With pressing needs at both safety and cornerback, the Philadelphia Eagles should maintain flexibility going into the draft by signing do-it-all-DB Damarious Randall to a prove-it deal.
The Philadelphia Eagles‘ safety situation may be the most volatile of any position group across the roster.
With Rodney McLeod set to become a free agent, and 2019 free agency additions Andrew Sendejo and Johnathan Cyprien not even making it through the 2019 season, the team could be rapidly approaching a day when Mike Epps and Rudy Ford are the only safeties from last season who remain on the team moving forward.
Just for context, that duo combined for 127 snaps on the season last year, and combined for 10 tackles, no sacks, and no interceptions on the year.
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Sure, they have Malcolm Jenkins technically under contract for one more season with a $7.6 million club option, but based on his recent comments about wanting a new deal – a cause he’s been pursuing for almost a year now – it’s anyone guess how that situation turns out.
But what is there to do? Well, with 10 picks to play with in the 2020 NFL Draft and a non-insignificant $40.9 million in available cap space, quite a lot actually.
On paper, the Eagles could go in and sign the best free safety on the open market, ex-Vikings center fielder Anthony Harris, but if Spotrac’s Market Value tool is even close, he’s in line for a massive payday in the ballpark of $69 million over five years, but is that really the best use of roughly a third of their available cap space?
Alternatively, the Eagles could roll with Epps, Ford, and Jenkins and hope to land a long-term difference-maker in the first or second round like, say, LSU superstar Grant Delpit, but is it really worth risking going into the season with a secondary option if he’s off the board at 21? That seems beyond risky to me.
No, outside of shifting Avonte Maddox to free safety, a position he played admirably as a spot-starter in 2018, the Eagles conceivably need to add someone who can 1. Fit in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme 2. Play free safety in a single-high cover 1/cover 3 scheme, and 3. Have positional versatility if they can land someone better in the draft.
Tough player to find on a budget, right? Maybe so, but there is one player who could fit the bill: Damarious Randall.
A cornerback/safety ball-hawking hybrid out of Arizona State, Randall started out his NFL career as the 30th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, where he was asked to play cornerback. Through three seasons of action, Randall picked off 10 passes in 39 games (30 starts) while amassing 144 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a pair of touchdowns, but eventually fell out of favor due to the additions of fellow rookie-contract players like Jaire Alexander, and Kevin King.
This overflow of cornerbacks allowed the Packers to flip Randall to the Cleveland Browns for eventually-waived quarterback DeShone Kizer and a pair of 2018 pick swaps that ultimately favored Green Bay.
Over two seasons with the Browns, Randall transitioned back to free safety and started all 26 games he appeared in over two seasons. While he didn’t make as big of an impact as one may have hoped – though certainly more than Kizer – Randall still picked off four more passes (all in 2018), defensed 15 more, and recorded his first two sacks as a pro (both in 2019).
And barring a surprising turn around from a team on their third head coach in as many seasons (four if you could Gregg Williams), it looks like Randall will be allowed to hit the open market this time next month.
Now could some team swoop in and offer the 27-year-old a massive, multi-year contract? I guess anything is possible, but that feels pretty unlikely. With players like Harris, McLeod, and Karl Joseph all available at varying price points, Randall may find it hard to secure any sort of multi-year deal, let alone one worth over $6-plus million a year.
But if the price is right, boy could Randall be a scheme fit for the Eagles.
As anyone who has watched the team during the Doug Pederson-era can attest, the Eagles love to run two safeties with experience playing cornerback. This allows the team to get creative with their coverage assignments, and deploy more varied coverages where a safety can drop into the slot and cover a receiver, running back, or even a smaller tight end.
With 39 games of experience playing cornerback in the NFL, Randall fits that bill.
Randall’s inside-out versatility could also make him an intriguing option in the slot if Howie Roseman opts to draft a starting-caliber safety, maintaining value without having to worry about wasting money on an underutilized player. Heck, with the team’s cornerback rotation still very much in flux, as only one 2019 starter, Jalen Mills, is set to return in 2020, Randall could even earn a look on the outside at cornerback, as Schwartz values ball skills over size and physicality.
Gosh, could you imagine locking up a starting outside cornerback on a one-year, $5 million deal? That would be insane.
After confusingly committing money and roster spots to over-the-hill veterans in their 30s in 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles need to find young, scheme-fitting talent to build out their roster for years of contention to come. While the draft is obviously the best place to find such a player, if Howie Roseman can entice Randall into signing with the team position unseen, his ball skills and scheme flexibility could be a deceptively huge get both in 2020 and beyond depending on how things shake out with Malcolm Jenkins.