Darius Slay trade sets Eagles up well in the NFC East

Darius Slay Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a blockbuster trade for Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay early Thursday morning, acquiring the Pro Bowler for a third and fifth-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. Philadelphia then signed Slay to a three-year, $50 million extension, making him the highest-paid corner in the NFL.

This is the type of move Eagles fans have been waiting for during an otherwise quiet start to the offseason for the team. It’s also going to have a major impact once the 2020 NFL season gets going.

A necessary move: Philadelphia simply didn’t have that one top-end corner to go up against No. 1 receivers. It is what has hampered them over the past couple seasons. With a dwindling market, the Eagles were able to pick up a major upgrade.

Slay has legitimately been one of the best cover guys in the NFL over the past three seasons. The numbers he’s put up have been extraordinary during that span.

  • Tackles: 149
  • Passes defended: 56
  • Interceptions: 13

Slay might have taken somewhat of a step back this past season, but he still automatically becomes the Eagles’ best cover guy. It’s not necessarily that close.

Internal struggles: General manager Howie Roseman needed to upgrade this area if the Eagles were going to be taken seriously as a contender next season.

  • The combination of Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones were just not cutting it as the rotational four in Philadelphia.
  • The Eagles’ defense ranked in the middle of the pack in scoring and in the bottom half against the pass. This unit also yielded 27 touchdowns through the air for a 90.8 opposing quarterback rating.
  • This is not to say the likes of Maddox and Douglas can’t be important players for Philadelphia. But pushing them down a rung on the depth chart immediately makes Philadelphia better.

The NFL Draft: Now that Philadelphia has addressed the cornerback position with a three-time Pro Bowler, it can go out there and upgrade other spots.

  • Yielding two mid-round picks for Slay is not going to handcuff the Eagles too much moving forward. That’s especially true as they look to upgrade at wide receiver.
  • Philadelphia can still go wide receiver with its first-round pick (No. 21 overall). The likes of LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins from Clemson make a ton of sense. Both would provide Carson Wentz with a consistent big-body target.
  • Given that Nelson Agholor is a free agent and things are not going swimmingly with Alshon Jeffery, it becomes paramount for the Eagles to address this position early in the draft. They are still in position to do just that.

By signing defensive tackle Javon Hargrave away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, this team also addressed another area of need. A run-stuffer with an ability to penetrate the backfield. That opens things up for the Eagles’ second-round pick, too.

Philadelphia could look to double down at cornerback even after adding Slay. There’s also a chance this team takes advantage of a strong running back class to add a replacement for the recently-departed Jordan Howard.

Bottom line

Philadelphia did not handcuff itself too much by yielding two mid-round picks for Slay. Sure the three-year, $50 million contract is eye-opening. Even then, you have to pay a premium for a player of Slay’s ilk.

It also set the Eagles up well to ace the 2020 NFL Draft with a pick in each of the first two rounds. If they are able to come out of the draft with a combination of Justin Jefferson and say running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Wentz would have a ton more toys to work with.

On defense, adding Hargrave and Slay to the mix automatically makes this unit 100% better. It could very well be enough for the Eagles to defend their NFC East title while winning double-digit games.