Five years later, the Philadelphia Eagles should finally acquire Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Five years after almost selecting him in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles should finally bring Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the City of Brotherly Love.

Once upon a time, roughly five years ago, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix desperately wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to select him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

After initially being recruited to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide by then-Eagles exec Ed Marynowitz, Clinton-Dix saw the team’s glaring deficit on the back-end of the defense and believed that he could have been the second coming of Brian Dawkins in the City of Brotherly Love.

But then, one pick before the Eagles were on the clock, disaster struck.

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While patiently waiting for a call from Marynowitz, Clinton-Dix’s phone instead rang with a 920 number and just like that; the Green Bay Packers found their next safety of the future. Philly, on the other hand, was forced to go with Plan B: Trade back in the first round, draft Marcus Smith and then trade up in the second round to draft Jordan Matthews.

Wow, that move seriously aged poorly.

But much like with Matthews, Howie Roseman now has a second chance to get things right and shore up his secondary for years to come with a player firmly in his prime.

You see, the Green Bay Packers aren’t kidding themselves, this isn’t going to be their year. With plenty of high-profile injuries, including to marquee players like Mo Wilkerson and Aaron Rodgers deflating their potential, the team is already setting their collective eyes next fall, and by extension are willing to part with a few non-essential players who they don’t plan on extending in March.

One of those players is Clinton-Dix.

Now don’t get things twisted, just because Clinton-Dix is on the block doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, as he’s currently the ninth-ranked safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus, but to paraphrase NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the Packers simply have too much invested in their secondary to give the fifth year player a long-term deal. By flipping him now, they can secure a more immediate asset for his services, as opposed to waiting until 2020 for a (potential) compensatory pick should he walk in free agency.

With as many as 12 draft picks on the books for 2019 according to Philly Voice, the Eagles certainly have the firepower to make a move for a player they deem a both short and long-term asset, but does Clinton-Dix fit the bill?

Short term? Yes. Long term? Maybe.

In 2018 there is absolutely no downside to trading for Clinton-Dix. After losing Rodney McLeod for the season in Week 3, the team has struggled to replace his production, initially going with Corey Graham before cementing Avonte Maddox at the position for the last month.

While Maddox should be commended for his selfless transition from cornerback to free safety, a position he’s never played in his life, he’s been far from elite at his new position. Currently ranked the 136th best safety in the league by Pro Football Focus, the 15th worst mark of any player at his position, inserting Clinton-Dix next to incumbent starter Malcolm Jenkins would undoubtedly help to bolster the unit in the short-term, and allow Maddox to return to his natural position as an inside slot corner.

However, if the team is going to give up a mid-round draft pick for Clinton-Dix’s services, they aren’t just going to want a replacement player for this season alone. No, Philly is going to want to acquire an asset with at least a few years of service left on his deal, something Clinton-Dix doesn’t bring to the table.

If the team were to trade for Clinton-Dix, they could likely want to give him a contract extension to make the deal worth wild. That, however, could be a problem. With $15.6 million in cap space locked into their starting safety tandem next season and $16.1 million on the books in 2020, the Eagles have one of the most expensive safety tandems in the entire league right now and may be hesitant to commit even more money to the position.

But at only 26-years-old, if they diagnose Clinton-Dix as a scheme fit, I’m sure the team could make something work.

With roughly $11 million in cap space available this season, Roseman could conceivably sign Clinton-Dix to an extension now, give him extra money now, a leaner salary in 2019 and 2020 and increase his salary considerably in 2021 and 2022 when McLeod and Jenkins’ current deals are off the books.

But why pay that kind of money to a third safety, even if the team can afford it? Well, simple, the team uses three safeties a lot when they have a healthy defensive backfield.

Last season, Graham was on the field almost a third of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in their ‘big nickel’ and while said subpackage hasn’t been utilized nearly as much this season due to McLeod and Graham’s injuries, this is a look that has been incredibly successful historically.

Could you imagine said package with Clinton-Dix, McLeod, and Jenkins all on the field together? That kind of optionality would allow the Jenkins to freestyle more consistently, while also giving Jim Schwartz a virtual cornucopia of options to craft creative coverages and surprising blitzes.

In a league that has rapidly devalued the safety position over the last calendar year, maybe the Eagles should play some ‘Moneyball’ and load up on an underappreciated position moving forward? While it may not be the most conventional defensive scheme in the league, if the price is right, and the Philadelphia Eagles can add a player like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to their defensive backfield midseason, it could not only help to fix their current woes this season, but also cultivate a new 4-2-5 defensive base package that could give NFC East offenses fits for years to come.

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