Historically, when NFL teams switch from one scheme to another – usually due to a coaching change of some sort – there will be good players who find themselves on the outs due to no reason other than bad luck.
Beau Allen became a miscast nose tackle in an attacking 4-3 scheme when Jim Schwartz came to town, as did second-year ex-second-round pick Eric Rowe, who didn’t fit the playmaking bill the former Lions head coach looked for on the outside.
When that happens, sometimes a team can swoop in and score a bargain. For example, the Patriots were able to land Rowe for a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick from the Eagles in 2016, and though he never became a Byron Maxwell-esque big man-press outside cornerback, he remained a solid piece for the team and now is a starting safety for the Miami Dolphins a few years later.
And now, on an unsuspecting Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles were able to capitalize on another team’s schematic turnover by securing the services of ex-2020 fourth-round pick Josiah Scott from the Jacksonville Jaguars for the low, low price of a 2023 sixth-round pick and Jameson Houston, a player many probably didn’t even know was under contract.
Is this a home run trade or simply a depth move for a team still in need of a CB2? Let’s try to find out.
Josiah Scott, at worst, bolsters the Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerback depth.
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Measuring in at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Josiah Scott isn’t for everyone.
He’s an incompatible fit in some schemes on the outside due to his height and small wingspan – see Jaguars, Jacksonville – and only played 15 snaps in the slot during his third and final season at Michigan State. Sure, he has good speed (4.42) and great ball skills (six picks in three seasons at MSU), but if you want to play a bigger, physical style of cornerback, Scott isn’t your guy.
Now who, my friends, does that sound like? Yeah, that’d be Avonte Maddox.
Like Maddox, Scott is a feisty cornerback who can keep up with almost any receiver on the field and will make plays when the ball is in the air. They’re both disciples of the Pat Narduzzi/Mark Dantonio school of cornerback play, have experience playing both man and in a relatively sophisticated matchup zone, and were even both drafted in the fourth rounds of their respective NFL Drafts with Maddox coming off the board at 125 and Scott going 137th two years later.
So, why would Roseman trade for Scott when he not only already has Maddox, but the diminutive former Pitt Panther didn’t play particularly well for the team last season?
One word: Optionality.
While sure, Maddox didn’t play particularly well for the Eagles on the outside in 2020, that doesn’t mean Scott is automatically a lost cause. Every player is different. They process information at different rates, have different levels of risk aversion, and may have better or worse “football IQs” based on their previous experience.
There have been hundreds of wide receivers in the NFL who measure in at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, but there was only ever one Jerry Rice.
If Maddox and Scott can win two of the Eagles’ three starting cornerback spots, no one should really care how they were acquired or which UDFA journeymen corners had to be traded to get things done. If Scott is able to beat out Maddox outright and gives the Eagles quality starts either on the outside or in the slot, that too will be worth the price of admission, as any upgrade is valuable regardless of the position.
But do you know what? Even if Scott isn’t able to outperform Maddox, a free agent addition (Steven Nelson, anyone?), recent signee Nate Meadors, or 2021 fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson for a starting role, his inclusion on the roster simply makes the Eagles a better football team because he kicks everyone down one spot on the depth chart.
Even if Scott only plays in dime package looks as the team’s fourth cornerback, that takes away snaps from players like Craig James, Keyvon Seymour, and Michael Jacquett, who all proved ineffective during their respective tenures with the team. Scott’s addition also provides insurance for if a player like Darius Slay gets injured, as the team will actually have a young, mid-round-level talent to insert into games as a stop starter, which is a whole lot better than the collection of practice squad/waiver claimees the team has been forced to start at times in 2019 and 2020.
Heck, if nothing else, Roseman could view Scott as insurance for if Maddox isn’t back in 2021 — for good or bad reasons – as the duo have similar athletic profiles and thus could be utilized in the same role.
If you can land a former fourth-round pick with three years left on his contract, it makes sense to get that deal done.
Who knows, maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars are right. Maybe Josiah Scott never becomes more than a deep-bench reserve at the NFL level, and landing a sixth-round pick for a depreciating asset is a smart play. Between you and me, I don’t think that’s the case. Between his ability to compete for a pair of wide-open starting spots, the length of his contract, and the fact that he just turned 22 on April 5th, the Philadelphia Eagles just further deepened their talent pool at the cornerback position for a journeyman UDFA and a future sixth-round pick. To mix metaphors ever so slightly, that seems like a home run to me.