The Philadelphia Eagles should have retained Patrick Robinson in 2018

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After 11 professional seasons, 131 games, and a single Super Bowl victory – you know the one – stalwart slot cornerback Patrick Robinson is officially hanging up his cleats and calling it a career.

Now for the New Orleans Saints, this announcement certainly came as horrible news. Robinson was about to enter the final year of a four-year, $20 million contract signed in 2018 and, even at 33, was a top-tier slot cornerback in a league where the nickel has become a base defense.

Will his presence be hard to replace come Week 1? Potentially so, as even our old pals Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre’von LeBlanc have found new homes super late into free agency, but do you know what? Robinson should have never been allowed to re-join the Saints in the first place.

No, after securing Robinson’s services on a one-year, prove-it deal following an underwhelming three-year stint in Indianapolis, the Philadelphia Eagles should have never let the former first-round pick out of Florida State walk out of the door a few months removed from becoming a Super Bowl champion.

The Philadelphia Eagles are still looking for Robinson’s long-term replacement.

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In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense was something special. They had an elite front-four, a trio of intriguing linebackers, solid cornerbacks, and arguably the best one-two punch at safety in the league at the time.

While their depth was thoroughly tested over the course of that magical season, with players like Rasul Douglas, Dannell Ellerbe, and Joe Walker thrust into action in meaningful games down the stretch, the Birds ultimately maintained a top-5 defense over the course of the 16 game campaign and rode their elite defensive output all the way to the Super Bowl.

Now granted, was said Super Bowl a defensive showcase? No. The New England Patriots famously never punted during the unquestionably most important game in franchise history, but you know, the Eagles may not have even made it to the sport’s biggest stage if it wasn’t for a momentum-clenching pick-six in the NFC Championship game that crushed the Minnesota Vikings’ spirits and prevented them from taking part in a Super Bowl held up in their own darn house.

Sidebar: Yes, the Eagles won that game 38-7 but do you remember that game? The Vikings went punt, punt, fumble, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, and an interception after Robinson’s pick-six. That’s a momentum killer if I’ve ever seen one.

Once the season came to an end, however, the Eagles had some serious decisions to make about the future of their franchise.

With only so much money to go around, the Eagles prioritized keeping Darren Sproles, Corey Graham, and most notably Nigel Bradham on a five-year, $40 million deal over retaining some of their ascending depth pieces and allowed players like Beau Allen, Kenjon Barner, Trey Burton, and yes, Patrick Robinson take their talents elsewhere.

That, my friends, was a mistake.

Now granted, in theory, keeping Bradham over Robinson wasn’t bad per se. Bradham played 89.5 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2017, and Jim Schwartz clearly trusted him enough to take on a bigger role once Jordan Hicks left town in 2019. If it really came down to those two players, Roseman made the right choice – regardless of how Bradham’s tenure ended – but to paraphrase a little girl in an Old El Paso taco shell commercial, “Porque no los dos?” Why didn’t Roseman try to lock Robinson into a long-term contract using his cap wizardry and instead roll with a turnstile of ever-changing options in the slot?

Honestly, beats me.

Maybe the Eagles thought Sidney Jones would return to his college form in 2018, and keeping Robinson around was superfluous? Maybe they saw a quality collection of slot options in the draft – options like Avonte Maddox – and felt that paying Robinson millions when they could pay a Day 3 pick hundreds of thousands was a better call in a cap-strapped league? Or maybe Robinson just wanted to return to New Orleans, the town where his NFL career began?

Regardless, it’s hard to look at how things have shaken out in the slot over the past few seasons and wonder if things could have been more consistent with number 21 in the slot.

Even now, in 2021, the Eagles don’t have a proven commodity manning the interior, with Avonte Maddox expected to start in the slot and Josiah Scott


scheduled to be his top reserve. Could Maddox shine in his new role? Yes, I genuinely believe he can, but until it actually happens, how can we be sure?

Short answer? We can’t. Much like how we’ll never know how Robinson would have faired if he turned his one-year sabbatical into something a bit more permanent, we won’t know how Maddox will fare until he actually takes the field for the Birds this fall.

Fortunately, we’ll actually get a definitive answer to that question. Robinson’s potential, however, will forever be folded into the “What ifs” of Philadelphia Eagles history.

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So Patrick Robinson: Enjoy retirement. Though your time in South Philly was rather spartan, it wasn’t without its memorable moments and will forever be immortalized in the annals of Philadelphia Eagles history alongside the rest of that Super Bowl-winning team.