Should Birds Warm Up To Extension For Bradberry?
[Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series examining some Eagles pending free agents from an analytics viewpoint. The author, Sam Finkel, is an InsideTheBirds.com staff contributor who focuses on analytics. Part 3 centers on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry.]
James Bradberry in 2023 will be entering his eighth NFL season. He’s emerged into one of the league’s top cornerbacks.
Bradberry was an integral part of one of the NFL’s best defenses in the NFL in 2022, earning a second-team All Pro nod.
How will the pending free agent perform on the open market?
Here’s an in-depth, analytics-based profile of Bradberry headed into free agency:
Strengths: High football IQ… Shutdown cornerback in coverage (allowed 25.24 yards per game in the regular season; 20 yards per game in postseason).
Weaknesses: Will be 30 years old for 2023 season … Struggles vs. run/tackling (missed tackle rate of 17.00% in 2022).
In 2022, Bradberry enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career. He allowed career lows in completion percentage (45.98%), yards (429), yards-per-game (25.24) and tied his career low for touchdowns allowed (2). As a result, Bradberry made All Pro for the first time.
It’s important to note Bradberry was a beneficiary of an incredible defensive line. Deebo Samuel made comments after the 49ers lost the NFC Championship, implying that this was the only reason for Bradberry’s success, which was an unfair portrayal of Bradberry’s talent.
While benefitting from the Eagles’ pass rush, Bradberry’s resume shows that the right scheme is central to his success. Bradberry’s 2021 season with the 4-13 New York Giants wasn’t his best year in any statistical category except interceptions (4). But before his Giants career, Bradberry had put up numbers similar to this past season.
BRADBERRY VS. NFL CBs
Compared to all NFL cornerbacks, Bradberry clearly was one of the year’s top corners. He ranked ninth in interceptions (3), third in pass breakups (12), third in completion percentage allowed (45.98%), and third in passer rating allowed when targeted (54.2). On the flip side, Bradberry placed 61st in missed tackle percentage (17%) and 47th in tackles (42).
Bradberry was an elite cornerback in coverage but below average in tackling when compared to the rest of the league.
*50% of maximum cornerback snap count threshold was implemented to not unfairly punish Bradberry for corners with fewer opportunities.
BRADBERRY VS. FREE AGENT CBs
Bradberry has positioned himself at the top of a market that includes over 70 cornerbacks. In comparison to the market he produced the eighth-most tackles (42) and 21st-best missed tackle percentage (17%). The free agent corner class consists of players such as Marcus Peters, Patrick Peterson, and Jonathan Jones.
Xavien Howard (signed 2021); 5 years; $90 million; $18 million average annual value (AAV); 28 when signed.
Darius Slay (signed 2020); 3 years; $50 million; $16.68 million AAV; 29 when signed.
William Jackson (signed 2020); 3 years; $41 million; $13.5 million AAV; 28 when signed.
Darious Williams (signed 2021); 3 years; $30 million; $10 million AAV; 29 when signed.
OTHER RELEVANT INFO
When comparing Bradberry to the contract precedents, note that Bradberry had the fewest yards allowed, fewest touchdowns allowed, and lowest QB rating when targeted. However, he also had the least amount of tackles and highest missed tackle percentage.
This should put Bradberry in the high end of market comps, but Slay and Howard both have significantly more league notoriety. Howard was a first-team All Pro in 2020, a second-team All Pro in 2018 and is a four-time Pro Bowler. Slay was a first-team All Pro in 2017 and has been selected to five Pro Bowls. In comparison, Bradberry only has the second-team All Pro nod in 2022 and one Pro Bowl selection.
The Eagles shouldn’t give Bradberry an extension. It makes sense purely from a business standpoint. Bradberry is elite but will be 30 in 2023. The Eagles are already invested in the 32-year-old Slay, who has a cap number of more than $26 million in 2023. The Eagles can’t afford to spend allocate limited resources on another depreciating, expensive asset like Bradberry. The Eagles will have to find a cheaper replacement.
The Eagles should look to the draft to find their future cornerback. Several ideal options should be available in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The best is Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, who showed flashes of greatness during his 2022 campaign. He’s an excellent tackler in space. Witherspoon demonstrates elite quickness and ability to mirror receivers. He’s smaller than Bradberry but also offers a different skill set. Witherspoon is more of a complete cornerback.
Another option is Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, who has elite size at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds. He also shows the best ability to adapt in coverage – his instincts are best out of all the cornerbacks coming out of college. Gonzalez is also fast for his size and a solid tackler in space.
If the Eagles decide to trade back from 10th overall, they’ll find another solid option in Penn State’s Joey Porter, Jr. Porter has elite height at 6-2 1/2. He’ll likely need to put some weight on his frame for the NFL, but that height for a cornerback is rare.
Porter is an athlete and made plenty of plays for the Nittany Lions. He’s also a very physical corner and leverages his size better than Gonzalez does. Other solid options for the Eagles include Kelee Ringo, Cam Smith, Deonte Banks, and Emmanuel Forbes.
– Sam Finkel is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com who focuses on analytics.
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