Jeff McLane 👍
The Eagles had a clear hole at outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay. They didn’t re-sign Steven Nelson. They didn’t make an immediate push to fill the need in the early stages of free agency. And they didn’t expend a draft pick on the position. The Eagles did add some intriguing rookies postdraft, but Zech McPhearson — a 2021 fourth-rounder — remained the prime candidate on the roster to start as of just a day ago.
But the Eagles’ public support of McPhearson or Tay Gowan never passed the smell test even if they benefited from James Bradberry’s timely release just recently. Howie Roseman’s patience has again paid off. While it was a mild surprise to see the former Giants cornerback, who was released for salary cap reasons, choose the Eagles over suitors who may have legitimate championship aspirations, there’s little doubt that scheme fit played a role in his ultimate decision.
Bradberry signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract worth up to $10 million that isn’t quite as affordable as the one Nelson inked a year ago just before training camp. But Roseman, clearly shifting into win-now mode, has continued to improve the personnel on the defensive side. At least on paper, he has. He had addressed the pass rush (Haason Reddick), the run defense (Jordan Davis), the off-ball linebacker deficiencies (Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean), if not the secondary.
But adding Bradberry was the first significant step in helping defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon on the back end. It was almost a no-brainer. He did struggle last season, but there weren’t many success stories for the Giants, and he might not have been playing at full strength due to a nagging foot injury. He’s 29 and has never been the swiftest of corners, but Bradberry has made up for what he has lacked in speed with length, smarts, and precise zone coverage technique.
He should, theoretically, allow Gannon to call more zones, which in turn should increase the opportunities to disguise his coverages. The Eagles’ scheme was often predictable in 2021, and good quarterbacks took advantage. Nelson was more than serviceable, but the outside cornerbacks weren’t asked to do as much as they would have, say, in Jim Schwartz’s single-high safety-heavy scheme.
Bradberry was a hot free agent two years ago. He was a consistent performer for the Carolina Panthers in his first four seasons and made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Giants. He looked like the second coming of Deion Sanders vs. the Eagles in 2020, but the same could have been said of several corners who faced Carson Wentz and that group of receivers. Bradberry is going to struggle in run support and miss his share of tackles in space, but it’s a small price to pay vs. what he can offer against the pass.
An argument could be made for investing more in safety, particularly in Gannon’s scheme. But Bradberry was too good to pass up. And as Roseman has often cautioned when questions are raised about roster holes, there is still considerable time before the season.
EJ Smith 👍
At first blush, it would be natural to take this signing with a grain of salt. The Giants jettisoned Bradberry for much-needed cap savings after unsuccessfully trying to trade him earlier this month. Typically, those circumstances would be cause for some concern.
With Bradberry, though, it’s important to note his turbulent offseason was seemingly more related to his contract than his on-field ability. The cap-strapped Giants couldn’t afford his $13.4 million cap charge next season, and teams were seemingly reluctant to trade for him at that number. Once he was a free agent, he had significant interest, according to ESPN.
For a one-year deal worth up to $10 million, the Eagles got a competent starting cornerback to play opposite Slay. Pairing Bradberry, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020, with Slay and Avonte Maddox gives the Eagles a formidable starting cornerback trio even in sub packages. He struggled in man coverage last season, but has proved that he’s a very good zone coverage cornerback, which is what the Eagles will ask him to be.
Bradberry has seven interceptions and 35 pass breakups in the last two seasons as the Giants’ No. 1 corner. For the Eagles, he should be the best No. 2 they’ve had in some time.
Josh Tolentino 👍
Shortly after news broke that the Giants were seeking to part ways with Bradberry, Slay became very active on Twitter as he envisioned teaming up with the former Pro Bowler. When the Giants were unsuccessful in finding a trade partner, they released him in an effort to create cap space.
By joining the Eagles, Bradberry now gets two direct opportunities of revenge against his former team. He also teams up with Slay and starting slot corner Maddox to give the Eagles an intimidating trio at defensive back.
Bradberry essentially replaces Nelson, who started on the opposite side of Slay for one season. Nelson was fine in his role, especially considering he joined the team during training camp, but Bradberry arrives to Philadelphia with more hype. He’s a taller outside cornerback at 6-foot-1, and he possesses a lengthy wingspan of 78.625 inches.
Over the past three seasons, Bradberry has recorded 10 interceptions and 47 passes defensed. In his six NFL seasons, Bradberry has had a minimum of 10 passes defensed each season with a career-best 18 passes defensed in 2020. That production will be happily welcomed by Gannon. The ink of Bradberry’s pen is still fresh, but the Eagles have one lingering need: safety. The team has exuded confidence in Marcus Epps as a starter; however, this offseason has proved Roseman is always on the phone.