Howie Roseman woke up on the morning of Monday, May 8, after what was likely a good night’s sleep.
The early-morning sky was sunny. The temperature was headed to a high of 66 degrees. It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, but early May sure was bright and pleasant in the world of the Eagles general manager.
The Eagles had just completed a two-day rookie camp, out of which came stories of a successful draft class and several nuggets about undrafted free agents with the potential to make the 53-man Eagles roster.
Roseman even pulled off the trade of the year (decade?) when he acquired Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown.
If there were any criticism of Roseman — and there wasn’t much — it was his inability to strengthen the cornerback and safety positions. The Eagles signed three undrafted free-agent corners. Roseman and especially the fans were pretty sure it wasn’t enough.
May 8: 1:39 p.m.: The Giants announced on Twitter they released cornerback James Bradberry.
May 8: 3:24 p.m.: A story is posted on giants.com. Here is the lead paragraph, which Roseman might have read a few times.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants announced Monday they have released cornerback James Bradberry, a steady defender who started 31 games in his two seasons with the team and was a 2020 Pro Bowler.
We don’t know how Roseman reacted when he first saw the news. We know what he did.
Ten days later, on May 18 at 10:43 a.m., the Eagles announced news of their own: They signed Bradberry to a one-year contract.
For all of the planning, scouting, watching tape, making calls, exchanging emails, DMs and whatever forms of communications are used in the NFL’s modern world, acquiring an important player might have started with a tweet.
The Giants tried to trade Bradberry before free agency began in March. They could not make a deal. They reportedly wanted to save salary cap money, so they released the 2020 Pro Bowler.
CORNERBACK A SORE SPOT
As training camp rolls on, fans don’t have their usual anxiety about the team’s secondary. In too many games, opponents would pick apart the Eagles’ secondary in their march down the field.
Opponents completed 409-of-589 passes last season. The Eagles and Jaguars tied for the league-worst percentage of passes completed with 69.4.
The Eagles had a middle-of-the-road 12 interceptions last season.
In a league addicted to passing, this was a weakness you didn’t want. But it was a weakness the Eagles had.
The Eagles’ strategy to combat a weak pass defense was admirable if not direct. They beefed up the defensive line, figuring that pressure on the quarterback would force bad decisions and poor passes.
They started to take the more conventional route — actually employing cornerbacks of a higher quality and pay grade — in 2020 when they traded two draft picks to Detroit for Darius Slay.
NOW, STARTING CORNERS LOOK IMPOSING
This offseason, the Eagles did not draft a corner with any of their five picks. There was understandable unease among the fan base — knowing the Eagles needed more at the corner.
So when Bradberry became available, the Eagles gladly reached for the checkbook and, suddenly, they had a quality cornerback to pair with four-time Pro Bowler Slay.
Reports from camp indicate that Bradberry’s size is causing the Eagles’ receivers trouble.
Throw in improving nickel back Avonte Maddox and a team weakness looks more like a strength based on one transaction.
- “Big, physical guy, a little bit bigger than me,” Slay said about Bradberry before the Eagles’ public practice on Sunday. “It could be easily a great thing for us.
- “We can match up better with a lot of guys just because of the size difference. I’m the speed guy and he’s more of a physical guy. We’re both learning from each other …
- “He’s teaching me some things about how he does stuff and I’m teaching him some things how I do it.”
In his two seasons with the Eagles, Slay had four interceptions, 111 tackles and 15 passes defended. Teams tended to avoid Slay’s side of the field because of his abilities.
Bradberry last season:
- Career-high four interceptions
- 47 combined tackles
- 17 passes defended
- 2 fumble recoveries
- 8 touchdowns allowed, the most in his career
About his first impressions of his new team, Bradberry said at training camp: “It’s going pretty smooth. They’re all veteran guys as far as Avonte [Maddox] and the rest of the guys on the back end.
“We’re back there talking well. As long as we communicate, as long as we get on the same page, it goes pretty smooth.”
LOOKING FOR PLAYOFF RUN
Back-up cornerback might be the team’s weakest link on defense. They have youngsters Tay Gowan, acquired in the Zach Ertz trade, and Zech McPhearson, who made one start in 2021. They also have Mac McCain, Kary Vincent Jr. and Josiah Scott.
Bradberry arrives at an important time for a team looking not to just make the playoffs but to make some noise.
The Eagles’ defense held opponents to 18 points or fewer in 10 games last season, including five of the last six games — each one except the meaningless season finale against Dallas.
If NFL teams hold opponents to 18 points per game, the defense is doing its job and the team expects to win.
But the defense also got lit up:
- Dallas: 41 and 51 points
- Kansas City: 42
- Tampa Bay: 28 and 31
- Las Vegas: 33
- LA Chargers: 27
- New Orleans: 29
The Eagles were 1-7 in those games, the only win against the Saints.
AND, A NEW SAFETY
In June, the Eagles signed 49ers free-agent safety Jaquiski Tartt, adding to a safety group that includes Marcus Epps, Anthony Harris and K’Von Wallace.
Think about it: Two vital free-agent signings after the draft turned an entire position weakness into a potential strength. Roseman couldn’t be happier.