Despite numerous factors pointing to Patrick Robinson’s departure, the Eagles have “begun talks” with the free-agent cornerback, according to a report.
Per Matt Lombardo for NJ.com, the Eagles have approached Robinson about a “long-term” contract, hoping to complete the deal before the veteran of eight seasons officially becomes a free agent.
The Eagles have exclusive negotiating rights with Robinson until March 12, when NFL teams can enter into contract talks with a free agent’s representation. Free agency officially opens March 14.
It’s not unusual for teams to approach their own free agents ahead of time, even in cases where an agreement seems unlikely. This might be one of those situations.
Robinson far exceeded expectations for the Eagles in 2017. Signed as a stopgap solution last offseason, the journeyman defensive back matched career highs with four interceptions and 18 pass breakups, and ranked 19th among qualifying corners with a 70.1 opponents’ passer rating in coverage, according to ProFootballFocus.
It was legitimately a performance worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. Still, the prospect of the Eagles' re-signing Robinson — particularly to a long-term deal — raises some questions.
Once considered the biggest weakness on the team, the Eagles suddenly have a logjam at cornerback. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are both under contract, while the club used second- and third-round draft picks on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in last year’s draft.
The Eagles are also currently over the projected salary cap for 2018, so even if finding playing time for everybody wasn’t a concern, allocating more money to another cornerback would be.
Given his tremendous campaign and playoff run, attempting to re-sign Robinson at a discount should prove challenging, too. Though the thought of chasing another Super Bowl is no doubt appealing, he turns 31 in September, and this could be his last shot at a big payday.
Robinson’s age is yet another reason for the Eagles to proceed with caution. He managed to suit up and perform at a high level in all 19 games last season, but injuries and consistency have been issues throughout his career.
While it’s unclear how many years constitutes long-term in this case, any more than two is probably rolling the dice.
It makes sense the Eagles would explore retaining Robinson after he played like one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season. There’s a sentimental side here as well after winning a world championship.
But the Eagles typically deploy a maximum of three cornerbacks at a time. Mills and Darby are both 24, and Jones is ready to contribute after missing almost the entirety of his rookie season with an injury. Where exactly does Robinson fit into this picture, in either the immediate or long-term future?
Maybe that’s a question the Eagles will answer once Robinson is under contract. Until then, it’s only natural to regard his potential return with a healthy degree of skepticism.