Eagles Likely Taking Wait-and-See Approach at Cornerback

If GM Howie Roseman isn't happy with what he sees in the first couple of weeks of training camp, then he could make a trade, and if so, does Xavien Howard make sense?
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It seems inconceivable that the Eagles will enter training camp without an adequate No. 2 cornerback, or at least one with more experience than the current crop provides.

General Manager Howie Roseman will make something happen, won’t he?


The growing opinion here is that the Eagles will enter camp with what they have, then see how things shape up with Michael Jacquet and rookie Zech McPhearson.

Avonte Maddox could be in the mix, but, in yet another growing opinion here, Maddox will play the slot and safety. Yes, safety.

Rodney McLeod wants to be ready for Week 1 in Atlanta, and he may be, but it will be challenging for him to do if he is unable to participate in much training camp. So, into the void will step Maddox.

That leaves the frontrunners to start opposite Darius Slay heading into camp could very well be Jacquet or McPhearson, and Roseman will rely on the ability of Jonathan Gannon’s resume with developing cornerbacks – or at least scheming to cover their deficiencies - and the teaching of DB coach Dennard Wilson to see what happens.

In this scenario, free agent Steven Nelson isn’t coming. 

Nor is veteran Richard Sherman.

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If Roseman doesn’t like what he sees as camp unfolds, well, he really explained it back on May 1, after the NFL draft was over and only one CB was selected.

“I know in 2017 that we needed a corner, too,” he said. “And we got to August, and we had a preseason game in Green Bay, Wisconsin and we made a trade with the Buffalo Bills and got a corner that helped us win a Super Bowl.”

That was Ronald Darby, who was acquired by trading Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick. Matthews is now trying to find a team that will let him come to camp to play tight end.

“We've had experiences about getting guys late in the process," said Roseman. "And in that same year, we needed a running back at the trade deadline, we made a trade at the trade deadline. I promise you and the fans we'll do whatever it takes at any time of the year to improve the roster.”

GM Howie Roseman

Eagles GM Howie Roseman

Sounds to me like Aug. 12 will be a big day. That is when the Eagles will play the Steelers in the first preseason game since 2019.

If Jacquet or McPhearson wilt in the heat of the spotlight, Roseman will do something.

Exactly what, well, that remains to be seen.

Maybe Nelson or Sherman is still on the market. Unlikely, but hey, that they are still unsigned this deep into the offseason is a bit surprising.

Miami’s Xavien Howard could be available in a trade, but his salary is prohibitive. It would also likely take a first-round pick to get him.

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Howard may not report to Dolphins’ camp, unhappy with a contract extension he signed in May 2019, a year before the Dolphins forked over more money for Byron Jones in free agency last offseason. That did not make Howard happy with his five-year, $75 million deal.

Knee issues are also a concern.

Howard had surgery in December 2019 after being put on IR in October that year. The procedure was described as a cleanup of previous knee surgery, and he has missed 24 games in his first four seasons with knee injuries.

Still, in the 56 games he has played, he has 22 interceptions.

Slay was supposed to provide interceptions, too. He had one, and it didn’t come until the 15th game of the season. He was very nearly shut out for the first and only time, which came in his 2013 rookie season.

He had 13 in his previous three seasons before joining the Eagles, including eight in 2017.

So, getting Howard doesn’t exactly guarantee he will continue to be the pick machine he is in South Florida.

What he does give the Eagles is a CB, who turns 28 on the Fourth of July, and an experienced one at that, someone they can count on after Slay leaves, presumably following this season unless he renegotiates a contract that is going to be a burden on the salary cap in 2022 with a hit of $22M and in 2023 at $23M.

Nobody saw Darby being acquired, so Roseman could have another player deal his sleeve…just in case camp doesn’t pan out for those currently on the roster.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.