The biggest weakness on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster remains at cornerback. While the franchise has been linked to several free agents, the cupboard is bare. Darius Slay has no lock-down partner to start on the outside with him on Sept. 12. Look to the waiver wire.
The most appealing name is former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson. However, the 28-year-old is looking for a big payday — upwards of $8 million per year, with the Eagles capping their asking price at $3 million — so what other names are out there? Well, five-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is available and wants to play this season.
Sherman got on the radar of Eagles fans earlier this week when he posted a video of himself playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” with Slay. The two had some fun banter back and forth, perhaps it was a preview of the trash-talking they could unleash in the Philly secondary.
There is one major hiccup to Sherman joining Slay and the Eagles, though. The one-time Super Bowl champion isn’t willing to play for the veteran minimum, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and his preference is to join a contender. Meanwhile, the Eagles are stuck in rebuild mode under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni and second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. That doesn’t mean that general manager Howie Roseman shouldn’t give Slay’s video-game partner a ring. Those two corners have combined for 56 career interceptions and eight Pro Bowl appearances.
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Internal Options for at Corner
Avonte Maddox remains the front-runner to start opposite Slay. He had an up-and-down tryout last year in his first year manning the outside spot. The fact that he missed six games due to injury didn’t help his case. Remember, availability is a player’s best ability in the NFL.
Maddox will likely be competing against rookie fourth-rounder Zech McPhearson and newcomer Josiah Scott (via trade). Veteran Craig James and second-year man Michael Jacquet could get a crack at the job, too. Both McPhearson and Scott are better fitted for the nickel cornerback spot.
“I love the youth,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “I love the youth because it’s like you can mold them how you want to mold them.”
It helps that his defensive backs room is filled with hybrid players, guys capable of playing multiple spots. Maddox played a lot of nickel during his rookie year and could move back there if he doesn’t win the job on the outside. Basically, everything is open to competition. Gannon values football intelligence above all else.
“I would say the first trait that we look for on the back end is smart,” Gannon said. “We want guys to be able to think. Obviously, with the outside guys, coverability.”
External Options for at Corner
Outside of Nelson and Sherman, there are a few other options in free agency. Former All-Pro Josh Norman is one name to monitor, although the 33-year-old saw action in just nine games last season for the Buffalo Bills after signing a one-year $6 million contract. He could help for depth, but it’s hard to consider him a front-line starter at this point in his career.
Other players on the waiver wire include Gareon Conley, D.J. Hayden, Brian Poole, Buster Skrine, Tramon Williams, Dre Kirkpatrick, Johnathan Joseph, E.J. Gaines. Two former Eagles players remain unsigned, too. Nickel corners Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Robey-Coleman are still searching for new teams in 2021.