The Eagles’ Options At Cornerback

One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason tasks will be rebuilding a broken secondary that failed to meet expectations in each of the past two years.

The first step of that process is evaluating the current personnel – most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent, and according to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles will not use the franchise tag on him. The one-year designation would cost the Eagles about $10.7 million. And the two-week window to use the franchise tag starts today.

At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie has plenty of things going for him. He’s young, has tremendous athletic ability, has flashed a Pro Bowl ceiling and appears to be a good teammate. New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis coached Rodgers-Cromartie when he earned the Pro Bowl berth in 2009.

On the flip side, his tape fails to match up to his talent level. Rodgers-Cromartie lacks physicality, is a terrible tackler and gives up too many big plays. If the Eagles want him back, they could try to work out a long-term deal before Rodgers-Cromartie is able to test the market on March 12. If he’s not signed by that time, chances are another team will swoop in.

Asomugha, meanwhile, turns 32 in July. His current contract calls for a $15 million base salary in 2013. That’s not happening. The Eagles can either re-structure Asomugha’s deal or release him, which would cost $4 million. Given his struggles, my guess is they’ll let Asomugha walk. But as always, the decision depends on the market.

We’ll have more in-depth breakdowns of the free-agent options as March 12 nears, but Rotoworld has a good list up for now. Aqib Talib has had off-the-field issues, but started for the Patriots last year. Atlanta’s Brent Grimes is recovering from an Achilles’ injury and might sign a one-year deal before trying to cash in next offseason, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sean Smith, 25, has started 56 games the last four seasons, but he could be tagged by the Dolphins. Detroit’s Chris Houston (28) has 78 career starts under his belt.

Jacksonville’s Derek Cox (26), Baltimore’s Cary Williams (28) and Tampa’s E.J. Biggers (25) are all scheduled to be free agents.

As for the draft, some project Alabama’s Dee Milliner to the Eagles at No. 4, but as Mike Mayock of NFL Network pointed out, he’ll need to prove he’s got the speed worthy of such a high pick at the Combine. The Eagles could certainly look to add a corner in the first three rounds like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Washington’s Desmond Trufant, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

The team’s final option would be to promote from within. Brandon Boykin (5-9) played well last year, and while he saw some time on the outside, he was used primarily in the slot. He could be given an opportunity for more playing time in 2013, although if Chip Kelly favors length on defense, Boykin will probably stay put.

Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, could get a look too, although he’s pretty much an unknown, having played just 62 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

As moves continue to be made around the league, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Eagles’ options are when free agency starts three weeks from now.

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  • Atvcar

    I’d like Chip to kick the tires on Grimes, if he passes a physical he could be the best of the bunch by far, and yet not the most expensive.

    • Kyle

      not sure about Grimes, he’s always injuried and going into his 30s, not sure how much he could help the Eagles in 3 years

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

      This would not be a discussion had the Eagles never given away Asante’ Samuals. As I look through what’s available, there’s not a guy on any list as serviceable.

      • nicksaenz1

        Certainly understand the Asante case, however, he doesn’t tackle either, refused to leave the left side for any reason, couldn’t play press coverage and gambled too much. He was also scheduled to make 13mil this season under the deal he had when he was traded. He was “given away” for cap relief, under the thinking that we had what we needed in Nnamdi and DRC, which at the time seemed like quite the formidable duo, however, with hindsight we were proven wrong. Not the wrong move at the time.

        • bentheimmigrant

          I laughed my head off during the playoffs watching Asante pretend to get involved in the run game. I enjoyed the swagger when he was here, but a pick every now and then was not enough.

      • http://twitter.com/rebyers rebyers

        I haven’t done the numbers, but my intuition is that for every interception Asante cost the team 5 – 8 points in missed tackles, jumped routes, and the complete tendency to bite on double moves.

        • limodriver27

          I’ve been trying to get that point across to anyone that would listen. You don’t “shoulder” a guy and hope he goes down, you have to wrap him around the wheels. Without wheels (moving legs or feet), the running body is forced to stop and goes down. *bentheimmigrant and *rebyers, good points – both.

    • rytrone

      I agree, sign Brent Grimes and bring him home to Philly! I went to school with him, he graduated from Northeast High, and I’d be less bitter about the fact that I used to get picked before him in gym class, yet he made it to the NFL, if he played for my team. And what better team to jump start his career than the one he grew up rooting for? Get him on a one year prove-it deal and play him opposite DRC/Asomugha with a pair of new safeties.

  • DutchEagle

    I think Nnamdi may have some value for the Eagles, maybe if they line him up exclusively on TE’s. The role of the (elite) TE as a receiver is expanding, and you need to have an answer for that on the defensive side. Nnamdi doesn’t have WR speed anymore, so this may be a solution. However, realistically, I dont see Nnamdi sticking around for a 20% of what he was going to make, which would be my offer..

    • eagle fan dwn south

      If u wnt that u might as well make him a safety which he cnt b bc he cnt tackle

      • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

        It’s hard to take your points seriously when I can’t understand a word you’re trying to say

      • http://twitter.com/rebyers rebyers

        I have teenagers so I can understand text-spell.
        he did nice job on TE, u have to gve him tht. Best TE coverage we’ve had in a while.

  • TJ

    I say move Asomugha to safety (after restructuring contract), draft Dee Milliner and experiment with different combintions of Milliner and Boykin in the pre-season, and let Rodgers-Cromartie walk. If Charles Woodson can accept a much lower contract value than what he was getting in Green Bay perhaps he could be the other safety and mentor to Nate Allen.

    • Andrew

      I don’t know that Nnamdi restructures if you’re going to move him to S.

    • Kyle

      the thing is Nnamdi cannot tackle….he’s worse then the safety’s Philly has now at tackling….which is hard to do

    • Kyle

      and move Asomugha to safety and sign Woodson??? no thanks to both.

    • jon

      Nnamdi cant play zone, which is a prereq for playing safety.

      I like the idea of him guarding tight ends, but he isnt worth more than 3 mil for that.

  • kyle

    1.Free Agent CB Keenan Lewis (steelers) reminds some fans of Sheldon Brown. He’s not a playmaker, but has a lot of passes batted away and is a good tackler. He will come cheap and steelers might not have money to resign him.
    2. Free Agent Safety Patrick Chung, from Oregon is good in coverage and is a hard hitter. also will most likely come cheap for how much he’ll help out if he stays healthy.
    3. Free Agent CB Derek Cox (Jags), young CB, not much if a playmaker, but can intercept passes.

    Lewis & Cox could be great compliments to each other along with Chung and a draft pick at safety.

  • ICDogg

    I shamefully admit that I was excited about getting both these guys when we got them.

    • JofreyRice

      eh, was very skeptical about DRC, and he turned out to be the better of the two. He’s like the Jeff George of CBs, though.

      I was all in on Asomugha. Excited, optimistic, thought he was a lockdown guy. In my own defense I could tell right away–like literally, right away–that he wasn’t quite the guy he was advertised as. A lot of folks called it a knee jerk negladelphian reaction, but it was clear that he wasn’t right, almost from the first game when Brandon Gibson beat him 2x, once on a 35 yard reception, and once where he forced Nnamdi to commit a PI. Big plays & PI were pretty much the story of his time in Philly.

    • nicksaenz1

      Nothing shameful about being excited about a young corner with a pro bowl to his name as well as upside and another corner touted as one of if not the best in the game. I was just as excited and loved the prospects of what our D could do with the expectation that the line would generate the same pressure and our corners could play press coverage with Asante gone. Hindsight is 20/20 my man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=696449117 Michael Jorden

    My preference would be to either:

    sign Keenan Lewis, and draft one of the top 5 CBs, or

    draft one of the top 5 CBs and sign Sheldon Brown to a 1 or 2 year deal with the goal of drafting CB high again in 2014..

    Cut ties with Nnamdi and DRC. Let them miss tackles and retreat from contact for some other team..

  • nicksaenz1

    Our secondary is a complex problem. I like the idea of letting DRC go and seeing what Boykin has. I know there’s a lot of dislike for Nnamdi, and perhaps it’s because of the price we knew we were paying him. I would still keep Nnamdi if he’d restructure to something under 10, preferably in the 7 range maybe with some incentives. While he’s not as lockdown as we thought and may have lost a step, he’s still cerebral enough that he’s better than a good bit of the corners out there. I think our safeties are terrible, and did no favors in coverage. Also, when you compare the line play from 2011 to 2012, there was a complete 180 in the amount of time that the corners had to be in coverage. I think a lot of corners would look pretty average if they had to spend as much time in coverage on a given play as much as ours did. It seemed to me that Kurt Coleman and Nnamdi were seldom on the same page, and I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt to Nnamdi as the seasoned vet who knows what he’s doing. I could be wrong here, but I think upgrading the safeties would do a lot to alleviate the secondary issues, on top of the whole scheme change. Just an opinion.

    • D3Keith

      I could get on board for either NA or DRC’s return on a restructured/much lower contract, as it’s tough to rebuild an entire defense in one offseason. Good corners are hard to come by.

      But as excited as I once was for these two guys, I would be indifferent if they both walked too.

      Marsh, Hughes and Boykin can get beat just the same, and at least they’ll give effort (we assume) and not point fingers, and not cost nearly as much.

      I wonder if they could get someone to take Nnamdi, with a restructured deal being part of the agreement, and get off the hook for the $4 million. Not that I care if the Eagles spend that money or not, but if they use it to lure some free agents who’ll deliver, that’d be exciting.

      • GoBirds1

        D3,maybe you should read up on how the cap works. Once you are the hook for guaranteed money, you never get off it.

        • D3Keith

          Poor choice of words on my part. I meant more like “get something in return for the $4m they’ll have to eat.”

          I do realize that the $4m in dead cap money is just a prorated portion of bonus money that NA pocketed when he first signed.

          Rather than cutting him, they could trade him with a condition of the trade being him agreeing to a new deal with the new team. The Eagles won’t get their money back, and they’d still have the cap hit, but they could get something in return.

  • Teri Timtam

    I’m in the minority, I know, but I think DRC and Namdi are worth keeping. We have literally the worst Safeties in the league, if not in the history of the game, and it affects the entire secondary. Namdi got beat on plays sure, but it seems like it was always when he thought he had help up top when he didn’t.

    If we had drafted Earl Thomas, instead of that piece of shit Brandon Graham, we would be touting our corners as being the best in the league. Because Thomas was like Dawkins Jr making everyone better around him in the secondary, and we were in position to take him, but Andy made the single worst drafting move he’s ever made.

  • Kyle

    Eagles should trade their pick to the rams for their 1st round picks and then draft the best corner available and with the second 1st round pick draft either a linebacker safety or corner

    • JofreyRice

      But who do you think the Rams would want that high? Roger Saffold is a better LT than people give him credit for.

      They do need a 3 Technique DT for interior passrush, so maybe they’d want Sheldon Richardson or Shariff Floyd, but they also really need help at Safety, which they could probably pick up with either of their first rounders. If they didn’t think the falloff was that much, they could probably sit back and get Kawaan Short from Purdue, or Sylvester Williams from UNC with the other for the 3 Tech.

      IMO, the group that was happy to deal their pick for RG3 is not necessarily going to turn around and move up unless they are really desperate for somebody. I think it’s going to be hard to find people willing to move up.

  • Prime-Time

    Sign drc long term get rid of Nmandi and look at aqib talib that mans dirty and I like Chung to if the money’s right it’s a must to trade Kurt get burnt by play action Coleman

  • julian

    even if we drafted earl Thomas he wouldve been a bust too Lol we cant let go of our CBS