Philadelphia Eagles: To trade or not to trade for C.J. Henderson

November 16, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri.
November 16, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri. /

For the first time in a very, very, very long time, the Philadelphia Eagles might actually have a good secondary.

Not elite, mind you. The additions of Steven Nelson, Josiah Scott, and Zech McPhearson aren’t going to suddenly transform the Eagles’ secondary into the Legion of Boom 2.0, but padding out the secondary with professional bodies alongside Darius Slay and now-slot cornerback Avonte Maddox will unquestionably make Jalen Hurts’ life easier this fall.

… but just because the secondary is good doesn’t mean it can’t be better, right? With Maddox and Nelson set to hit the open market next spring, the Eagles will eventually need to lock up their long-term secondary once and for all, regardless of who ultimately comprises the unit in 2022 and beyond.

So naturally, when an athletically anomalous cornerback one year removed from being drafted in the top-10 becomes available due to “scheme fit,” the Philadelphia Eagles would at least check in on the situation to see what’s up, right? Or would they?

Can the Philadelphia Eagles afford to pass on C.J. Henderson?

More from Section 215

Last spring, the Philadelphia Eagles would have been over the moon if C.J. Henderson was still on the board at pick 21 of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, with 4.39 speed and an NFL wingspan, Henderson is the textbook example of a modern-day NFL outside cornerback, capable of blanketing a side of the field while sticking to his man in, well, man coverage.

He also, for what it’s worth, turned in one of the most dominant sophomore seasons the NCAA has ever seen from a Florida Gators cornerback during his sophomore season, before struggling a bit as a true junior in 2019. Still, this didn’t keep teams from valuing his talents highly, with the Jacksonville Jaguars opting to keep the cover corner in-state for his professional career.

In a world where man coverage cornerbacks are worth their weight in gold – more actually, Henderson’s weight in gold is $3.96 million – there isn’t a team in the NFL who couldn’t use Henderson in one way or another.

… actually, that isn’t true. Technically there is a team who doesn’t want Henderson, and funny enough, they employ him right now.

Now usually, when a team is willing to sell on a player one year removed from being drafted on the first round, it’s a massive red flag. Maybe the player has off-field issues or is unresponsive to coaching, or simply isn’t a good person, but oddly enough, Henderson’s situation doesn’t fall into any of those categories.

No, Henderson is reportedly on the block because he doesn’t fit new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen’s scheme, which feels borderline crazy but hey, let’s just go with it.

Sidebar: Remember, the whole reason Josiah Scott is on his childhood favorite team right now is that he was “too short” for Collen’s system, so this isn’t a new development.

Does Henderson fit the Eagles’ scheme? Yes. He’s a starting-caliber man coverage cornerback who recorded 20 passes defensed, six interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns during his time in Gainsville and has the athletic gifts to fit the man-zone hybrid system Jonathan Gannon wants to play.

How about the team’s future? Again, yes. Henderson’s style of play is fairly comparable to Darius Slay and, at 22, is eight years younger than the pride of Mississippi State. Being able to go from Slay to Henderson would keep the Eagles’ secondary potent in the interim and even better down the line as the old lion passes off the button to his younger teammate.

Factor in Howie Roseman’s status as a certified University of Florida graduate, and the Eagles’ expansive war chest of future picks, and the idea of securing Henderson’s services for the next three years at a reduced salary of $7.43 million with a fifth-year option for the 2024 season feels like a borderline no-brainer.

So, with that all in mind, why wouldn’t the Eagles want to trade for Henderson?  Well, there are a few reasons actually.

For one, Henderson going to cost a lot to acquire. I’m talking about the Carson Wentz pick or maybe even the Miami Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick. While Henderson is worth that much from a draft value standpoint, especially since over half of his contract is already paid off by Shad Khan’s franchise, giving up so much for a player who was just okay as a rookie might be a tad risky.

Furthermore, because of the presence of Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, and Josiah Scott, there isn’t an obvious spot for Henderson to slot in and become a full-time contributor right out of the gate. Would the Eagles make such a headline-grabbing trade for Henderson to play in the slot over Maddox?

Or would they instead keep Henderson on the outside and transition Nelson to the slot, where he’s played occasionally throughout his career?

Either way, I don’t think that would be a particularly bad problem to have.

Next. Pre-preseason 53 man roster prediction. dark

Will the Philadelphia Eagles ultimately trade for C.J. Henderson? Probably not, but frankly, they should. Though there isn’t an obvious spot for the former Gator in the Birds’ secondary right now because, again, they finally have a decent collection of players under contract, landing a do-it-all 22-year-old on a long-term contract is the sort of opportunity that seldom comes up and thus can’t be overthought. Just do it, pay the price – assuming it isn’t, like, two first-round picks – and enjoy the bounty of quality decision-making.