PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles are used to winning mythical titles in March that never seem to turn into tangible results the following February.
The Eagles are once again being praised for some of their moves in the free-agency period, but a hole the size of the Grand Canyon remains on the team’s offseason roster, something that Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman admitted when appearing on a Philadelphia-area radio station last week.
“We also know sometimes it’s hard to put lipstick on a pig and we want to make sure we’re doing things the right way here,” the Eagles executive vice president of football operations told 94WIP when chatting about the team’s depth the cornerback position. “And sometimes that takes time and we gotta be comfortable with being uncomfortable for the moment.”
The uneasiness stems from the fact that if defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz lined up his defense tomorrow, the starting corners would be second-year man Jalen Mills, graded as the worst qualifying CB in the NFL by Pro Football Focus during his rookie campaign, and Carson Wentz’s former teammate at North Dakota State, C.J. Smith.
Philadelphia has already moved on from its pedestrian starters from the 2016 season, releasing veteran Leodis McKelvin to create salary-cap space and allowing Nolan Carroll to walk to NFC East-rival Dallas on a three-year deal in free agency.
Depth on the current offseason roster includes Ron Brooks, a nickel corner still recovering from a ruptured right quad tendon, former Jacksonville Jaguars third-round pick Dwayne Gratz and a couple of former CFL standouts, Aaron Grymes and Mitchell White.
Early in the free-agent period, the Eagles were linked to the top corner available, A.J. Bouye, but the former Texans stalwart stayed in the AFC South, moving to the ATM machine known as the Jacksonville Jaguars and garnering $24 million of guaranteed money in the process.
An NFL source confirmed to FanRagSports.com that Philadelphia also had serious interest in Kayvon Webster before the former Denver backup followed his defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to Los Angeles with the Rams.
The good news is that the Eagles won’t play a game that counts until September so there’s plenty of time to work on things with the draft being paramount.
The CB position is also very deep in the draft this year, and it’s conceivable that the Eagles will be carpet-bombing the position and, at the bare medium, adding multiple bodies.
“You look at that position and it’s no secret that we’d like to add some people there, but we also can’t force it,” Roseman said. “We can’t do anything that allows us to get away from taking the best player in the draft. And there are ways to go about it. You know this too, pass rush helps out those DBs a lot.”
Relying on youth at cornerback is a dangerous plan in the NFL because talent does not necessarily translate into early success at the professional level.
In college, cornerbacks are allowed to be much more physical whereas the NFL referees monitor the contact between receivers and defensive backs much more closely, making it a very difficult transition for many.
Recent first-round picks from Michigan State Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes are perfect examples of the problem. The Spartans tend to teach their talented corners to play very physical man coverage, and when they’ve gotten to the pros, the ticky-tack nature of certain calls is a difficult tightrope to walk, and one that results in a lot of yellow flags on the field.
From there, it’s very difficult for any defensive coordinator to keep any player in the rotation when the penalties pile up, which could affect the confidence of the player.
That’s the reason a wily veteran like Terence Newman can keep a talented player, such as Waynes, off the field at 38 years old.
Even corners who do hit the ground running like Kansas City’s Marcus Peters trade off big plays with big penalties as they try to learn what they can and cannot get away with.
Other than quarterback, CB is the one position in the NFL where you need some veteran experience, and the Eagles have to find it somewhere.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRag Sports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season on ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, CBS Baltimore, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.