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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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