PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles’ need for cornerback depth remains unquenched nearly two weeks after the 2021 NFL Draft delivered the sore spot only one CB, with Zech McPhearson coming in the fourth round.
The need could become even greater after the Eagles hold their three-day rookie minicamp this weekend.
Plenty of eyes will be on McPhearson, as well as the other rooks, but if those eyes don’t see what they hope from McPhearson, then GM Howie Roseman may snap into action immediately and try to land a player like Steve Nelson or Gareon Conley or Brian Poole.
They are probably the top three corners still looking for jobs in the free agent market.
Or it could go the other way, and McPhearson shows that he could in fact be ready to start Day 1 opposite Darius Slay, with a little more fine-tuning and on-field work.
If so, Roseman wouldn’t feel as much urgency to throw money at a player like Nelson, who, at this stage, is likely looking for a multi-year deal knowing that the Eagles aren’t the only team in a cornerback quandary. Or take a chance on the underachieving Conley, who has been on three teams since being taken in the first round of the 2017 drat and spent most of last year on Injured Reserve.
If so, Roseman could be patient and wait to see if a trade might develop this summer.
Shortly after he was drafted, McPhearson was asked if he is ready to come in as a rookie and contributing. His answer: “I'm ready for it. I know that all starts - you got to earn your stripes on special teams as well. I'm ready for any challenge that there is. I'm ready just to be an asset to the team on and off the field.”
Just how ready may be revealed to the coaches this weekend and that could go a long way toward what and when Roseman decides to do at the position.
In addition to McPhearson, here are two more things to keep an eye on at rookie camp:
Who will be the backup to Dallas Goedert?
The assumption is Zach Ertz will likely be released on June 1 or sometime thereafter, with the Eagles saving $8.5 million under the salary cap at that point.
Tyree Jackson will be an interesting watch since he is attempting to transition from quarterback, a position he played and played reasonably well at the University of Buffalo. He was originally signed by the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2019 but was released after training camp.
A few months later, he was drafted in the ninth round by the XFL’s DC Defenders, played a few QB snaps in a couple games, then was out of a job again when the XFL folded. The Eagles signed him to a futures contract on Jan. 7 to see how he fits as a tight end.
At 6-7, 250, he certainly has the size and could be a better prospect than Tim Tebow is after Tebow agreed to try tight end and signed with the Jaguars earlier in the week despite being 33 and not playing in an NFL game for eight years.
The transition from QB to TE won’t be easy, but 6-6, 250-pound Logan Thomas managed to do it in Washington, where he arrived in the league as a quarterback out of Virginia Tech in 2014.
He switched to tight end in 2016, and began to take off from there, going from 12 catches for 77 yards in 2018 with the Bills, followed that up with 16-173 for Buffalo in 2019 then broke out last year for the WFT with 72 receptions for 670 yards and six touchdowns.
So, don’t expect miracles from Jackson out of the gate.
Others that could be in the Eagles’ tight end mix includes Hakeem Butler, who enters his second year in trying to transition from the receiver position he played at Iowa State, and Jason Croom, whose only catch last year for the Eagles was a touchdown.
The quarterback is in line to make the team without having attempted a single pass since 2019, after he opted out of the 2020 year when he transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia.
Like McPhearson, if Newman shows up and doesn’t look all that, the Eagles will have to do something more and do it quickly.
There should be another QB or two in town this weekend, but the Eagles aren’t expected to release the official list of signed UDFA and tryout players until Wednesday when the players begin arriving.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven 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.