The Eagles have built on their already fantastic offseason.
General Manager Howie Roseman is on fire. Move after move, he is working on setting the foundation for a breakout season. He has exceeded any previous expectations of the Eagles’ 2022 NFL Offseason. In fact, he has readily strengthened Philadelphia’s weaknesses and exponentially supplemented their strengths.
Roseman was able to address multiple deficiencies on the roster that became evident during 2021. The linebacking and receiving corps enjoyed a huge boost in all three phases of the offseason. Roseman was able to inject youth through the draft, sign supplemental pieces in free agency, and attack talent in the trade markets.
In juxtaposition, Roseman also acquired assets to amplify the Eagles’ strengths. The trenches got an injection of youth in the offseason, galvanizing the future of the team’s offensive and defensive lines. First round selection Jordan Davis provides a generational run stopper that can take the torch from Fletcher Cox as a dominant game wrecker. His potential is sky high, as his physical tools are that of an absolute titan.
On the other side of the ball, Cam Jurgens can learn from Jason Kelce in the twilight of his career. The veteran All-Pro center had a hand in picking Jurgens and figures to develop him into a new ten-year anchor of the league’s most formidable offensive line.
Even though he had a successful NFL Draft and free agency period, Roseman was staring at a thinning secondary. Steven Nelson bolted for the Houston Texans after an extremely underwhelming debut with the Eagles, in which he surrendered a terrible 108.4 passer rating.
The unit desperately needed reinforcements. Roseman first scoured the UDFA market to acquire bodies capable of competing for a starting spot on the outside. None of the prospects provided any certainty, yet the likes of Josh Jobe and Mario Goodrich offered good value. CB2 had a fierce competition between 2021 fourth-round selection Zech McPhearson, who showed flashes in his rookie year, and the new UDFA additions.
That being said, the Eagles were still without an ideal option at CB2. Thus, fans were clamouring for the signing of a premier cornerback prospect. They were linked heavily to James Bradberry, who was rumoured to be released in order to provide the New York Giants with necessary cap relief. Options swirled as the Eagles looked as if they were likely to settle for a cornerback competition between young prospects.
Then, Roseman did it again. The New York Giants released cap casualty James Bradberry from the roster. Shortly after, the Philadelphia Eagles signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal. The move solidifies the cornerback room.
James Bradberry is an elite cornerback in the NFL.
Statistically, the former New York Giant excelled in 2021. He had four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a startling 17 passes defended.
Bradberry was not perfect, however. He did allow eight touchdowns and missed a concerning 21.7 of his tackles. That being said, the cornerback was targeted a staggering 115 times by opposing quarterbacks. Even with the inflated amount of touchdowns he relinquished, he was so solid in the rest of his coverage snaps that he gave up just a 93.3 passer rating.
Furthermore, statistical concern must be contextualized. Bradberry was working with a weaker overall defense, including a compromised defensive line group. He was put in positions where he was asked to cover receivers for too long. For example, PFF shows that the Giants had the 28th pass-rush grade in the league.
Conversely, the Eagles boasted PFF’s fifth-best pass rushing grade in their 2021 campaign. That remarkable achievement was prior to adding superstar edge defender Haason Reddick. The former Panther has had 67 pressures and 23.5 sacks in the last two NFL seasons.
As a result, Bradberry will shine. With quarterbacks running for their life, Bradberry and Slay will be in positions to make plays on the ball in numerous different situations. The only question is who will be CB1.
The Bradberry Effect
The Eagles signing James Bradberry has a butterfly effect of sorts.
As mentioned, Philadelphia’s front office acted swiftly following the NFL Draft. Signing UDFA prospects such as Mario Goodrich and Josh Jobe was a necessary reaction to having a competition at the CB2 spot, previously occupied by Steven Nelson. Thus, the acquisition of the 2020 Pro-Bowl cornerback naturally pushes them down the depth chart.
The UDFA signings will have the opportunity to compete for snaps in the dime package alongside 2021 fourth-round selection Zech McPhearson. Furthermore, all will be viable contenders for the starting safety spot across from Anthony Harris, who was brought back on a one-year deal after a very solid campaign last season.
The butterfly effect of this signing trickles down to the safety position. Anthony Harris was retained on a one-year contract after a sound debut campaign with the Eagles in 2021. The 30-year-old defensive back provides continuity at the position after his running mate Rodney McLeod left for the Colts.
Harris had a superb year, allowing only 51.1% of passes thrown his way to be completed, leading to him surrendering only a 68.7 passer rating. He also missed only 2.7% of his tackles, which was astoundingly reliable.
What About Safety?
Alternatively, the second safety spot is up for grabs. Marcus Epps and K’Von Wallace seem to be the established incumbent contenders for the depth chart spot. Epps was sensational in run support last season. PFF graded his run defense as an excellent 88.9, and he proved to be a force coming downhill to wrap up ballcarriers. In contrast, his coverage was only solid with a 69.7 PFF grade, yet he allowed a woeful 117.3 passer rating when targeted.
Wallace figures to compete fiercely with Epps in training camp. He arguably offers higher upside at his position, though much of this comes from his college production. It is hard to gain significant upside from his limited snap count in his first two seasons. Buried behind McLeod, Epps and Harris, Wallace played just 386 defensive snaps over the last two seasons.
His final season at Clemson gives a glimpse of his potentially significant productivity. Wallace had ten pass breakups, two sacks, two interceptions and 72 tackles in the year. In his two seasons with the Eagles thus far, he has shown the ability to be a sure-handed tackler.
According to Pro Football Reference, he has missed less than 10% of his attempted tackles in both campaigns. He will get a chance to earn the starting job as the Eagles evaluate their options in training camp.
What About Jessie Bates III? One More For Howie?
Well, well, well.
Jessie Bates is clearly disgruntled.
The Bengals star is reportedly skipping OTA’s amid reports he is unhappy to be paid on the franchise tag. According to Yard Breaker, Bates will be paid $12.91 million for the one-year commitment but is seeking to become one of the highest-paid contracts of all NFL safeties.
As a result, Howie Roseman may just ride the wave of the offseason and try to strike while the iron’s hot.
The Bengals will need a significant offer to part with their superstar safety. Bates had a down year last year statistically, allowing a 122.0 passer rating and finishing the season below 100 tackles for the first time in his four-year career.
That being said, the superstar safety is an elite talent. Bates is only one year removed from a 2020 campaign that saw him achieve an elite overall grade of 90.1 by PFF. His play-making ability has been shown throughout his career, evident by his terrific career totals of ten interceptions and 35 passes defended.
Unleashed within Gannon’s zone scheme, Bates will be a terror for quarterbacks. The NFC East is most certainly in for an unpleasant surprise if Roseman can snag this superstar.
Eagles Receive: Jesse Bates III
Bengals Receive: 2023 Second-Round Pick, 2024 Third-Round Pick, 2024 Sixth-Round Pick
What do you think of the Eagles’ moves? Have they done enough to bolster the secondary? Or is one last move for some safety help necessary?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.