Seven best remaining free agent cornerbacks the Eagles could target
In a draft where the Eagles were expected to come away with at least two cornerbacks, the team only selected one in Zech McPhearson in the 4th-round. While McPhearson does possess remarkable fluidity, there still isn’t much depth behind Darius Slay (who turned 30 back in January).
While guys like Asante Samuel Jr. and Aaron Robinson were available when the Eagles made their selections, Howie did address not taking a corner in the first 3 rounds:
Howie Roseman pointed to Ronald Darby and Jay Ajayi acquisitions to defend current roster holes. Not done trying to build the team. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) May 2, 2021
If the Eagles do plan to bring in a veteran corner, there are some viable options remaining on the open market:
Hayward was rumored to have signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, but those reports turned out to be false. The 31-year old has spent the last five seasons with the Chargers, having back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 2016 & 2017.
Hayward had an effective season in 2020, recording 41 tackles, one interception, and 8 passes defended before entering free agency. He may not be the ball-hawking player he used to be, but Hayward would help bolster the other side of that defense for at least another year.
Nelson’s two-year stint with Pittsburgh was a productive one, having 95 tackles, 17 passes defended, and 3 interceptions over that span. Nelson excels in man coverage as he was one of the top-graded corners in that metric in 2019, allowing just 12 passes to be completed when asked to man up.
The 28-year-old was arguably the best corner on that Steelers defense and it won’t be long before he’s picked up. Nelson has heard from 10-15 teams since his release.
Sherman is an interesting case as he hasn’t played a full season since 2016. At 33 years old, Sherman is more of a gamble at this point in his career but he did just make the Pro Bowl in 2019. He was also PFF’s top-rated cover corner that season, so Sherman isn’t too far removed from playing at a high level.
The price is also a factor here as his new contract is projected for roughly $10M/year, something the Eagles will have to keep in mind. If healthy, Sherman is still solid enough to start on the outside opposite Slay.
Richard Sherman: still on the market 🔒😤— PFF (@PFF) March 23, 2021
PFF’s top available free agent 👀pic.twitter.com/x8MIZ4o7Jz
McCourty has spent the last three seasons in New England behind Stephon Gilmore. The 33-year-old started in 11 games for the Patriots last season but regressed mightily, having zero interceptions for just the third time in his career. McCourty would provide decent veteran depth, however, as he ranked top-20 in PFF’s cornerback rankings the two years prior.
Can’t have better coverage than Jason McCourty’s vs. Marquise Brown on the first third down last night. pic.twitter.com/LrLIDWaEan— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 16, 2020
If the Eagles want to take a risk on a young guy with potential, Gareon Conley makes a lot of sense. Conley was drawing a lot of interest from the Eagles throughout the 2017 draft until sexual assault allegations depleted his stock (all charges have since been cleared).
Conley missed the entire 2020 season due to ankle injuries, but he has CB1 potential in the right setting. Through 2019, Conley had the highest forced incompletion rate in the NFL:
- Gareon Conley 22.5%
- Marlon Humphrey 21.8%
- Stephon Gilmore 20.3%
- Casey Hayward Jr. 20.1%
The former first-round pick shouldn’t command a ton of financial capital as he’s more than likely looking for a one-year prove-it deal.
Take a flier on Gareon Conley after the draft at this point. pic.twitter.com/WZIzQC6508— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) May 1, 2021
Poole was one of the league’s most consistent slot corners before an injury-riddled 2020 season. In the nine games he did play in, Poole only allowed a 61.6 passer rating when targeted and didn’t give up a single touchdown. Poole is just one of four players since 2016 to have 6 sacks and 6 interceptions.
After signing consecutive one-year deals with New York, Poole likely wouldn’t cost a ton to bring in. The nickel corner had 44 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, and 2 tackles for loss last season.
The familiar face injured his ankle in Week 11 of last season but Leblanc has become a fan favorite with the Eagles over recent years. LeBlanc finished the 2018 season allowing just 1.02 yards per coverage snap, 10th best in the league.
His play that season earned him a contract extension the following year but he’s only appeared in 13 games over the last two seasons. When healthy, however, Strap would bring much-needed energy to compete with an underwhelming CB group.
Cre’von LeBlanc is the highest-graded cornerback this postseason pic.twitter.com/o7lob7A6GM— PFF (@PFF) January 23, 2019
Mandatory Credit: Joe Sargent | Getty Images