Offseason Outlook: Cornerbacks
This week, we’ll continue to offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. We covered running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebackers and inside linebackers. Now let’s look at their cornerbacks.
PRESSING QUESTION: Will Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher be the Week 1 starters?
Kapadia: I say yes.
Going into free agency, there are areas the Eagles absolutely have to address (safety, for example). And there are areas they won’t even be thinking about (running back). In between are a lot of grey areas, including cornerback.
Williams and Fletcher are solid, mid-tier corners. They play hard, are physical and have already played a year in the Eagles’ system. Bringing in players with similar skill sets/talent doesn’t make much sense.
If you have a shot at one of the top guys on the market (some names include Vontae Davis and Alterraun Verner) and feel they would provide a major upgrade, you certainly explore those options. If not, come back with Williams and Fletcher and see if someone in the draft catches your eye.
McManus: I say yes also, though I wonder how much consideration they’ll give to moving Brandon Boykin outside.
Boykin finished second in the league in interceptions (6) behind only Richard Sherman (8), and did so despite playing only half the team’s snaps. It’s only natural to wonder what kind of damage he could do if he was on the field full-time.
Billy Davis decided to let the 23-year old focus on the slot exclusively, and believes that really helped him thrive in the role. With Boykin being so young, he didn’t want to overload him. Now that he is more seasoned, do you add to his responsibilities? Boykin (5-10) isn’t the ideal size for an outside corner but can elevate, as he showed during an offseason hoops game last year.
Could he handle playing on the outside in base and sliding inside when the Eagles are in nickel? It’s worth experimenting with in my opinion.
PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5
* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.
Kapadia: I’m only at a two here. Like I said above, going into 2014 with Williams and Fletcher is fine, especially if you surround them with better talent.
The Eagles ranked 25th in pass defense, according to Football Outsiders, but a lot of that had to do with horrible safety play and inconsistent (in coverage) linebackers. Again, if an upgrade presents itself – either in free agency or the draft – I’m all for taking a shot. But I’d probably address those other areas first.
It’s worth noting that the Eagles can cut ties with Fletcher without incurring any dead money. Per The Inquirer, the team has the option to pick up Williams’ $4.75 million salary for 2014 on March 16.
Meanwhile, Boykin will continue to serve as the nickel, and the Eagles should look to add depth.
McManus: Put me down for a three. While I agree that the trio of Williams, Fletcher and Boykin is acceptable, depth is an issue. The secondary struggled to hold it together whenever injury struck one of the starters, and you just can’t live like that. Upgrading should be a priority. Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh are the other CBs currently on the roster.
Because of the lack of depth, the Eagles rarely were in dime. DeMeco Ryans ended up playing more snaps than any other front-seven player in the league. It would be good to swap him in favor of a DB on obvious passing downs on occassion. I can see them adding to this group in free agency, and wouldn’t be shocked if they addressed the position early in the draft if the stars align.