The Eagles took a significant step toward shoring up their secondary Wednesday by agreeing to sign former Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year deal.
Bradberry, 28, was the New York Giants’ No. 1 cornerback last season, but they released him for salary cap savings earlier this month. Bradberry’s contract with the Eagles has $7.25 million guaranteed, with $7.5 million in base salary and an additional $2.5 million in incentives, according to an ESPN report.
Teaming Bradberry, a Pro Bowler in 2020, with Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox will give the Eagles a formidable starting cornerback rotation with plenty of depth behind it. It came as a surprise when the Eagles finished the draft without taking a cornerback or safety, but Bradberry gives them a quality starter opposite Slay on the outside.
Maddox said news of Bradberry’s signing trickled throughout the locker room Wednesday as the team goes through offseason training.
“He’s a great player, obviously,” Maddox said of the six-year veteran who is listed at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds. “He’s been playing the game for a good minute. He’s smart and he knows the game really well. Just adding a piece like that to the defense, it’s a great [addition], there’s a chance and time for us to get better with each other during OTAs and camp.”
Bradberry was one of the NFL’s best corners in 2020, recording 14 pass breakups and allowing just 44 catches on 78 targets. Last year, he regressed a bit, allowing 60 catches on 92 targets with 13 PBUs. He still had four interceptions last season and has 15 in his career.
“Any time you can add a player like that, it would boost any team,” Eagles safety Marcus Epps said. “He’s a really good player; he’s been proving he’s been a really good player in this league for a while. I’m really excited to meet him, and I’m really excited to work with him.”
Even if the Eagles get the 2021 version of Bradberry, he’d be a considerable upgrade at the No. 2 cornerback spot occupied by Steven Nelson last season. It’s also worth noting most of his struggles last year came in man coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. He played in man 22.5% of the time and allowed a quarterback rating for 127.2 on those snaps. In zone coverage, he was much better, allowing a QBR of 76.5 and recording 11 of his 13 PBUs.
Luckily for Bradberry, the Eagles were one of the most zone-heavy defenses in the NFL under coordinator Jonathan Gannon last season and figure to continue employing heavy doses of zone coverage.
Bradberry was drafted by Carolina in the second round out of Samford in 2016. He has been durable throughout his career, starting 15 or more games every year since 2017. He played the first four years of his career with the Panthers before signing with the Giants on a three-year deal worth up to $43.5 million in 2020.
Needing to clear cap space to sign their rookie class, the Giants tried to trade Bradberry but eventually released him to save $10.1 million. According to ESPN, Bradberry had 11 teams reach out and he seriously considered offers from three of them.
Bradberry joins a long list of offseason additions, particularly on defense, who should position the Eagles to compete for another playoff berth next season. The team signed edge rusher Haason Reddick and linebacker Kyzir White in free agency, traded for star wide receiver A.J. Brown, and used two of its first three draft selections on defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean.
The significant turnover from last year’s group of starters isn’t without reason. The Eagles’ defense ranked 25th in defense-adjusted value over average by Football Outsiders last year and was also 25th against the pass. The group struggled against the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the league, allowing several to complete more than 80% of their passes.
“It’s a highly competitive group,” Maddox said of the new-look defense. “I can’t wait to see how it goes going into camp and OTAs, the way that all these players are able to compete. You bring players in to compete and that’s a good thing, because everyone wants to push everyone to be better.”