It was all too easy to attribute the issues of last season’s Philadelphia Eagles to the incessant slew of injuries that plagued them on both sides of the ball. However, only the most naive of fans could sit through the 17-9 playoff defeat to the Seattle Seahawks and think that health was the extent of the problem. The team possessed clear holes it needed to address.
The patient manner in which to tackle those concerns is through the NFL draft, which will start about a month from now on April 23rd. But for the more risky and daring teams, many of those issues can be mitigated through free agency which officially began March 18th. Tom Brady joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is undoubtedly the biggest story, but the Birds were among several other teams to make a splash in the free agent market. Find out about the biggest news below.
Big Ticket Item: Darius Slay, All-Pro Cornerback
The most significant news for the Eagles 2020 free agency was sending third and fifth round draft picks to the Detroit Lions in exchange for their all-pro cornerback Darius Slay. Immediately following the trade, Slay received a hefty contract extension from the Eagles which will result in him receiving an average of $16.7 million a year. Meet the new highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
The obvious bolster that Slay will provide in pass coverage fills a crucial need Philadelphia had, particularly after the loss of safety and former team captain Malcolm Jenkins, whom the team let go this week. Slay is a proven lockdown cornerback, who will now be tasked with shadowing Amari Cooper twice a year. Fortunately, Slay has performed successfully against Cooper in the past, as the latter has just 42 yards and a 33% catch rate in two games against the newest Eagles acquisition.
It has been speculated that the origin of the trade on the Lions side was friction between Darius Slay and Lion’s head coach Matt Patricia. Slay asserts that Patria vocally let him know that he didn’t consider him “elite”. Despite the 29 year old having a slightly down year in 2019, the Eagles are counting on him to perform on an elite level next year.
Other Free Agency Moves
Joining Darius Slay will be returning defensive players Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills. The Birds wasted no time in signing safety McLeod to a two-year deal after he rebounded in 2019 after an uncertain knee surgery. Meanwhile, Jalen Mills agreed to a one year deal worth $5 million. It is expected that Mills will make the transition to safety as the Eagles work out who the corner opposite Slay will be. These two signings in tandem with Slay solidifies three-fourths of the Eagles secondary for the 2020 season which looks to be much improved from last year.
Another notable signing for Philadelphia in free agency was a three year deal granted to Jason Hargrave, a defensive tackle formerly playing on the other side of the state for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This will result in a special three-headed dog for the Birds at defensive tackle who also boast Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at the position.
Finally, the Eagles also inked quarterback Nate Sudfeld to a one year deal as Carson Wentz’s backup.