Ask anyone who has seen Eagles games in 2010 and they will tell you that the secondary was a liability last season, particularly the cornerback position.
Ever since the injury to Ellis Hobbs, the Eagles were hard-pressed to find a suitable cornerback to start opposite Asante Samuel. Dmitri Patterson appeared to be the solution for a few weeks, but quickly became a liability, especially in the red zone.
While the safety positions should be bolstered by the return of Nate Allen, the Eagles still have a gaping hole at cornerback and must fill it to contend for the Super Bowl in 2011. One way to do this would be to court free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the game, and to pay him through the roof. This would instantly give the Eagles easily the best secondary in the National Football League, a potentially top five defense and the title of “the team to beat in 2011.”
However, as perfect as this all sounds for the Eagles, unfortunately it may not happen. It is not normally like the Eagles to make free-agent splashes. While they did sign Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse in 2004 and Asante Samuel in 2007, it would not be surprising to see the Eagles pass on Nnamdi Asomugha.
I am not saying that it will not happen. Quite to the contrary I believe that if history repeats itself, similar to 2004 the Eagles will recognize the need to win now and make the move they have to make. But if I am wrong and if the Eagles do not plan to pursue the star cornerback, they should focus their efforts on pursuing Patrick Peterson.
It is often the style of the Eagles to build through the draft instead of free agency. In that case, Patrick Peterson, proclaimed by many to be the best prospect at his position since perhaps Charles Woodson in 1998, would be a perfect fit with the Eagles. At 6’0" and 219 lbs, he ran an astounding 4.32 40 time and has a vertical of 38. He is a beast of an athlete and would instantly have a place on the Eagles.
If selected, Peterson should be able to start immediately and be an immediate upgrade opposite Samuel. With his size, he would instantly upgrade the Eagles' red-zone defense and keep games much closer, allowing for Vick and Jackson to outscore opponents more easily.
And with his excellent speed and vision, Peterson could be a very versatile weapon. He could help out with blitzing schemes and run support. He could fill the void at Kick Returner, or perhaps Punt Returner, to give DeSean Jackson much needed rest. In short, if given the opportunity there is little reason not to take Peterson.
The problem, of course, is that the Eagles, holding the 23rd overall pick, have all but no chance of selecting Peterson in the draft. Yet, the Eagles currently have 10 draft picks in 2011. With so many picks and intriguing trade bait in Kevin Kolb should a new CBA agreement be struck soon, the Eagles could attempt to trade up to a team that either needs to fill many positions, or would be in desperate need for a proven starting quarterback.
For instance the Cardinals, in need of a starting QB, or the Bengals, who may part ways with Carson Palmer, may pursue Kevin Kolb and may switch first-round picks with the Eagles, which would give the Eagles either the fifth overall pick or the fourth overall.
And if in the top five, the teams above the Eagles are not likely to select Peterson. The Panthers are in desperate need of a quarterback and may take Blaine Gabbert or a defensive end/tackle to help fill the void lost by the departure of Julius Peppers. The Broncos, with a strong secondary already, have no need for a cornerback, especially after the re-signing of Champ Bailey.
The Bills are very much like the Panthers and would need a pass-rusher or a quarterback and may select Cam Newton here. The Bengals are more likely to select a wide receiver such as A.J. Green or Julio Jones, as they are losing Terrell Owens and possibly Chad Ochocinco as well. Even if Ochocinco stays, without T.O. the Bengals will have to again fill the void left by the death of Chris Henry.
And if the Eagles are able to obtain the fifth pick from the Cardinals, they should undoubtedly select Peterson. It may be a lot to ask to expect Arizona to give up such a high pick, but if Kolb and the Eagles’ 23rd overall pick are the bargaining chips it would be a fair deal for both teams.
Kolb would instantly be an upgrade over the likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton. He would be able to utilize the talent of Larry Fitzgerald much more effectively. And with the No. 23 overall pick, the Cardinals could still obtain a playmaker to supplement the defensive line or a cornerback or offensive lineman.
And the Eagles would have one of the best cornerback prospects in many years, which would help to better defend the pass, and would therefore increase the effectiveness of the blitzing schemes, which has suffered a great deal after the passing of legendary Jim Johnson.
What should the Eagles do at cornerback?
In other words, this trade could ensure both teams would win the division and have a higher record than last season.
It is a mutually beneficial trade and, if dangled in front of Arizona, they might just take it. Which is why this is the path the Eagles must take if they are to pass on the opportunity to sign Nnamdi Asomugha.
Of course, this is all operating under the optimism that a Collective Bargaining Agreement could potentially be reached prior to the NFL draft. Yet, even without a CBA, teams are not barred from contacting one another to discuss trade possibilities. And with 10 draft picks, five of which are in the first 120 picks, it is not impossible for the Eagles to move up in the draft. Teams like Arizona still have many holes to fill, especially with Kurt Warner's retirement exposing the weaknesses in their offensive line.
And if unexpectedly Peterson were to go in the top four, the Eagles could instead take Prince Amukamara who, while he isn’t Peterson, at 6’0", 205 lb, 4.37 40 time and a vertical of 38, is the next best thing and could also be expected to start immediately. A standout at corner is a top priority for this team, if it truly desires to compete for a Super Bowl in the near future.
UPDATE: The court ruling has forced an end to the NFL lockout and player movement will likely soon be possible.