Philadelphia Eagles: Who’s the odd man out at cornerback?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles are absolutely flush with talent at the cornerback position, but who’s the odd man out when the roster gets trimmed down to 53?

The phrase “the Philadelphia Eagles have a cornerback problem” has become a near-constant in coverage of the team over the last decade.

From watching over-the-hill veterans like Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams get toasted week after week in one of the worst secondaries of all time, to the incredibly disappointing tenure of Nnamdi Asomugha after Philly plucked away the once league-best cornerback from the Oakland Raiders for the ‘Dream Team’, Philly has a pretty bad track record at the position.

And unfortunately, the team once again has a cornerback problem. Only this time, it may actually be a good thing.

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After fielding the worst pass defense in the league in his first season back as general manager, Howie Roseman knew that his team would only be as good as its defensive secondary, and going into 2017, he made a point of restocking the cupboard with top-flight talent, maybe to a fault.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, Roseman opted against selecting an NFL-ready prospect in the second round and instead anointed Sidney Jones, the Washington defensive back who was once considered the most complete corner in his class before suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day, to eventually give the team a true lock-down db.

But he didn’t stop there.

One round later, Roseman again selected from the draft’s incredibly deep defensive back pool, this time selecting Rasul Douglas out of West Virginia 99th overall. While Douglas didn’t possess the finesse game of Jones, he did finish out the 2016 college football season with the most interceptions of any defensive back in the nation with eight, and brought that level of ball skills to the City of Brotherly Love immediately, as the 6-foot-2, 209-pound man press corner picked off a pair of balls in 14 games of action as a 22-year-old rookie.

Add in a mid-preseason trade for former Florida State speedster Ronald Darby, and the Eagles quickly found themselves with a surprisingly effective secondary, one ranked 18th overall by Pro Football Focus going into 2018.

And with that same collection of players more or less set to return, headlined by the Green Goblin himself Jalen ‘Mills Island’ Mills, the Eagles once again look primed for another great defensive season.

But Roseman, again, wouldn’t stop there.

In the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Roseman selected diminutive Pittsburgh corner, Avonte Maddox, presumably to challenge for the team’s slot cornerback position after losing breath of fresh air veteran Patrick Robinson to the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

This, when coupled with the surprise emergence of Devante Bausby as a legitimate contender for a starting spot after signing a future contract back in January, means that the Philadelphia Eagles now have more players than they have roster spots available.

Somebody’s gotta go.

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With such a logjam at one position and a plethora of teams starved for quality cornerback play presumably willing to make a deal, it’s incredibly surprising that Philly has been linked to virtually no trades this offseason.

Sure, floated the idea of Philly flipping Douglas, arguably at least perfect fit on the roster to a cornerback-hungry team in exchange for someone to your help at the linebacker position, but as of right now, that’s just unsolicited speculation.

Honestly, the team has just as good a chance of transitioning Douglas to safety to finally have a young, hard-hitting, ball-hawking, homegrown heir to Brian Dawkins at one of the team’s lightest positions than they do of trading away a former third-round pick coming off of a promising season for pennies on the dollar.

So, out of the six players with a legitimate chance to make the roster, who’s the odd man out?

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Assuming the team doesn’t just keep four corners like they did last year after Jones spent the majority of the season on IR, one would have to assume the final spot would come down to Maddox and Bausby, as baring a trade, the other four players appear to be roster locks.

On the surface, Bausby looks like the obvious cut, as the undrafted free agent from Pittsburg State is now on his fourth team in three seasons, but Eagles training camp has been abuzz with nothing but glowing praise about the 25-year-old corner who, at 6-foot-2 with a 4.35 40-yard dash could be an intriguing developmental prospect with starter traits. As crazy as it may sound, Bausby is actually ahead of Jones on the team’s present depth chart according to’s Zack Rosenblatt.

But, why would the Eagles have invested a fourth-round pick in a player like Maddox only to cut him a few months later? Well, besides the fact that there’s no way Philly could have known Bausby would develop so quickly in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme, you have to assume Philly picked Maddox because he was the best player available on their draft board at the time, not because of any inherent desire for him to fill their currently vacant slot corner position.

So, the question becomes, which is Philly more concerned with, player development, or winning now?

Last summer, Roseman explicitly explain why he opted to keep players like Shelton Gibson on the 53-man roster and cut a player like Bryce Treggs, who by all accounts outplayed the West Virginia rookie. Since only 46 players dress on any given game day, Roseman took the stance that those last seven roster spots should go to high-upside players who could potentially develop into starters down the road, as opposed to fringe, one-trick pony players who may not even be in the league a few years down the road.

But this is also why Joe Walker, a 2016 seventh-round pick who missed his entire rookie season, made the roster over 2017 fifth round pick Nathan Gerry. The best player, both now and moving forward is going to make the team, regardless of pedigree.

So, does this philosophy give Maddox the edge, as Philly invested a fourth-round pick in acquiring the polished, 5-foot-9 cornerback a few months ago because of his plug and play press man play, or Bausby, a height weight speed freak who checks every box of a modern-day NFL corner?

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Only time will tell, but needless to say, the quarterback competition is just heating up in South Philly.