Eagles’ Slot Cornerback Turned Down More Money to Play in Philly

Nickell Robey-Coleman

Getty Images The Los Angeles Rams declined their team option for CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on March 17.

Sometimes a free agent just wants to play for the highest bidder. In the case of Nickell Robey-Coleman, it was more about believing in him and making him feel welcome.

The Eagles “came out of nowhere” to snatch Robey-Coleman off the open market and make him the team’s starting nickel cornerback (although Cre’Von LeBlanc may put up a fight there). The 28-year-old revealed to reporters on Monday that he had better offers on the table but no other organization did the amount of homework on him that the Eagles did.

“I had a couple of teams that were looking at me and evaluating me and we were getting down to the decisions and then that’s when the Philadelphia Eagles gave us a phone call,” Robey-Coleman said. “They expressed how much they liked my style of play, and they sounded very enthusiastic about making this move. It sounded like they were more interested in me than any other team was interested in me.”

They recruited Robey-Coleman hard at the eleventh hour, telling him his skill set was a perfect match for their scheme and spreading “all the love” on thick. The two sides ultimately came together on a one-year deal worth $1.35 million, per Spotrac. He could have cashed in elsewhere but the decision wasn’t about money.

“So I went with that rather than being paid or anything like that. I went with they believed in me and they liked my skills,” Robey-Coleman said. “It was like a no brainer in coming to Philly because of how much emotion they put into getting me to sign here and how they treated me after that … it was all love, they welcomed me with open arms and I felt like an Eagle immediately.”

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Getting to Know Secondary Coach Marquand Manuel

The Eagles hired former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel to fix their broken secondary in late January. He spent eight years as a defensive back in the NFL before transitioning to coach. The Eagles have hidden the 41-year-old behind closed doors this offseason but the players love him. He believes in trusting the process and putting the team first.

“He’s a players’ coach,” Robey-Coleman said. “He believes in the process, and that’s what I love about him. No person is bigger than the next man. That’s what he believes, and so he’s going to coach you hard and when it’s time to work you are going to go out and work, and basically put you in position to make the best plays that you can possibly make, and he just wants to see you do great.”

Manuel has had his hands full as he attempts to integrate both Robey-Coleman and Darius Slay into the Eagles’ new-look secondary. Lucky for him, veteran safety Rodney McLeod has provided a steadying voice and calming influence in the defensive backs room. He has jumped in and assumed the leadership void.

“I always go to Rodney McLeod for any hard-on questions, any like third-level or fourth-level questions that I have about the defense,” Robey Coleman said. “He knows everything and so he can tell me what position to put myself in and what to play on certain formations or looks that are irregular to defenses.”

McLeod himself said Manuel’s ability to coach them up has been “seamless.”

“I think guys respect him because he’s played the game,” McLeod said. “And because of his passion. He has a very high standard. He’s coached a lot of great secondaries and we want to be another group respected in this league and treated as such.”

Could Robey-Coleman Play Outside Cornerback?

The assumption is that Robey-Coleman will be battling LeBlanc for the starting job at slot corner but nothing is set in stone. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz admitted there is an “open competition” for the starting outside spot opposite Slay.

Could Robey-Coleman take on that role? It’s not unthinkable, especially considering the state of the Eagles safeties.

“Slay is going to be an important intricate of the defense from the secondary standpoint and when you got guys like Rodney [McLeod] and you got [Jalen] Mills, it makes me feel very comfortable to play on the outside or on the inside,” Robey-Coleman said. “So to know that I have great safeties in the game, it allows me to play aggressive and knowing that I can trust them on the backend.”

It’s safe to assume that Robey-Coleman will wind up playing some outside corner at some point. Doing it on a full-time basis doesn’t seem logical. He’s just too valuable in the slot. The outside competition will be pit Avonte Maddox versus Sidney Jones, with Rasul Douglas getting a look.

“Rasul is a great guy, man. Hard worker, got a lot of jokes,” Slay said. “I told him I’ll teach him everything I know because like I said I want him to be a sponge to me. I want him to feed off whatever I got and learn everything he can.”

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