote: “Season didn’t end how we wanted it to but one thing I can say is WE gave it EVERYTHING WE HAD❗️It’s been a great 4 years here in Philly. Fought through adversity, won a championship, meet new lifelong friends (Gang Gang) came back from a “career ending injury” and put everything on the line for a GREAT organization GREAT teammates and the GREAT city of Philadelphia.
Lions Surface as Potential Destination for Mills
There’s no question the Eagles are desperate at the cornerback position so they might have to cave in and lock Jalen Mills up to a lucrative long-term deal.
Remember, young cover guys are hard to find in the league and Mills will have plenty of suitors. One potential interested party will be the Detroit Lions who just hired Cory Undlin as defensive coordinator. Undlin coached Mills for four years in Philadelphia while holding the title of defensive backs coach.
The Lions recently hired him for the role of defensive coordinator and Detroit is looking to upgrade their secondary. Undlin has always held a special affinity for Mills, a guy often praised for his passion and personality.
“The first thing he’s brought is his personality and the passion that he plays the game with,” Undlin said of Mills in November, via Press of Atlantic City. “You miss that from him when he’s not out there. I think that’s had a lot to do with his success in his young career. Just having that out there is good for the whole unit.”
Ronald Darby Ready to Hit Free Agency
The Eagles will also have to make a decision on their other starting cornerback: Ronald Darby.
He hasn’t enjoyed the same success of Jalen Mills over the past three years but he was a vital piece during the Super Bowl run. Darby’s biggest issue has been his health or lack thereof. The 26-year-old has started just 27 games since arriving in Philadelphia at the start of the 2017 season.
While he does have six interceptions and 32 pass break-ups over that span, it hasn’t always been pretty. Darby often bites on double moves and finds himself unable to turn his head around and track the football. It’s a fatal flaw for a starting cornerback in the NFL.
The general consensus is that the Eagles will move on from Darby. He did test the free-agent waters last year before returning to Philadelphia to sign a one-year, $8.5 million deal. Teams were scared away — and rightfully so — by the torn ACL he suffered in November 2018. The injury lingered and affected him throughout the 2019 season.
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