A look at 10 free-agent cornerbacks who could fit with Eagles

A look at 10 free-agent cornerbacks who could fit with Eagles

Just after the 2016 season ended, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman talked about Band-Aids. He was talking about the corner position. 

Nnamdi Asomugha, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Byron Maxwell, Leodis McKelvin. You get the idea. 

The Eagles have tried several times to sign a free-agent cornerback to solidify their secondary and it hasn’t worked. This past season, the trio of Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills and McKelvin finished out the season after Ron Brooks was placed on IR. 

Brooks is still recovering, McKelvin has been cut, Carroll is set to become a free agent, and Mills will enter his second NFL season in 2017. The Eagles need help at cornerback and they need it bad. The good news is that this is a great and deep draft at the cornerback position. But there are also options in free agency if the past doesn’t scare the Eagles out of it. 

We know the Eagles will be players in the wide receiver market. They've been linked to just about everyone with hands. 

But here’s a look at 10 corners who will hit the market: 

Dre Kirkpatrick
The 27-year-old Alabama product is going to be one of the top corners on the free-agent market this offseason after a three-interception season with the Bengals in 2016. At 6-2, he has great size for a corner and could be someone the Eagles would be able to build around. 

Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore, 26, has a connection to the Eagles because he played for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014. Now, that connection didn’t work out with McKelvin, but Gilmore is a better player. He’s physical, which Schwartz likes, but Gilmore could get the biggest payday of the bunch. 

A.J. Bouye
The Texans signed Bouye as an undrafted free agent out of UCF in 2013, but he didn’t become a star until this past season. He’s going to go from virtual unknown to a highly-paid top CB. 

Kayvon Webster
Webster might be a case where the Eagles can find value for a guy who has been stuck behind some talented players in Denver. The Broncos already have a ton of money invested in their secondary. 

D.J. Hayden 
The former first-rounder from the University of Houston would be somewhat of a reclamation project. He’s super fast and wouldn’t be expensive. But signing him wouldn’t fix the Eagles' problems.

Marcus Cooper 
The 27-year-old cornerback had four interceptions for the Cardinals last season in his best year yet. He hasn't been getting as much love as the others on this list, but he has upside.

Prince Amukamara
After his time in New York, Amukamara played 2016 on a one-year deal with the Jaguars and didn’t have an interception, but he wasn’t bad. 

Sam Shields 
Shields is a good player when he’s healthy, but that’s the big question. He missed most of the 2016 season with the Packers because of concussions and is now a free agent. He's only 29, but there’s a chance his career is over. 

Logan Ryan
Ryan starred at Eastern High School in South Jersey long before he ended up with the Patriots as a third-rounder in 2013. He’s started 27 games over the last two years, with six interceptions. 

Morris Claiborne
Claiborne’s 2016 regular season with the Cowboys ended early with a groin injury he suffered against the Eagles. Before that injury, though, he was playing at a high level. He played last season on a one-year contract with the Cowboys but might be able to find a longer deal elsewhere. 

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

It doesn't take long in any conversation about Zach Ertz in Philadelphia before the words "breakout season" are tossed around.
 
Again.
 
But while a good portion of Eagles fans have been impatiently waiting for Ertz to "break out," the 2013 draft pick has quietly put together an extremely impressive start to his career.
 
In four seasons, Ertz has caught 247 passes for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's one of just seven tight ends in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first four seasons of a career. The other six: Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow and Mike Ditka.
 
Not bad company.
 
But for whatever reason, Ertz hasn't become a real fan favorite. Fans have questioned his talent, his play-making ability and even his toughness.
 
Why the indifference?
 
"I don't know," tight ends coach Justin Peele said. "I love coaching him. I think he's good for this team. Every day he comes to work with the right attitude, trying to get better. He's had some success. I don't know. He's a pleasure to coach and I know he's very highly respected in this organization."
 
Ertz, 26, admitted this spring that the constant criticism from fans used to bother him when he was younger. But now entering his fifth season with the Eagles, he's gotten used to it.
 
Does Ertz think he's underrated or overrated?
 
"Whatever people think, people think," Ertz said earlier this spring on Quick Slants on CSN. "I'm not going to get caught up in people's opinions. It's the guys in this building, their opinions of me. I'm really happy with how I progressed this spring and I think I'm setting the stage for a good season."
 
The one thing Ertz admitted he needs to improve is his production in the end zone. He has just 13 touchdown catches in four years and has never had more than four in a season.
 
To put that in perspective, only two players over the last four years — Matt Forte and Jarvis Landry — have had more catches with 13 or fewer touchdowns. 
 
"That falls on me to go out there every Sunday to make plays," Ertz said. "Show I can do it in the spring and in the summer leading into the season and I'm working really hard at it."
 
The height of Ertz criticism came during a 32-14 Week 13 loss at Cincinnati last season. There was an infamous play where Carson Wentz went scrambling and Ertz failed to block a charging Vontaze Burfict, who was in pursuit. The play actually looked like Ertz got out of the way.
 
It was a bad look.
 
And Ertz knew it. He heard the criticism loudly and went out the next week and had a tough, physical game. But the damage was done. A lot of the fanbase turned on him.
 
"One play is not going to define him," Peele said. "The kid played through injury, he came back quick off of surgery a few years ago. He practices every day. This team is important to him. The game of football is important to him."
 
One way Ertz can win back Eagles fans this year is by having a big season. And that isn't out of the realm of possibility for one big reason. He's entering Year 2 with Wentz.
 
Since he entered the league in 2013, he's played with a new quarterback every season. So for this upcoming year, he's worked hard to build a rapport with Wentz and hopes the two of them can build something (see story).
 
How big of a season can Ertz have in 2017?
 
"It just really depends on the health," Peele said. "He's really talented. He can do a lot of things. He can help this offense in a lot of ways. I'm looking forward to it. He's doing well right now."

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."