Eagles watch: 5 best remaining free-agent cornerbacks ahead of training camp
As training camp approaches, the Eagles have just one proven cornerback on the roster in Darius Slay.
The rest of the bunch consists of either unproven newcomers or players that haven’t shown much to be excited about:
- Avonte Maddox
- Zech McPhearson
- Michael Jacquet
- Josiah Scott
- Kevon Seymour
- Craig James
- Lavert Hill
- Shakial Taylor
- Nathan Meadors
That isn’t a very encouraging group on paper. If Slay goes down, the team is left with Avonte Maddox as their only corner with extensive experience outside. Maddox struggled in his first true year as a starter last season, allowing a 108.3 passer rating when targeted and grading out at 37.8 per PFF.
Luckily for the Eagles, there is still some viable talent on the market should they choose to sign someone. Here are 5 of the best available cornerbacks still looking for new teams:
The former first-round pick out of Alabama has the size you want outside at 6’2″, 190 lbs. Kirkpatrick led the Cardinals with three interceptions last season and was disruptive in man-coverage, breaking up 7 passes as well. Kirkpatrick was a big reason why Arizona had a top-10 pass defense in 2020 and would help the Eagles hold down the other side of the field across Slay.
The 31-year-old has visited with the Patriots and Saints so far this offseason.
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.
If the Eagles want to take a risk on a young guy with potential, Gareon Conley makes a lot of sense. Conley drew a lot of interest from the Eagles throughout the 2017 draft until sexual assault allegations depleted his stock (all charges have since been cleared).
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.
Highest forced incompletion rate in the NFL (2015-2019):— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) May 8, 2021
• Gareon Conley: 22.5%
• Marlon Humphrey: 21.8%
• Stephon Gilmore: 20.3%
• Casey Hayward: 20.1%
Would be a great low-risk project for a team who could really use a CB2. pic.twitter.com/Uak66l0tAd
Nelson is the prize that has yet to be won this offseason. A 28-year-old corner coming off two strong seasons, Nelson is being thorough with his next opportunity. Darius Slay has been doing his part to try and recruit him to Philadelphia as well.
It was previously reported that the Eagles are among several teams hesitant in signing the corner because they aren’t willing to pay him over $3 million on a one-year deal, per Adam Caplan. The interest appears to be mutual but Nelson, however, feels as though he’s a top corner in the NFL and should be paid as such.
Steven Nelson’s two-year stint with Pittsburgh was a productive one:
- 95 tackles
- 17 passes defended
- 3 INTs
- 77 catches allowed on 142 targets
If the Eagles can figure out where to send Zach Ertz and his $8.5M salary, it would free up the money necessary to acquire Nelson. Unfortunately, they seem to be having a difficult time deciding if he’s worth the price.
Steven Nelson is the most undervalued CB in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/Lq00rvLueb— PFF (@PFF) July 24, 2020
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, the 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: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports