Where Darius Slay Fits with Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles aren't exactly used to big plays outside the numbers on defense so when the nickname of a player coming in to play cornerback is "Big Play," perhaps any excitement is warranted.
Plan B at cornerback for the Eagles was Darius Slay as general manager Howie Roseman sent two 2020 draft picks -- Nos. 85 and 166 overall -- to Detroit for one of the few, true CB1's in the NFL.
The back end of the deal was a three-year contract extension for $50 million with $30M of the guaranteed which makes the 29-year-old Slay the highest-paid corner in league history, surpassing Byron Jones, who just agreed to a deal with Miami in free agency and was the original target of the Eagles for upgrading the position.
League sources tell 973espn.com that Roseman also kicked the tires on lesser players like Trae Waynes and Chris Harris after losing out on the bidding for Jones before ultimately turning to Slay, who has wanted out of a Detroit for months now and nearly came to Philadelphia at the trade deadline this season.
Things picked up from a Lions perspective when Detroit brought in former Atlanta first-round pick Desmond Trufant, who had also been linked to the Eagles but that was more about Trufant's history with Marquand Manuel, the Eagles new secondary coach.
As for the move itself, Philadelphia would have preferred to get a bit younger snd not sent along assets on top of the funds to secure a top CB but they were prepared to go much deeper financially in guaranteed money for ones so that part of the equation isn't an issue.
Slay is unquestionably the best CB the Eagles have has in the Doug Pederson- Jim Schwartz era and it will give Schwartz more in the toolbox to deal with top receivers, who have consistently gouged the Philadelphia defense with big plays over the past few seasons.
The crown jewel of what will be a re-made secondary, Slay is expected to fit at left CB and travel when necessary while Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones will compete for the opposite spot. Avonte Maddox will try to hold off Cre'Von LeBlanc in the slot.
At safety, veteran Rodney McLeod was re-signed because Schwartz needed some continuity after the organization allowed Malcolm Jenkins to walk back to New Orleans. McLeod will remain the free safety and center fielder but is a player the organization believes can take over the Jenkins' leadership role on the field after interning with the three-time Pro Bowl selection. Jalen Mills, meanwhile, will be given the first opportunity at Jenkins' on-field hybrid role, admittedly a tall task.
More bodies should be added in April's draft, however, and the Eagles are not necessarily counting on Jones or Douglas nor are they putting all their eggs in Mills' basket, who returned on a one-year, $5M prove-it deal.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espsn.com and SI.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen