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Maxwell, sure to get big money, seems to fit the Eagles

Byron Maxwell, during a media tour last week, said that he "definitely . . . would have to consider" the Eagles if they were interested in signing him.

Byron Maxwell, during a media tour last week, said that he "definitely . . . would have to consider" the Eagles if they were interested in signing him.

No offense to Jeffrey Lurie's franchise, but Maxwell would consider the Philadelphia Soul if they could find a way into the NFL and pony up enough cash to lure the cornerback away from what is expected to be a host of suitors once free agency opens on Tuesday.

"I'll stay in the back, but just give me the check," Maxwell said in January when he was asked whether he minded not having one of the prestige podiums during Super Bowl Media Day, even though he would be one of the more sought-after free agents.

And who could blame him? This will be Maxwell's best opportunity to score a big contract after playing his first four seasons on a sixth-round rookie deal.

So to suggest the Eagles have the inside track because of Maxwell's comments, or even because it does make perfect sense that Chip Kelly would be interested in the 27-year-old, would be pure folly. He'll go where he gets the best offer. Maxwell didn't switch agents a week before the market opens for nothing.

The question is, how interested ($$) are the Eagles? Maxwell is looking for somewhere in the $10-12 million a year range, according to a source close to the situation. Will Kelly want to bid that high for a cornerback who seemingly fits the Eagles' defensive scheme and the coach's size and age requirements, but has only 17 career NFL starts?

The answer is apparently yes. The Eagles will be major players for Maxwell, two NFL sources told The Inquirer on Saturday.

"I can see why they want him," ESPN analyst and former Eagles executive Louis Riddick said. "I can see why he's the kind of guy that they would want to go after."

It's not as if Maxwell will be the only attractive available cornerback. But the Eagles will need to fill both starting corner spots after Cary Williams was released last week and with Bradley Fletcher all but certain to not return. And Kelly may want to spend after those bargain-basement signings didn't pan out.

The secondary has been the Achilles' heel of the defense for two seasons, and Fletcher and Williams were a hot mess down the stretch last season as the Eagles coughed up a playoff berth. In a scheme that often placed the corners in man-to-man situations, the Eagles allowed an NFL-worst 72 pass plays of 20-plus yards.

Maxwell was by no means as good as his cornerback counterpart in Seattle, Richard Sherman, but he specializes in playing man-press coverage, played plenty of Cover 1 and 3 like the Eagles, is rangy (6-foot-1, 207 pounds and with 331/2-inch arms), and is versatile enough to play in the slot.

"That is something even before I left Philadelphia [in 2012] that they wanted to some degree - big, long corners, who will tackle, which Byron will do," Riddick said, "who will be able to play good, tough, hard-nosed man-to-man coverage."

Maxwell isn't great against the run, but he's a more-than-willing participant, and he's tackled well in the secondary, missing only one attempt in the passing game last season, per Pro Football Focus.

But he will get paid for how he covers, and last year, his first full season as a starter, he did strong work against No. 1 receivers like Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant. Maxwell has strong hands at the line, and when he runs with receivers he has good technique and knows when to turn and make a play on the ball.

"Everybody knows what Byron has excelled at, and that's getting up on the line, using his length, challenging you at the line," Riddick said. "He's a very patient corner at the line of scrimmage. And then playing you very aggressively, very hands-on down the field and trying to challenge you throughout the entire down."

Maxwell did have six holding penalties - tied for third most in the league - in 13 games last season. But he can also slide inside - where he said he preferred playing - and close on slot receivers without giving up many yards after the catch.

The main concern with giving Maxwell a large contract is that he played in the best defense in the NFL and alongside three all-pro players - Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor - in the secondary.

There appear to be no off-field issues, however. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have gone out of their way to endorse Maxwell's character, while conceding two weeks ago at the NFL combine that his market would price them out.

So Maxwell will hit free agency, which is why he was shopping his services on ESPN, among other outlets, last week. ESPN host Chris McKendry, a Philadelphia native, couldn't help but ask about her hometown Eagles and their chances of landing the cornerback.

Maxwell, of course, was game.

"They run the schemes that I'm talking about - Cover 3 and man-press. And they're committed to winning," Maxwell said. "Definitely, Philadelphia, if they were to come at me, I would have to consider them."

But will the Eagles pay to play and pay enough to win?