Grading Eagles Moves: Darius Slay

Andrew Kulp
NBC Sports Philadelphia

Would you rather have Byron Jones at five years, $82.5 million, or Darius Slay at four years, $60 million?

Even with the additional cost of a third- and a fifth-round pick, this was really a no-brainer for the Eagles.

With one trade, the Eagles changed the entire tone of their offseason. Slay is coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl, and he's been among the best cornerbacks in the NFL for a lot longer than voters recognized. That probably has at least a little to do with playing in Detroit, where he toiled in relative anonymity for seven years.

Slay is an elite corner, whereas Jones is just very good.

So why were the Lions willing to move on? Well, they're one of the worst franchises in the league for a reason, but they have their reasons. Slay is 29 and was entering the final year of his contract before the Eagles swooped in with an extension. And... that's it.

It seems Lions coach Matt Patricia didn't appreciate what he had, so now Slay is here.

Let's discuss his age and contract, first. The new deal runs through 2023, at which time Slay will be 32, which isn't so old he couldn't see the end of it. And with only $30 million of the extension guaranteed, the Eagles can surely get out from under it earlier if need be.

As for the compensation, a third- and fifth-round picks are minuscule for a player of Slay's caliber. For one, the Eagles had an extra pick in each round, but just the fact that their first and second are left intact is immensely important.

And, again, Slay is a great player. His 82 pass breakups since 2015 are the most in the NFL. He led the league with eight interceptions in 2017. He has the ability to shadow the opposing team's best receiver.

Slay is the shutdown corner Philly has been clamoring for.

For what it's worth, Slay is coming off a bit of a down year, accolades aside. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked 83rd among all corners. There has to be at least some mild concern that it's a sign of decline.

The Lions were horrible though. The offense was bad. The defense was worse, with no pass rush to speak of and little help in the secondary, especially after Quandre Diggs to Seattle. Slay also suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to miss two games and likely affected his play long after, too.

Put a healthy Slay in the Eagles defense with a strong pass rush, and a Carson Wentz-led offense that will put up points rather than steady barrages of three-and-out, and he should bounce back.

There's nothing to not like about this trade. The picks aren't a big deal. The contract is friendlier than the one Jones got. And, simply put, Slay is the better player.

This is a massive upgrade for the Eagles' secondary -- a caliber cornerback the Eagles haven't had since Asante Samuel -- making the loss of Malcolm Jenkins a lot easier to swallow.

Grade: A

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Grading Eagles Moves: Darius Slay originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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