The Philadelphia Eagles are not being shy about the uncertainty surrounding the cornerback position.
Last year's starters are no longer in the picture, with Nolan Carroll in Dallas and Leodis McKelvin out of the league. While change was necessary for a secondary that yielded 13 pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2016 (tied for the second-most in the league), there are just as many question marks surrounding the remaining group of cornerbacks, maybe more.
Former seventh-round pick Jalen Mills and traveled veteran Patrick Robinson have gotten plenty of first-team reps this offseason, with rookie Rasul Douglas mixing in when the Eagles play nickel. Ron Brooks is coming off a ruptured quad tendon, second-round pick Sidney Jones is rehabbing a torn Achilles, and there is just very little in terms of proven, healthy talent in the room right now.
"We have some positions where we have solid starters: our safety position, our linebacker position, our defensive tackles. You know, we have some spots in there where guys have earned it, guys have played a lot of football in the NFL, and it's their spot to lose, so to speak. But at corner, we really don't have that," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said following Tuesday's practice. "We are going to have to keep an open mind and let it play."
Coach Doug Pederson added that they will continue to look for corners on the market to create as much competition as possible at the spot. It would be no surprise if the Eagles signed one or more cornerbacks before the start of the season to help them navigate an NFC East that features receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor.
Here's a look at some options:
Kyle Fuller (6-foot, 190 pounds, age 25)
Fuller was one of the players the Eagles were interested in selecting in the first round of the 2014 draft, but the Chicago Bears foiled those plans by taking him 14th overall. The Eagles ended up trading back and selecting defensive end Marcus Smith instead. Two years later, Fuller could be on his way out of Chicago, according to ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson. He writes:
Fuller faces an uphill battle to make the Bears' 53-man roster after he missed the entire 2016 season due to a routine knee scope performed in August of that year. The Bears even attempted to bring Fuller back off of injured reserve late in the season, but the former first-round pick told the club he wasn't ready to play. That doesn’t bode well for a player drafted by old regime of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, not the current one of Ryan Pace and John Fox. Chicago showed the football world what they thought of Fuller when they signed veteran cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in free agency -- guaranteeing the players $7 million and $6 million respectively for 2017. If that doesn't signal that the Bears are ready to move on from Fuller, I don't know what does.
It might be best to bet on a Fuller release rather than pursue trade talks if the Eagles decide they're interested.
Darrelle Revis (6-foot, 205 pounds, age 32)
The star corner is coming off a substandard season with the Jets. He admitted to having "a little bit of a weight problem" at the start of the 2016 campaign and never quite rounded into form. Revis has been reportedly training in Florida with the hope of playing this season. The financials complicate things a bit. He is getting $6 million guaranteed from the Jets this year. Because there is offset language in the contract with New York, it appears that any offer for $6 million or less would equate to Revis playing for free.
Revis could fit into Schwartz's scheme, and if motivated the 11-year veteran might be able to muster one more quality year. But there's some obvious risk. If a deal goes down with Philly or elsewhere, it makes sense for it to happen closer to the start of the season.
Brandon Flowers (5-foot-10, 190 pounds, age 31)
The former Chargers and Chiefs defensive back is visiting with the Cardinals on Wednesday and also has been talking with the Patriots, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. It wouldn't be surprising if the Eagles kicked the tires at some point. The concern here is health. Flowers suffered a pair of concussions last season and missed 10 games, and was sidelined for five games in 2015. He has shown he can be an impact player when healthy. He's returned four interceptions for touchdowns over his career, including a 33-yarder last November against the Titans.
Former Packer Sam Shields is also a free agent coming off multiple concussions. Tracy Porter was released by the Bears after fighting through multiple injuries. He did not start in the regular-season finale after oversleeping and missing the team bus to the stadium.
That's a snippet of the players the Eagles have to choose from. It is not a perfect group. But if not for the imperfections, they all would have been long since employed. More players will shake loose over the coming days and weeks, including when NFL rosters are cut from 90 to 53 players prior to the start of the regular season. The Eagles will continue to scour the waiver wire, explore trade options and investigate street free agents in the name of upgrading a cornerback position that is highly questionable as currently constructed.