Jalen Mills

No team has built a CB group quite like Eagles

No team has built a CB group quite like Eagles

For generations, the Eagles couldn't find one promising young cornerback. Now they have a whole stable of them.

And in the NFL, young means cheap.

The Eagles were able to allow 30-year-old Patrick Robinson to leave via free agency after an extraordinary season for five reasons: Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley.

To win consistently in the NFL, teams have to draft well because having a significant number of talented players on bargain-basement rookie contracts is the only realistic way for a contending team to stay under the salary cap.

The younger players essentially subsidize the high-priced stars.

And the Eagles' five young corners — Jones is 21, Douglas is 22, Worley and Mills are 23 and Darby just turned 24 — are all talented but most importantly, they're all still on their rookie contracts.

Jones, Douglas, Worley, Mills and Darby have a combined 2018 salary cap figure of $4,529,400.

Or less than Robinson's $5 million signing bonus with the Saints.

The Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas in the second and third rounds last year and Mills in the seventh round in 2016. Darby, who came to the Eagles last summer in the Jordan Matthews deal, was the Bills' second-round pick in 2015, and Worley, who the Eagles acquired last week from the Panthers in the Torrey Smith deal, was Carolina's third-round pick in 2016.

Here are the 2018 cap figures for the Eagles' five young corners:

$1,395,475 — Sidney Jones
$1,058,139 — Ronald Darby
$   756,572 — Rasul Douglas
$   670,000 — Daryl Worley
$   649,214 — Jalen Mills

Jones is the Eagles' highest-paid corner but only their 28th highest-paid player.

Darby's deal is up after this year. The Eagles have Mills and Worley under contract through 2019 and Jones and Douglas through 2020.

So they can stay cheap at corner for years.

According to Overthecap.com, the Eagles have the sixth-highest defensive payroll in the NFL but the third-lowest cornerback payroll, ahead of only the Packers and Colts.

The Eagles are devoting just 3.03 percent of their adjusted $177,714,409 salary cap to cornerbacks, per Spotrac.

Only the Colts (2.96 percent) are devoting a lower percentage of their 2018 cap to cornerbacks.

So the Eagles basically have young, cheap cornerbacks to offset the massive contracts they gave players like Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Brooks, and Zach Ertz.

The Eagles actually have 11 players under contract who, by themselves, have a higher 2018 cap figure than all the Eagles' cornerbacks combined.

None of this works if the young corners can't play. But Mills had a breakthrough season for the Super Bowl champs, Darby proved to be a speedy playmaker (although a bit inconsistent) when healthy, Douglas was solid while Darby was hurt and Jones could be the best of all.

Worley is the new guy and said Monday he can play anywhere — inside, outside, safety — and that's the key. All these corners are versatile, which gives Jim Schwartz (and Howie Roseman) a lot of flexibility.

How will they all line up next year? Too early to say, but it's easy to envision a scenario where Darby and Jones are outside, Mills is in the slot, Worley is the backup to all three spots and Douglas converts to safety, where the Eagles have little depth.

Or the Eagles could dangle Darby — whose contract is up after 2018 — and try to recoup a missing third-round pick.

And get even younger and cheaper.

One Eagle nearly doubles salary with performance-based pay

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One Eagle nearly doubles salary with performance-based pay

Jalen Mills went from being a seventh-round pick two years ago to playing 90 percent of defensive snaps for the Super Bowl champion Eagles

Now he’s getting some extra dough because of it. 

Mills is collecting $457,440.17 in total performance-based pay from the 2017 season. That’s the third-highest total in the NFL behind Tennessee OG Quinton Spain ($489K) and Atlanta OG Wes Schweitzer ($466K). 

That extra paycheck is extremely significant for Mills, who had a base salary of just $540,000 in his second NFL season. 

Performance-based pay is money (doesn’t apply to the salary cap) that is divvied up on a formula that accounts for playing time and salary. Basically, the more a guy plays on a cheap deal, the more performance-based pay he receives. The money isn’t actually a reward for performance, rather playing time. 

In total, over $169 million will be distributed to NFL players from 2017 through the program. 

This is the second-straight year Mills has led the Eagles in performance-based pay. Last year, as a rookie, he pulled in an extra $324K. 

The only other Eagles player in the top-25 in 2017 was offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who pulled in a total of $369,738.85. 

Vaitai played 829 offensive snaps (73 percent) for the Eagles this season, taking over at left tackle after Jason Peters went down for the season in Week 7. Like Mills, Vaitai’s base salary in 2017 was just $540,000. 

Cornerback Patrick Robinson also walked away with an extra $82,299.68 thanks to the performance-based veteran pool. Robinson played 69 percent of defensive snaps on a one-year prove-it deal. 

Eagles CBs most likely to be traded

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Eagles CBs most likely to be traded

The Eagles have a logjam at the cornerback position and a dearth of draft picks coming up in a couple months. 


Appearing on 97.5 on Tuesday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen hinted that the Eagles might have a way to make this all work. 

It would seem to make some sense. Right now, the Eagles have Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones all ready to battle for playing time and that's before the possibility of Patrick Robinson's coming back in free agency.

For the sake of possible trades, let's assume Robinson leaves in free agency. Either way, he's not going to be traded. 

That would leave Mills, Darby, Jones and Douglas as the remaining corners available. And all three would presumably have trade value. 

The Eagles used a second-round pick on Jones last year and helped him rehab from an Achilles tear; he's not going anywhere, especially not for a third-round pick. His potential is the whole reason a trade might be possible. 

Mills played really well during the 2017 season and still has two more seasons left on his rookie deal after being a seventh-round draft pick. Jim Schwartz loves him and because he was a seventh-rounder, Mills is still incredibly cheap. It wouldn't make a ton of sense to trade him. 

Maybe the Eagles look at Rasul Douglas and decide that because things worked out at the position, they can basically get back what they paid for him last year and take a player at a different position. That could be a possibility but Douglas was good as a rookie and is under contract for three more seasons of his rookie deal. 

Darby is probably the most logical corner to get moved. He has just one year left on his rookie contract and the Eagles could get something back and save just over $1 million in cap space by moving him. Darby had an up and down season but is still just 24. He could still be in the Eagles' long-term plans but they're going to have to pay him way before Jones or Douglas. 

It is pretty incredible how Howie Roseman flipped a huge weakness into a strength in a short amount of time. It's such a strength that the Eagles could actually be willing to give one of these guys up to strengthen another part of the roster.