Darius Slay’s departure became writing on the wall when news broke that his agent was seeking potential trade partners for the 32 year old cornerback. With James Bradberry re-signing yesterday it became even more apparent that Slay’s future with the Eagles would be coming to an end.

 As much as Slay has become a Philadelphia fan favorite, there are numerous reasons why releasing him was the correct move by Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles.


Going into the offseason it was apparent that the Eagles were set to lose key pieces of the team that just brought them to a Super bowl last month. As General Manager, Howie Roseman had to make tough decisions about who they were going to keep and who they could afford to lose. As shocking as the news of Darius Slay being cut is, we are seeing first hand who the Eagles feel is expendable.

With a potential mega deal looming to extend franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts, money needs to be gathered to make that feasible. The league is shifting its salary management focuses and unfortunately for Darius Slay, cornerbacks are not as valued as they once were. Darius Slay was set to make a base salary of $17m next year and a total cap hit of over $26m. It’s not difficult to understand why he wanted an extension to avoid becoming a free agent at 33 years old. Slay is still one of the top defensive backs in the league but his play did diminish late into the season.

When it became visible that Darius Slay was not open to restructuring his contract, Howie Roseman made the correct move releasing him. His release being a June 1st designation allows the Eagles to save $17m in cap space, but they will not get that space until June 1st. That money will potentially go to the extension given to Jalen Hurts if they chose to wait until the summer.


With the Eagles making this pivotal move, there becomes a lot of question marks surrounding who will line up opposite to James Bradberry. Does this open the door for C.J. Gardner-Johnson to sign a long term deal?

It is looking more and more apparent that the Eagles are pushing for him to stay.


Many thought entering the offseason that C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Bradberry were as good as gone. With Slay’s release, it is looking like we may not only keep James Bradberry but also sign C.J. Gardner-Johnson to a long term deal. If losing Darius Slay opens the possibility of keeping both Gardner-Johnson and Bradberry, it is definitely worth doing.

The league is fading away from paying talented man to man corners due to the league taking on more of a two-deep defensive look. Just look at how Jonathan Gannon play called the defense last year.

Bradberry gives you better options in zone coverage and C.J. Gardner-Johnson has the versatility to line up all over the line of scrimmage. If other teams believed that Slay was worth $17m, he would’ve been traded. That simply did not happen. Giving James Bradberry $13m annually was a better move then paying Darius Slay $17m with a potential extension.


The draft has a lot of defensive backs that could start day 1 for the Eagles. One in particular might be worth spending the 10th pick on.


The Eagles allowing Darius Slay to be released proves to us there is talent out there that the Eagles see as a potential replacement. Having the 10th pick in this year’s draft opens the possibility of getting a generational talent to line up across from Bradberry at a bargain for the next five years.

A name to keep your eye on as we approach the draft is Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon. Gonzalez has the most physical attributes relatable to the new breed of cornerbacks like Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Patrick Surtain II. His tremendous speed (4.38 40 yard dash) and size (6’2, 200 lbs) are very similar to them. Cornerbacks are becoming much lankier to go with their speed and Gonzalez checks off both of those boxes. Along with Gonzalez, there is a lot of great defensive back prospects in this draft to keep an eye on.


Whether it be in the first round, later rounds, or through free agency, I can assure you there will now be significant emphasis on getting a replacement for Darius Slay.


 

Cover Photo : KATE FRESE/PHILLYVOICE

C.J. Gardner-Johnson Photo: Justin Melo/Draft Network

Christian Gonzalez Photo: James Fragoza

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