Darius Slay’s sudden return caps magic act to salvage Eagles protection

The begin of free company could not have gone a lot worse for the Philadelphia Eagles. Within hours they’d misplaced 4 defensive starters. They instructed one other they’d have to chop or commerce him after contract talks broke down. And they’d barely any wage cap room to work with, so there wasn’t a lot they may do.

Then in some way, Eagles GM Howie Roseman pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat.

Roseman, identified for being one of the vital artistic and aggressive GMs in soccer, not solely managed to cease the bleeding, however he even salvaged the offseason for the NFC champs. He unexpectedly re-signed cornerback James Bradberry, following his All-Pro season. Roseman introduced again the defensive half of his “Core Four” in Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, who mixed final season for 18 sacks.

And then, late Wednesday evening, Roseman pulled off his greatest shock of all, in line with a supply, avoiding what might have been a disastrous break up with cornerback Darius Slay. Two days earlier he had given Slay’s brokers permission to hunt a commerce after talks broke down over reducing the 32-year-old’s $26.1 million wage cap quantity. Then Wednesday morning, he instructed Slay he was going to be lower, and the cornerback even Tweeted his goodbye.

But when the every day NFL transactions listing got here out on Wednesday afternoon, Slay wasn’t on it. And at about 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday evening, he Tweeted “Back like I never left!!! Run it back”.

The particulars of how Roseman pulled that off have not been revealed but. And it issues whether or not he bought Slay to conform to a pay lower — what one NFL supply stated the Eagles initially wished — or whether or not he did one thing else with the five-time Pro Bowler’s contract that will have pushed painful cap hits into future years.

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What issues extra, although, is that Roseman bought it completed, in some way, a way, maintaining a key a part of the NFL’s No. 2 protection collectively. Because the Eagles want that protection to make one other run on the Super Bowl championship they only barely missed profitable final month.

And just some days in the past, it positive seemed like that protection was going to get utterly torn aside.

Now, the losses simply do not appear so devastating. The Eagles are bringing again nearly each piece of the NFL’s finest cross rush. Yes, the one piece they misplaced is a giant one, when defensive sort out Javon Hargrave signed a four-year, $84 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. But the Eagles have hopes that Jordan Davis, the thirteenth decide within the 2022 draft, can step in and fill his sneakers.

And whereas they did lose one beginning security — Marcus Epps, who signed a two-year, $12 million cope with the Las Vegas Raiders — and nonetheless might lose one other in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Slay and Bradberry had been the 2 most necessary items of the NFL’s finest secondary. Gardner-Johnson was terrific final season, with an NFL-high six interceptions in simply 12 video games, and if Roseman can determine the way to deliver him again, he’ll actually have earned his wizard’s hat and wand. But corners like Slay and Bradberry are way more tough to search out.

None of this ensures that the Eagles protection will likely be even near nearly as good because it was final season. They nonetheless misplaced two beginning linebackers — T.J. Edwards (three years, $19.5 million with the Bears) and Kyzir White (two years, $12 million with the Cardinals) — which implies they will nonetheless should discover a solution to substitute 4 or 5 starters in all. And do not forget, additionally they misplaced defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who’s the brand new head coach of the Cardinals. So it is an uphill battle for brand new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

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But Roseman discovered a solution to give the Eagles hope the place there wasn’t a lot when the offseason started. He and coach Nick Sirianni sounded braced for a mass exodus on protection each time they spoke after Super Bowl LVII. With solely about $6.6 million in cap room when the offseason started, they talked about replenishing the crew within the draft, as a result of they knew there was little else they may do.

Yet Roseman did what he at all times appears to do: He bought artistic and located a manner. Maybe when the main points come out, it will all foreshadow a tough future. Maybe he’ll find yourself having mortgaged an excessive amount of of his future for a run at a title now.

It’s the now that issues most, although, and now issues do not look so dangerous. The protection is not in tatters. Center Jason Kelce is again for one more 12 months. The Eagles even managed to signal proficient however injury-prone working again Rashad Penny to interchange the departed Miles Sanders (4 years, $25 million from the Panthers) to affix the RB committee behind what stays the NFL’s finest offensive line.

There’s extra work to be completed, and possibly there will likely be tough instances forward in future years. But proper now, the Eagles’ championship window is open. And Roseman managed to ensure it will keep propped open for at the very least yet one more 12 months.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, overlaying the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the earlier six years overlaying the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and earlier than that, 16 years overlaying the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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