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Eagles Strikeout on Trae Waynes Left the Door Open for James Bradberry

The Eagles missed out on a talented CB but ultimately landed a better one later in the process

When one door closes in the NFL, it often demands another be opened.

And sometimes Door No. 2 will get you the far bigger prize despite its nature of being a contingency.

The lip service was heavy this offseason when it came to the promise of a number of young players at cornerback for the Eagles, names like Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent, Jr., and Mac McCain.

Subsequent actions, however, plainly show that the Eagles understood they were going to need a more proven commodity opposite Darius Slay outside the numbers on defense.

That could have come in the form of a reunion with Steve Nelson until the steady veteran got two years and a raise from the Houston Texans after a competent season in 2021 for the Eagles, and it ultimately did manifest itself in the form of 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry thanks to the salary-cap woes of a division rival in the New York Giants.

James Bradberry

James Bradberry

Plan A, though, might have been inspired by Occam's Razor - the idea that the simplest of competing theories is usually the correct one.

Once Trae Waynes was released by Cincinnati back in March, many observers quickly read the tea leaves and surmised the 2015 first-round pick might be a natural for for the Eagles due to his prior history with Jonathan Gannon.

Turns out that's exactly what happened, according to Waynes himself.

"I actually almost went to Philly, to go back with JG and Ant [safety Anthony Harris]," Waynes told the Geary and Stein Sports Show, "but at that point I was like 'I'm ready to be done.'"

Waynes was selected No. 11 overall out of Michigan State back in 2015, when Gannon was the Vikings' assistant defensive backs coach under Mike Zimmer.

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The Eagles' current defensive coordinator worked with the cornerbacks extensively and helped mentor Waynes for his first three professional seasons.

Meanwhile, Harris, a projected starting safety again for the Eagles come September, arrived in Minnesota the same year as Waynes as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia and the two played five seasons together on some very good defenses.

Waynes, 29, left the Vikings after the 2019 season to sign a massive three-year, $42 million contract with Cincinnati but struggled with injuries, playing in just a handful of games over his first two seasons with the Bengals before being released on March 21.

In Waynes' words now, he's essentially retired but seems to be leaving the door ajar for the right fit.

"I mean, it's open but I'm not really exploring anything to be honest with you," Waynes told the show. "Multiple teams have actually called but in my head I'm done. ... I'm retired but it's not like I announced it or anything."

Health is the main reason Waynes is planning to walk away with gas left in the tank.

"Could I easily keep playing several more years? Yes, but I got a family," he said. "I want to be around with my kids more.

"... For me, I want to look at myself and my physical and mental health because at the end of the day if I played, say 14 or 15 years and I'm 40 and my body is beat to s#$%, it's not going to affect anyone else but me and my family."

While Waynes developed into a solid player with Gannon's help in Minnesota, he never lived up to the lofty expectations of a No. 11 overall draft pick.

His physical traits were always top-tier but by missing out on Waynes, the Eagles were forced to explore other avenues and were ultimately in a position to land a better player in Bradberry later in the process.

No one likes to admit it in the NFL, but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on and You can reach John at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen