The Minnesota Vikings unexpectedly parted ways with a starting cornerback right as a better option at the position unexpectedly became available.
Minnesota waived defensive back Cameron Dantzler Sr. on Friday, March 10. On the same day, Dianna Russini of ESPN reported that the Philadelphia Eagles had granted permission to Pro-Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to seek a trade amid ongoing contract negotiations.
“The Philadelphia Eagles have allowed Darius Slay’s agent Drew Rosenhaus to seek a trade, per sources,” Russini posted to Twitter. “The Eagles are still hopeful to find a solution where Slay remains an Eagle.”
Albert Breer of MMQB piggybacked on Russini’s report, noting that Slay did not request a trade and that the move was part of contract negotiations on the part of Philadelphia.
Slay Has Been Pro Bowl-Caliber CB Since Joining Eagles in 2020
Slay is a five-time Pro Bowler and a one-time All Pro who started all 17 games for the Eagles last year on the team’s way to a narrow Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The cornerback amassed 55 tackles, 14 passes defensed and three interceptions in 2022. Opposing quarterbacks targeted Slay 79 times over the course of the regular season, completing just 58.2% of the passes thrown his way for an average of 6.7 yards per target, according to Pro Football Reference. Over the course of his 10-year NFL career, Slay has tallied 133 passes defensed, 26 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns.
Clearly, Slay is not the type of player teams generally offer up flippantly. However, the star defensive back will play on the final year of a three-year, $50 million deal that will cost the Eagles $26.1 million against their 2023 salary cap if it remains on the books without a restructure.
Despite the fact that Slay will play his 11th NFL season at the age of 32, Spotrac projects his market value at $21.4 million annually over the course of a new four-year contract. The cornerback will be an unrestricted free agent come 2024 and is clearly looking to secure what is likely to be the final significant contract of his career.
The Eagles are currently $6.6 million under the salary cap for next season with Slay on the books, but the team has spent a good deal over the last couple of seasons to transform the roster into one that is of Super Bowl caliber. Throwing upwards of $80-$90 million into an aging defensive back is a precarious strategy during the same offseason in which quarterback Jalen Hurts becomes eligible for what is certain to be a massive contract extension.
Slay’s Trade Value Could Price Vikings Out of Contention For CB
For his part, Slay has been publicly clear about his desires when it comes to remaining in Philadelphia.
The cornerback took to Twitter on Friday to respond to a message from Eagles wide receiver Devonta Smith who said “don’t you even think about it” in reference to Slay seeking a trade.
“U kno I wanna stay fam!!” Slay responded.
But wanting to stay and actually staying are two different things. If the Eagles aren’t willing to make Slay an offer he deems acceptable, he becomes a legitimate trade target for a team like Minnesota that is attempting to remake its secondary under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
Slay is more equipped than probably any cornerback currently on the Vikings roster to play in Flores’ aggressive press-man style of coverage that accompanies the blitz packages he likes to run on roughly two out of every five downs — a statistic based on numbers taken from the Miami Dolphins defense back when Flores was serving as head coach of that team between 2019-21.
As for Slay’s trade value, that is difficult to project. The Eagles sent the Detroit Lions a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in exchange for Slay back in 2020. The cornerback has made the Pro Bowl in both seasons in Philadelphia, as well as in five of his last six campaigns.
Slay’s age and contract demands will help drive his price down, though it is also unclear how much draft capital the Vikings can give up, or would be willing to give up, in order to procure his services, as Minnesota has several positions of need that must be addressed.
The Vikings currently hold five picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They will come in the first round (No. 23 overall), the third round (No. 87 overall), the fourth round (No. 119 overall), the fifth round (No. 158 overall) and the sixth round (No. 211 overall), per the team’s official website.