PHILADELPHIA -- If the Philadelphia Eagles are talking with the Miami Dolphins about a trade involving cornerback Byron Maxwell, as reported Monday by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the timing would be fitting.
Eagles fans, like fans of 31 other NFL teams, are speculating about the free agents their team could sign when the market opens Wednesday. Just a year ago, the Eagles splurged on Maxwell, who had spent his first four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. Maxwell signed a six-year, $63-million contract a year ago.
A year later, the Eagles could be looking to move on from the player and from his contract. Maxwell is one of former coach Chip Kelly’s moves that didn’t really work out the way Kelly expected. Maxwell started 14 games and intercepted two passes. He was credited with 12 pass knockdowns.
With a guaranteed salary of $8.5 million for 2016, Maxwell would count $9.7 million against the Eagles’ salary cap. If they trade him, they would save $4.9 million in cap space.
So the Eagles wouldn’t have to get much in return, provided the Dolphins are willing to take on Maxwell’s contract. The cap flexibility -- this year and beyond -- would be significant enough.
A trade would leave the Eagles fairly thin at the cornerback position. Veterans Nolan Carroll, E.J. Biggers and Walter Thurmond, who played safety last season, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.
The Eagles could sign any of those three to new contracts. That would give them an experienced cornerback to pair with Eric Rowe, who showed promise last season as a rookie. Rowe started five games after Carroll broke his leg on Thanksgiving Day.
The rest of the Eagles’ cornerback corps is inexperienced. Jaylen Watkins was a fourth-round pick in 2014. He has played in a total of eight games. Denzel Rice made the team as an undrafted free agent last summer, and sixth-round pick Randall Evans was also on the roster.
JaCorey Shepherd, another sixth-round pick, looked good in training camp until tearing an ACL. He spent the season on injured reserve.
Shepherd, Rice, Watkins and Evans would give the Eagles a pool of young players who could grow into jobs this season. But it would be risky to count on that group to provide a starter or a nickel cornerback. It would make more sense for the Eagles to sign Carroll or Thurmond to a new deal and go from there.
Maxwell, 28, was a sixth-round draft pick by the Seahawks in 2011. He started a total of 17 games in 2013 and 2014, as the "Legion of Boom" secondary led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls.
In Philadelphia, Maxwell was counted on to be the best player in the secondary. He was not able to do that, but it’s impossible to sort his performance out from the rest of the Eagles’ defense. The team parted ways with 2013 and 2014 starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher last offseason.
A year later, they might be trying to move on from Maxwell, the man they signed to upgrade their secondary.