Eagles fill huge gap by signing ex-Giants CB James Bradberry: Grading the transfer

The Eagles fortified their secondary Wednesday morning with the addition of cornerback James Bradberry. The Eagles signed the soon-to-be 29-year-old to a one-year, $10 million deal according to the NFL Network. Bradberry was released by the New York Giants earlier this month.

Our Eagles writers grade the move below.

Bo Wulf: This move seemed so obvious that the contrarian in me was convinced it wasn’t going to happen. Surely another team in more of a win-now window would be willing to offer more than the Eagles, right? And don’t the Eagles want to see the likes of Zech McPherson and Tay Gowan Compete with the starters this spring before reassessing the market in the lead-up to training camp when several other borderline starting-caliber veteran corners might still be available? Serves me right for forgetting no team considers itself to be in perpetual win-now mode more than the Eagles.

The Bradberry addition should be fairly seamless. He’s an outside zone corner who will be asked to play a lot of zone in this defense. He’s an upgrade over Steven Nelson, who performed adequately without being asked to do much last season. As with so many of the defensive additions this offseason, Bradberry should allow Jonathan Gannon to be a little more creative with what he’s able to do coverage-wise.

The Eagles have improved their defense at every level this offseason, with Hasson Reddick fortifying the pass rush, Jordan Davis beefing things up in the middle and the dual imports of Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean addressing the linebacker group. I think there’s a direct parallel with what this offseason has meant for Jalen Hurts and for Gannon. On offense, Howie Roseman has put a team on paper with no real weaknesses aside from perhaps the quarterback. Now it’s up to Hurts to prove he can perform like a borderline top-10 quarterback with the weapons at his disposal. The Eagles should have an answer about Hurts by the end of this season, one way or another.

The same can be said for Gannon. Though he was nearly hired as a head coach last offseason, the Eagles defense finished 25th in DVOA last season and was, at times, difficult to watch because of its passivity. There are plenty of ways to explain that performance away, but the offseason personnel upgrades on defense give Gannon everything he figures to need. Now the team, and the league, will find out if Gannon can produce a borderline top-10 defense. The defense definitely figures to look different in 2022 — all signs point to more odd fronts — and we’ll see if the results change, too.

As for what’s left for the Eagles to do now, the only glaring hole is at safety, where Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps are penciled in as the starters. Given the upgrades elsewhere and how little was asked of the position in 2021, that’s probably the right place for the Eagles to deprioritize. Unless Roseman has one more trick up his sleeve.

Grade (on a scale of berries): Blueberries, because they are the most obvious berry that comes to mind, just as Bradberry seemed like an obvious signing for the Eagles. Also, blueberries tend to be high variance, just like veteran cornerbacks from season to season.


Zach Berman: Howie Roseman has been consistent in his message that the roster-building period doesn’t conclude draft weekend, and he isn’t coy when pointing out that the Eagles added key players to their Super Bowl roster in the late spring and summer and even during the season. So when it appeared after the draft that the Eagles had a hole at cornerback and it was clear their optimism in the second-year players was a risky way to enter the season, Roseman became opportunistic. The opportunity came when the Giants released Bradberry for cap reasons. The result is a starting cornerback who will be 29 at the start of the season, made the Pro Bowl in 2020, is a scheme fit in Jonathan Gannon’s defense and knows the personnel around the division. That’s a win on May 18.

The reason why Bradberry was available wasn’t hard to figure out. The Giants needed the cap space to sign their draft picks. The Athletic‘s Dan Duggan wrote that “Bradberry’s performance dipped last season … but teams said Bradberry dealt with a nagging Achilles injury.” The injury “made it difficult to push off and explode.” If the Eagles are confident that any dip was health-related and not the natural regression of the player, this is the benefit of having cap space and roster spots in May. The Giants didn’t do Bradberry any favors by releasing him when they did, but for the Eagles, it was well timed because it narrowed down the teams with needs on the market.

For one year, this is a good gamble to make. Bradberry was a prized free-agent acquisition in 2020 and has pestered the Eagles. He has 10 interceptions during the past three seasons. With Darius Slay, Bradberry and Avonte Maddox, the Eagles have a formidable trio. If their optimism in ascending cornerbacks such as Zech McPhearson and Tay Gowan is well-founded, then this allows those players to develop at their own pace and potentially grow into starters.

From a big-picture perspective, the Eagles reshaped their defense this offseason. Gannon now has Haason ReddickJordan Davis, Kyzir White, Nakobe Dean and Bradberry added to the top of the depth chart. Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Anthony Harris stayed. Brandon Graham is back from injuries. The only major contributors who departed are Steve Nelson, Rodney McLeod and Alex Singleton. This should be a significantly better defense in 2022 — and a better fit for the way the Eagles want to play.

The pass rush is better. The run defense is better. The pass coverage is better. The middle of the defense is better. The big question remaining is at safety, where the Eagles could still use an upgrade. Perhaps they go with Marcus Epps or K’Von Wallace next to Harris. But as Roseman often repeats, the Eagles aren’t finished upgrading the roster just because 2023 mock drafts are appearing.

Grade (on a scale of berries): Blueberries. If you get them in the right season, they’re close to elite. If you get them in the wrong season, they don’t match the hype. They’re good as a standalone option, but they’re even better when mixed with a group. Plus, Bradberry has always worn a shade of blue in his NFL career. (It is alarming that Bo and I are on the same page — again. Can we rank wide receivers in the 2020 draft again?)

(Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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