IT’S A GOOD BET ISAIAH RODGERS WILL HELP EAGLES AT SAFETY!

By Max Harper

The Eagles let both their Super Bowl 57 safety starters, CJ Gardner Johnson and Marcus Epps, walk in free agency last year.

CJ is back this year, but that decision created issues for a defense that cratered down the stretch.

A year later, Philadelphia’s secondary appears much deeper.

Part of the reason the Eagles can feel more comfortable about their DB contingent comes from a roster-stash move they made last summer. As teams were considering which players they would cut as the deadline to move down to 53 loomed in late August, the Eagles quietly added Isaiah Rodgers, a young kick returner who worked as a Colts CB starter in 2022.

Of course, Rodgers was sidelined throughout last season due to a gambling ban that stemmed from extensive violations of the NFL’s policy. A year later, Rodgers may come out in better position.

Although the former sixth-round pick missed his age-25 season, he has a clear path to a rebound window ahead of what may well be a more notable free agency stay in 2025.

Rodgers started nine games with the Colts in 2022, playing opposite Stephon Gilmore, and made an impression in part-time duty. Pro Football Focus ranked Rodgers as the NFL’s fifth-best cornerback that year. This assessment came on just 283 defensive snaps, but the 170-pound defender recovered four fumbles that year and also intercepted three passes in 2021.

Training camp figures to be pivotal for Rodgers, who saw the Eagles devote the most important part of their draft to the cornerback position.

Philly drafted Quinyon Mitchell in Round 1 and Cooper DeJean in Round 2. DeJean is viewed as a corner/safety hybrid at this juncture, Breer adds, but Mitchell certainly will be treated as a hopeful long-term starter at corner.

The Eagles also gave plenty of first-team reps to 2023 fourth-round pick Kelee Ringo during minicamp, Kubena adds. Ringo logged 199 defensive snaps last season, which still featured the Slay-Bradberry tandem as the CB group’s leaders.

Slay is going into his age-33 season, and his three-year, $39M deal does not feature any 2025 guarantees. Bradberry re-signed on a three-year, $38M pact in 2023 but could not follow up his strong ’22 campaign with impressive work last season.

PFF rated Bradberry 100th at the position in 2023. The Eagles have made an effort to begin cross-training Bradberry at safety, and Breer adds the team is toying with moving the ninth-year vet to a back-line spot on a full-time basis. No guarantees remain on Bradberry’s deal post-2024.

As a few Hall of Famers have shown, corner-to-safety moves are not too uncommon. This one would come ahead of Bradberry’s age-31 season. The Eagles brought back C.J. Gardner-Johnson after his year in Detroit and still roster 2023 starter Reed Blankenship.

Sydney Brown, a 2023 third-rounder, is rehabbing an ACL tear sustained in Week 18. He is a candidate to begin the season on the reserve/PUP list.

Even with Brown potentially out of the mix to start the season, the Eagles’ secondary should have more options compared to 2023. Rodgers and/or Ringo entering Week 1 as viable starter candidates would likely prompt the Eagles to strongly consider Bradberry at safety, depending on how the career-long boundary corner looks in training camp, with DeJean an interesting wild card here. A depth-based trade could conceivably come into play as well.

The Eagles submitted one of the more notable collapses in recent NFL history last season, with the defense playing the lead role in the unraveling. This figures to be an interesting season for three-time reigning playoff qualifiers, as the Slay-Bradberry-Maddox-CJGJ group intersects with a host of younger options that will be expected to take over down the line.

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