Eagles free-agency response: James Bradberry, Boston Scott returns to Philly

While the NFL’s negotiating period was underway, Bo Wulf and Zach Berman exchanged emails on Tuesday. The transcript is below:

6:48 p.m. ET

Berman: Bo, just as you never curse a no-hitter by asking about the no-hitter, so we tempted fate by wondering what to cover on what appeared to be a slow news day. For the morning and Tuesday afternoon, the Eagles were quiet. They then agreed within a three-hour window to make deals to bring back running backs Rashaad Penny and Boston Scott and, most notably, All-Pro cornerback James Bradberry. They also lost linebacker Kyzir White, who will follow Jonathan Gannon to Arizona.

So the big news here is Bradberry. Of the Eagles’ top free agents—Javon Hargrave, CJ Gardner-Johnson, and Bradberry—I thought Bradberry had the least chance of returning. I thought the Eagles wouldn’t invest a lot of money in two cornerbacks north of 30, and my hunch was that Darius Slay would be in Philadelphia next season. Obviously this is positive for the Eagles to keep Bradberry as he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but how do you see this erupting in the secondary? And were you surprised too?


The return of James Bradberry keeps the star power in the Eagles defensive backfield

I also didn’t think running back would be the first position the Eagles would tackle. They effectively parted ways with Pro Bowl running back Miles Sanders and now have a trio of Penny, Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. We can discuss how that backfield will function and dig deeper into the Penny acquisition. But just from the order of operations, I expected running back would be a position they waited for the conscription and/or the second wave of free agency to attack. But I think Penny — if he’s healthy — will be an ideal early matchup with Philadelphia. Hard to argue with 5.7 yards each, including more than 6.0 yards each in the past two seasons. Nick Sirianni appreciates explosive play. Only Nick Chubb has a better percentage of rushes over 10 yards among running backs with at least 100 carries in the last two seasons. Health is a big question mark. If Penny is on the injured list in October and the Eagles are relying on a Gainwell-Scott tandem, they can’t pretend it isn’t in the scouting report. Of course it is still incomplete. Perhaps a rookie will be added to the design or Trey Sermon will show promise in camp. What is your opinion on the timing of the receding moves?

7:36 PM

Wulf: Based on what I thought a week ago, I’m very surprised by Bradberry’s re-signing. We ranked the probability of each pending Eagles free agent returning, and you and I ranked him 16th and 15th respectively (flex). But when things started to play out on the first day of negotiations and Bradberry hung onto the market, it seemed that more was possible. Bradberry told multiple reporters he passed up slightly more expensive offers elsewhere to return to play in Philadelphia. The deal — said to be $38 million for three years with $20 million guaranteed — seems very reasonable and makes Bradberry just No. 17 on the list of highest-paid cornerbacks by average annual value, according to Over The Cap.

Obviously, how we feel about this deal will depend a lot on what happens with the rest of the secondary. The good news is we should have a resolution on Slay’s future with the team by the time the new league year starts on Wednesday. If they can agree on a contract rescheduling, it would add more than $12 million in cap space. If the Eagles trade Slay it will only open about $4 million and the returns would likely be disappointing. It seems most likely that they will find a way to get together, but I’ve been mistaken before. Like last week.

I admit my instinct about the Bradberry contract is to shudder at the possibility of paying big bucks to two cornerbacks over the age of 30. month. The good news is that Bradberry has missed a total of two games over the past six seasons, while Slay has only missed games that didn’t matter during his three years in Philadelphia.

One question for you on the secondary: Do you think locking up Bradberry and Slay would allow the team to consider bringing Avonte Maddox to safety full-time? It may be easier to find a replacement nickel than one (or two) starter safeties.

On rollback, NFL Network reports that Penny’s deal is for one year, $1.35 million, with $600,000 guaranteed and a maximum value of just over $2 million. That seems like a very reasonable deal for a player who has been very good for the last two years when healthy, but has literally never played a full season. Its fit seems ideal. He can play first and second and maybe take some of the close range burden off Jalen Hurts as the team tries to protect its franchise quarterback a little more. There is some evidence that he is reliable in pass protection, which has been a concern for the team for a year in 2022, but he has never had more than nine catches in a season. So we can expect Gainwell to keep his third role. As you said, I’m surprised this was the order of the Eagles’ appearance. I thought they would wait out the market downturn, and the rush to re-sign Scott was odd too. But now they’ve resolved the position at short notice, which doesn’t stop them at all from drafting a running back in April if one lands on their plate. They make the deal with Penny open-eyed about his health history.

Do you see this running back group as an upgrade from last year?


Eagles match up with Rashad Penny to provide power

8:19 pm

Berman: Hold on, let me find my documents from the 2020 and 2021 low season. I can copy and paste my Maddox-to-safety posts.

The short answer is yes, that would be something they should consider. However, they have resisted that change. On the other hand, this is also an organization that cornered Jalen Mills for four years before deciding to play him in safety in Year 5. We’ve seen Maddox in safety, we know he can play well there, and you’re right – it’s easier to find a replacement at nickel than two starter safeties. But I disagree with the premise of the question, even if it is semantics. I don’t think the Bradberry-Slay combination would force me to consider that move as they have no impact on Maddox playing in the slot. In fact, the Eagles can watch Bradberry-Slay-Maddox and be sure they have the best trio in the NFL. But if the Bradberry contract keeps them from re-signing Gardner-Johnson and they need to find two starting securities, it’s worth talking to Sean Desai. While they may be able to sign Juan Thornhill or Nasir Adderley (or trade for Jeremy Chinn), pair the newcomer with Reed Blankenship, field a safety in the mid rounds and try to get by with that group while feeling confident in the ability from Maddox to get into the slot. It’s a nice conversation about Maddox, but we’ve had it for 3-4 years and they’ve resisted so far.

Avonte Maddox has shown that he can play well as a cornerback and safety. (Bill Streicher/USA Today)

As for your running back group question, it certainly makes sense based on price. But there’s also a reason why they could lock up Penny at that rate. Sanders played 17 games last season and had 259 carries. Penny has never had more than 119 wears in a season. I like the idea of ​​a Penny-Gainwell combination, but I can’t say it’s an upgrade when history suggests it could quickly become a Gainwell-Scott combination. If you told me that Penny will play more than 10 games – he hasn’t since 2018 – and can carry the ball 15 times a game, I can see how that argument could be made. Think about this: Penny has carried the ball at least 15 times in six games in his career. He has passed 100 meters in five of those games. By comparison, Sanders did it 24 times in his career, scoring 100 yards in six of those games. This is not to belittle Sanders, who was prolific for the Eagles. Rather, it’s to show how Penny hasn’t been sustainable throughout his career. But when he carries the ball, he can be dangerous.

I still think the talk for April is premature. The player who finishes the season with the most carries may still be training for the draft.

However, we still have a month to discuss the design. Let’s get through this week. What happens on the Wednesday before the league year starts? Will the Eagles keep one of their other best free agents? I mentioned some certainties, but who else is in the market? And any new or different ideas in the past 24 hours on how the Eagles should attack the defensive tackle position?

8:50 pm

Wulf: I think we’re going to have a resolution one way or another about the future of Gardner-Johnson. You mentioned Thornhill and Adderley (and Chinn, who we know the Eagles were interested in in 2020 when they fielded Hurts instead) in safety. If we pencil Blankenship to a starting point, which would be aggressive, the two that would make more sense are more free security types. Taylor Rapp is more of an in-the-box safety. Adrian Amos brings veteran experience with Desai from their time together in Chicago. Julian Love is young and good friends with Bradberry, but he and Sirianni should work out their differences (I actually think Sirianni would love to talk about how he converted him to his side).

I think defensive tackle is the next move the Eagles make because the market got into the position so quickly and the team has so many snaps to replace. At this point, Fletcher Cox’s return probably makes the most sense. Matt Ioannidis, a Temple man for you, and Poona Ford, who played with Desai in Seattle last season, are the other two names I’m keeping an eye on.

Even with both of last year’s starting linebackers signed elsewhere, I’m not sure the Eagles will move to signing a starter besides Nakobe Dean any time soon. Drue Tranquill, formerly of the Chargers, looks like the best available man under 30, while Lavonte David and Bobby Wagner loom large in a position the Eagles rarely get them.

And then the backup quarterback is interesting. Now that Gardner Minshew has gotten a feel for his market, he may be willing to return on a one-year contract to enter free agency again next season. Perhaps the Eagles are looking at a veteran familiar face, like Jacoby Brissett, a Sirianni favorite, or Marcus Mariota. Or, in our dreams, they bring Matt Ryan home so I can finally ask him if he plays against you in high school baseball. Make us whole, Howie.

(Top photo: Rey Del Rio / Getty Images)

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