Eagles have some free agent cornerback options

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Reuben Frank
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A look at free agent corners who could interest Eagles originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Here we are after the draft, and the Eagles’ depth chart at cornerback beyond Darius Slay is still scary.

There’s Avonte Maddox, who struggled playing outside corner last year, has been injured a lot, is best suited for the slot or safety and isn’t even signed beyond this year, there’s rookie 4th-round pick Zech McPhearson, and then there’s the litany of street free agents leftover on the roster from last year (Michael Jacquet, Jameson Houston, Kevon Seymour).

Plain and simple, the Eagles still don’t have any legit options currently on the roster for CB2.

They still could trade for a veteran corner, like they did four years ago just before the season, when they shipped Jordan Matthews to the Bills for Ronald Darby.

Or they could sign a veteran who’s been on the street. You know they don’t want to spend much money on a stop-gap, and they don’t have a ton of cap space anyway

And remember, after 4 p.m. today, any free agents who are signed don’t count in the NFL’s formula for net free agency gain or less toward compensatory picks in the 2022 draft.

Here are some veterans who are available who could interest the Eagles:

Bashaud Breeland

The long-time Washington Football Team corner is now looking for his fourth team in the last five years. Breeland is 29 and has 88 starts under his belt and 14 interceptions.

He can play outside, but he’s always been an inconsistent corner and you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from him. There are also off-the-field issues to consider with Breeland.

Gareon Conley

Conley is only 25 and was the Raiders’ 1st-round pick in 2017, the same year the Eagles drafted Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, but it’s been a disappointing few years for the former Ohio State star. 

The Raiders traded him to the Texans in the middle of the 2019 season, but he missed all of last season with an ankle injury and the Texans didn’t re-sign him after the season, even though they gave up a 3rd-round pick for him just a year earlier. 

Conley has five interceptions and 29 knockdowns in 31 career games and if he checks out medically should be an inexpensive option who may just need a chance to jumpstart his career.

Casey Hayward Jr.

Hayward has started 86 of a possible 96 games for the Packers and Chargers over the past six seasons. He has 23 career interceptions, including an NFL-leading seven for the Chargers in 2016, his first of two straight Pro Bowl seasons.

But Hayward turns 32 in September and did not play particularly well last year in his last season with the Chargers. Could he get the Eagles through a season? Sure. But corners his age who begin struggling generally don’t bounce back. So expecting some semblance of the player he was a couple years ago would probably be a reach.

Cre’Von LeBlanc

After beginning his career with the Bears and Lions, LeBlanc spent the last 2 ½ seasons with the Eagles, starting six games. His interception off Drew Brees in the 2018 playoff game was his only INT as an Eagle. 

LeBlanc, primarily an inside corner, is going into his sixth season but is still only 26. He didn’t play well last year when he was healthy, and injuries have limited him to just 13 games the last two seasons. The Eagles let LeBlanc hit free agency after last season, and it doesn’t seem particularly likely they would bring him back, but he is an option.

Jason McCourty

Another older corner, McCourty turns 34 this summer. He did start 11 games for the Patriots this past season, but in his 12th pro season spent some time in the slot and some at safety, and he clearly isn’t the player he once was.

McCourty would give Jonathan Gannon some versatility, leadership and savvy, but it’s hard to imagine him playing at a high level as a full-time outside cornerback against the studs in the NFC East.

Steven Nelson

The 28-year-old Nelson, the Chiefs’ 3rd-round pick in 2015, went to the same high school (Warner-Robbins, Ga.) as former Eagles 1st-round pick Ben Smith. Nelson, after four years with the Chiefs, signed a huge contract with the Steelers before the 2019 season but was released this offseason.

He has started 46 of a possible 48 games the last two years with seven interceptions and wasn’t bad last year, but the Steelers needed cap space and saved themselves over $14 million by cutting ties with Nelson. 

He may be the best option still on the market, but he’s also not going to come cheap.

Brian Poole

The 28-year-old former undrafted free agent spent the last two years with the Jets after his first three seasons with the Falcons. He’s started 38 games over the years and has seven interceptions and six sacks as a blitzer. He played pretty well for the Jets last year before injuries ended his season after nine games.

Poole is pretty much a slot so might not be ideal for the Eagles, who really need outside help more than anything (although they need slot help as well).

It can't hurt that Poole and new Eagles secondary coach Dennard Wilson were together the last two years with the Jets, where Wilson was secondary coach and passing game coordinator.

Richard Sherman

He just turned 33 but is only a year removed from his sixth Pro Bowl season. Sherman was limited to just five games with the 49ers last year because of a calf injury, although he did record his 36th career interception late in the season off Jared Goff. The Eagles haven’t had a starting cornerback as old as 33 since Troy Vincent in 2003.

Sherman isn’t anywhere near the player he was in his prime, when he led the Legion of Boom in Seattle, went to five straight Pro Bowls, made all-pro twice and led the NFL in INTs from 2011 through 2016. But when he’s healthy he’s still pretty good and would be a terrific example for the young corners to learn from. 

One issue could be salary. The Eagles are looking for a cheap one-year answer, and even though Sherman has earned over $82 million in his career he’ll probably be looking for more money than the Eagles are willing (or able) to spend.

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