Philadelphia Eagles: Meet Tay Gowan, the Midnight Green Knight

When the Philadelphia Eagles traded down from 70 to 73 in the 2021 NFL Draft, it wasn’t a universally lauded decision in the team’s war room.

Sure, some, like new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon appeared pleased with how things ultimately turned out, as he reportedly loved Milton Williams coming out of LA Tech, but for senior football advisor/ex-Pittsburgh Steelers GM Tom Donahoe? Not so much.

While we may never know precisely why Donahoe was down on the decision, as the video everyone has undoubtedly seen (if not, watch it here) is sans audio, many have assumed the decision ultimately came down to the team missing out on Aaron Robinson, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound cornerback who initially began his collegiate career alongside Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith at Alabama but ultimately played out his final three years of eligibility at the University of Central Florida.

Granted, the Birds did ultimately come away from the draft with another cornerback, as they selected fellow two-school prospect Zech McPhearson 123rd overall, and Robinson has yet to see the field for his team, the New York Giants but after surely watching a ton of tape on the UCF Knights, it must have stung Donahoe and his scouts to miss out on plucking a cornerback from Randy Shannon’s defensive backfield.

Well, as it turns out, that is no longer the case. After watching Zach Ertz ball out in his (probably) final game as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Howie Roseman picked up the phone, called up his counterpart in Arizona, and made a deal to trade away the franchise’s second-best all-time tight end for a 2022 fifth-round pick and Tay Gowan, Aaron Robinson’s UCF teammate in 2019.

Tay Gowan has all of the tools to eventually help the Philadelphia Eagles.

Let’s take things back to the 2021 NFL Draft for one more moment.

After selecting seven players over the first 191 picks, the Philadelphia Eagles sat back and waited for their time on the board once more at pick 234. They watched quarterbacks, running backs, and more than a few cornerbacks come off the board, but one particular player remained just ripe for the taking: Tay Gowan.

It was all working out well; after selecting a viable inside-out cornerback with starting traits in Zech McPhearson 100 or so picks prior, the Eagles were going to grab a developmental outside cornerback with good speed, great size, and even better burst… at least until the Arizona Cardinals swooped in and poached him off the board at 233, while the Eagles were waiting on deck.

With their guy gone, the Eagles pivoted to a hybrid linebacker/safety out of LSU by the name of JaCoby Stevens at 234 and went about their business.

Now usually, that would be the end of the story. While teams occasionally get a second chance at procuring a drafted player if they are waived coming out of camp, Gowan ultimately made the Cardinals’ 53 man roster and was expected to remain with the team indefinitely. But when Steve Keim came calling and engaged Howie Roseman about a deal to replace injured Maxx Williams with the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl tight end, the Birds GM saw an opportunity to get a second chance at Gowan and brought the former Knight to Philly alongside a 2022 fifth-round pick.

Will some quibble with that return? Surely so, but not if Gowan turns into a player.

Measuring in at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Gowan is a big, long outside cornerback who began his colligiate career at Brandon Brooks’ alma mater, Miami University fo Ohio, before transferring to Butler Community College after his redshirt freshman year. At Butler, Gowan recorded 27 tackles, six interceptions, and a defensive touchdown and parlayed that success into a spot at the pride of the AAC, the University of Central Florida, where he started opposite Aaron Robinson in 2019.

Appearing in 12 games for UCF, Gowan recorded 31 total tackles, two interceptions, and eight passes defensed while recovering a fumble and just generally playing good coverage in the Knights’ man-heavy scheme. Gowan was effective in press, largely kept receivers in his hip pocket in coverage, and knew how to use the sideline as almost a second defender when taking on receivers on the outside.

Had Gowan suited up for the Knights in 2020 and turned in another season of similarly effective coverage play, he may have been getting some Day 2 talk heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. Gowan opted out of his final season in Central Florida in order to “protect his young daughter from COVID” and instead turned his attention to the NFL Draft.

Don’t get me wrong; Gowan isn’t a sure thing. He (probably) isn’t going to come in and challenge Steven Nelson for a starting spot on the outside right from the jump and may ultimately find himself inactive for the vast majority of his rookie season, but after watching the team’s depth struggle in the preseason, Gowan presents some hope for the future, more so than players like Mac McCain, Michael Jacquet, and Craig James.

If you’re going to close the books on one of the best careers in recent Philadelphia Eagles memory, you may as well start a new one with a ton of pages still left to be written.

So Tay Gowan, welcome to Philadelphia. The team clearly wants you, the team clearly needs you, and Eagles fans the world over are ready to embrace you with open arms, especially if you can develop into a starter at some point down the line.