Eagles pull off trade for star cornerback Darius Slay

Eagles pull off trade for star cornerback Darius Slay

The Eagles finally have a real cornerback. 

The Eagles on Thursday morning went a long way toward answering their massive cornerback question when they acquired one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and signed him to a massive new contract.

Three-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay, who has been campaigning to get out of Detroit, is now an Eagle. The trade was first reported by ESPN.

The Eagles shipped 2020 third- and fifth-round picks to the Lions for Slay, who turned 29 on New Year’s Day. The Eagles traded their own picks, Nos. 85 and 166, not their compensatory picks. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro reports that Slay’s new deal is worth $50 million over three years, including $30 million in guarantees.

His average of $16.7 million per year makes Slay the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history, just ahead of Byron Jones, whose new deal with the Dolphins averages $16.5 million over five years.

He’s the fourth-highest-paid player on the Eagles, behind Carson Wentz ($32 million average), Lane Johnson ($18 million average) and Fletcher Cox ($17.1 million average).

Slay was originally a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2013, when the Lions' head coach was current Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. He has 19 interceptions since 2014. No Eagle cornerback has more than six interceptions during that same span.

Slay led the NFL with eight interceptions and 26 pass knockdowns during his all-pro 2017 season. He’s started 90 of a possible 96 games since 2014 and gives the Eagles their first legitimate star cornerback since Asante Samuel a decade ago.

After the Lions signed free agent cornerback Desmond Trufant on Wednesday, it seemed like a matter of time before the they shipped Slay.

The Eagles, desperate for play-making cornerbacks, were quiet in the first few days of free agency, while the top corners found new hopes, as NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro wrote.

But in Slay, the Eagles get a cornerback who might be a better option than any of the free agents on the market.

He sat out the Lions’ minicamps last offseason to protest the lack of a new contract but returned for training camp and played all 16 games, with 46 tackles, 13 pass knockdowns and two interceptions.

Slay immediately answers the Eagles’ biggest offseason need. The team resigned Jalen Mills, but he’s expected to play safety moving forward. The only other corners on the roster are Avonte Maddox, Cre’von LeBlanc, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones.

The Eagles have had major cornerback issues for years. Some 15 different corners have started at least one game since Doug Pederson became head coach in 2016. The team in 2017 drafted Jones in the second round and Douglas in the third but by the end of last season neither was even in Jim Schwartz’s defensive rotation.

The Eagles allowed an NFL-high eight touchdown passes of 40 yards or more last year and 15 overall pass plays of at least 40 yards.

Much of the Eagles’ offseason so far has been devoted to a massive secondary restructure. 

Since free agency began on Monday, the Eagles have cut ties with three-time Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, re-signed Mills to a one-year deal, re-signed safety Rodney McLeod to a two-year deal and now locked up Slay through 2022.

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Why one NFL analyst believes the Eagles are a 'perfect spot' for Antonio Brown

Why one NFL analyst believes the Eagles are a 'perfect spot' for Antonio Brown

This has been a strange year, and sometimes strange things beget strange things.

The Eagles signing walking locker room distraction Antonio Brown? Yep, that would be strange.

But at least one NFL analyst believes Brown and the Birds would be an ideal pairing.

Mike Florio put that opinion forward Monday morning on ProFootballTalk, as he and Chris Simms each chose three teams they think are "most likely" to sign the embattled wideout. Here's the list they came up with:

Seahawks, Packers, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, and Saints.

The Eagles were listed fourth in the duo's discussion. Here's why Florio thinks Brown landing in Philly is a good idea:

I will go with the Eagles next. They need that threat, they need that presence. And especially with the stuff that went down with DeSean Jackson several weeks ago - even though that has died down, from a health standpoint you don't know what you're getting from Jackson. He had a great Week 1 game last year, and then he was nothing the rest of the season. He's older, older than Antonio Brown by a year or two. And you look at the lack of weapons around Carson Wentz, and you think back to what Wentz was able to do with a revolving door of slappys last year. 

I think the Eagles would be a perfect spot, and I think that's an organization that could find a way to - you remember the emotional intelligence buzzword from Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the team, when they hired Doug Pederson to be the coach. I feel like Pederson could find a way to press the buttons, and hold it together, and get the most out of Antonio Brown. It would really make that offense better.

I understand what Florio is saying here. Pederson has indeed shown an ability to hold a locker room together in the face of adversity - the Josina Anderson-Carson Wentz leaks, for example. And the Eagles, when they signed Michael Vick in 2009, showed a willingness to give second chances.

But I don't see this one happening.

For one, Brown was suspended last week by the NFL for the first eight games of the 2020 season. Brown was suspended for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy, and he still has an ongoing league investigation into a lawsuit filed by his former trainer, in which she alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Brown.

Which means the information learned about Brown, and his ultimate punishment from the league, could both get even worse. That simply doesn't sound like a situation the Eagles want to get involved in, no matter how dire their wide receiver situation becomes.

Not to mention that Howie Roseman made a point to try and make the Eagles younger this offseason, and Brown, 32, simply doesn't fit that approach.

Would Brown make the Eagles better if - not when - he eventually played in a regular season game? Yeah. We don't know what kind of football shape he'd be in after extended time off, but Brown caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in his only 2019 appearance, and he was one of the two or three best receivers in the league from 2013 to 2018. Brown can obviously still play, even if he might never return to his absolute peak form.

Still, I'd be absolutely shocked if that upside outweighed the almost innumerable risks that come with adding a player like Brown.

Brown has said he is looking forward to "new beginnings" after his suspension, and that may be true. I just don't think he'll find that beginning in Philadelphia.

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Doug Pederson discusses positive COVID test, coaching layoff

Doug Pederson discusses positive COVID test, coaching layoff

Doug Pederson, speaking from quarantine at his South Jersey home, emphasized Monday that he believes the NovaCare Complex could not be any safer.

Pederson wouldn’t comment when asked specifically if he believes he contracted COVID-19 away from the Eagles’ South Philadelphia training complex, but it did sound that way.

“This is something I don’t necessarily want to comment on for myself or speculate on anyone else obviously,” Pederson said. “I’m just going to reiterate the fact that I feel very good about the safety of our building and the protocols that we have in place. That’s one thing I do know, and going through this has reinforced that for me at this time.”

The Eagles announced Sunday that Pederson tested positive for the virus. With training camp continuing in Philadelphia, Pederson remains separated from the team indefinitely.

Although quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was sent home because he had worked in close quarters with Pederson, there haven’t been any other reports of positive tests in the NovaCare.

Three veteran players, Lane Johnson, Nate Gerry and Jordan Mailata, went on the COVID reserve list before reporting to camp. Of those three, only Johnson is known to have contracted the virus.

“I’m very comfortable and confident that the protocols we have in place at the NovaCare are in the best interest of the football team and all those who enter the building,” Pederson said. “It still is a very safe environment. One of the things we all need to learn and what I need to learn taking away from this is that obviously we need to protect ourselves when we’re in the community, away from the building.”

Pederson said he’s in constant communication with his players, coaches and staff, and in that way this period is not unlike the spring, when Pederson led daily team activities through Zoom calls.

Pederson said he has no symptoms but is quarantining himself from his family members until he tests negative and is cleared to return to work.

“I’m feeling great,” he said Monday afternoon on a Zoom call. “Energy level is high, really no symptoms whatsoever. I’m very fortunate because this virus attacks (all) people a little bit differently.”

Although Pederson is able to run team meetings and meet with players virtually, he can’t be on the field, and starting Tuesday, teams are allowed to hold non-contact, non-padded walkthroughs.

Duce Staley, who holds the dual title of running backs coach and assistant head coach, is running these practices.

Staley, Pederson’s teammate here in 1999, has been on the Eagles’ coaching staff for 10 years.

“Duce being assistant head coach, he assumes my role, the day-to-day activities in the building,” Pederson said. “He and I talk every single morning, I give him sort of my thoughts on where I’m leading and what I’m thinking and then he carries that message forward. He’s done a great job so far and will continue to.”

But make no mistake about it … this is still Pederson’s team.

“One of the things I learned during the offseason is that I can still run the team virtually and that’s what I’ve been able to do today and yesterday, holding staff meetings, team meetings, things of that nature,” he said.

How long will Pederson be out?

It’s impossible to tell. 

“I’m not going to speculate on a timetable for me,” he said. “Treat it just like players. When I’m back I’m back.”

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