By: Justin Salmasi
Now that the football season is officially over, fans across the nation can begin spending their days and nights over-analyzing the upcoming draft and free agency. With the turmoil and disappointment that smothered what was, at one point, an excellent Eagles season, so many questions remain unanswered. Can this offense take the next step with Nick Foles? Is re-signing Maclin feasible? Can our defense succeed with high school caliber defensive backs? Will we ever find out who Marcus Smith is? The answers lie, at least partially, within the decisions yet to be made this off-season.
If the Eagles want to return to their playoff contending ways, the defense has got to be upgraded. The local media will mind-numbingly beat the dead horse that is a potential move for Marcus Mariota, but it’s time for Eagles fans to see reason. This team will not win a playoff game until it has competency at the cornerback position. Cary Williams shows flashes of talent here and there, but he’s excruciatingly inconsistent and, worst of all, a loud-mouth who rarely “walks the walk.” In fact, it’s not uncommon for him to negate his sporadic positive play with questionable conduct both on the field and in the media. Bless Bradley Fletcher’s heart. The guy is clearly trying to play competitive football. However, his physical limitations make watching him square off against any competent wide receiver a chore. The guy is nothing more than a backup on his best day.
Simply put, there is no way the birds can challenge the likes of Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeSean Jackson TWICE a year with the starting cornerback tandem currently in place. They are a 10-win team that can make the leap to contender, but not before they address their biggest weakness this off-season. Listed below are three cornerbacks that can fill the void.
Fresh off a horrendous Super Bowl blunder, the Seattle Seahawks have some financial decisions to make. It’s been well documented that Russell Wilson will be taken care of, Marshawn Lynch could be in line for another extension, and the rest of the defensive backs already have large contracts. Despite what the Seahawks’ front office is saying, the general consensus is that Maxwell will be too expensive to return to Seattle. The Eagles have been burned before by paying the price for over-hyped free agent cornerbacks. However, this is a risk that they must absolutely take. Maxwell is as physical as they come, he’s young, and frequently displays above average coverage skills. Those qualities would automatically make him the best defensive back on the Eagles. Maxwell is a no-brainer.
This target may be a bit of a reach, especially when considering the culture that Chip Kelly has begun to implement in the Eagles organization. As far as on-the-field talent goes, Marcus Peters is the best cornerback talent coming into the draft. Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton has even compared him favorably to Darrelle Revis. His gritty physicality and superb ball-hawk tendencies make him a prospect that the Eagles would be extremely lucky to land. However, character concerns surround the talented Washington product. After multiple scuffles with the Husky coaching staff, Peters was ultimately dismissed from the team. He will have to explain that situation, as well as why teams should trust that he has since matured. Hopefully he can handle public speaking in a high pressure environment better than his proclaimed mentor, Marshawn Lynch.
Perhaps the safest, albeit blandest cornerback prospect in the draft, Trae Waynes possesses consistent coverage skills and above average athleticism. He has an adequate height at 6’1″, and displays great leadership intangibles that can prove to be invaluable in an NFL locker room. With a listed weight of 183 lbs, some analysts are worried that Waynes may lack the necessary bulk to continue playing at the same competitive level, but Waynes is still very young and will continue to grow, the Eagles would be undoubtedly improving upon their biggest deficiency if they land the Michigan State prospect.
The Philadelphia Eagles are both near and far from Super Bowl contenders. Near in quantity of need but distant in quality. Both the cornerback and quarterback positions may be the most difficult to scout and fill in the sport. Whether Foles is or isn’t the guy, Mariota isn’t a reasonable option. Aside from the Heisman trophy winner and Famous Jameis (also not happening), there aren’t any incoming QBs worth a look in the first round. Barring the unthinkable Foles will be the starter in 2015. The Eagles cannot afford a second-consecutive first round reach. If bona fide talents such as Peters or Waynes are available at #20, the Eagles should pull the trigger.