Caplan's NFL Corner: Jones vs. Bradberry
Eagles free agency notes from the NFL Scouting Combine-- On UFA CBs Byron Jones, James Bradberry: I've been asked about both players, so I wound up getting scouting reports from coaches and scouts from both teams who know them best. From Cowboys sources on Jones: The word from them and others around the NFL is Jones offers more versatility than any cornerback available. Not only will he line up outside in base defense, he has the ability to play the slot in nickel or cover a TE (see his coverage against Eagles TE Zach Ertz over the years). He also played a lot at free safety earlier in his career. One Cowboys source added: "He's very coachable, will do what's asked. Never had to worry about him." Like Bradberry, Jones is pretty durable (didn't miss a game in his first 4 seasons of play). While Jones only has 2 INTs and 3 FFs in his 5-year career, he has posted 44 PDs over that time span. I asked a scouting source about the lack of turnovers. "Just from watching his tape, it's more of a function of how they used him than lack of ball skills." As noted on ITB weeks ago, Jones is the CB that the Eagles want and will spend big on him, but my sense is they'll have some company. Even if they sign Jones, I still believe they'll add at least one CB in this year's NFL Draft, as they only have 2 dependable players at the position left under contract and both are slot players (Avonte Maddox and Cre'Von LeBanc). From Panthers sources on Bradberry: Word from them is when Bradberry was drafted he was a bit raw due to coming from a small school (Samford), but over time he became the best coverage player in their secondary. While the Panthers have played zone and man coverage during his 4 seasons, he's best used in press situations. Last season he played in more off coverage than in previous years, according to a coaching source. Has to play outside (not a slot CB) in coverage and you can match him up against the opponent's best wide receiver--that gives him really high value in free agency for teams looking for an outside CB. On OT/G Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V): Feeling around the league is that the 5th-year pro, who wants to find a starting job, will find one elsewhere for the 2020 season and beyond. I asked several NFL execs recently where he fits in and an overwhelming number of them said at RT. What really gives the 6-6, 320-pound offensive lineman value is his versatility, as he has started 13 games at LT (including playoffs), 11 at RT, while getting some snaps in at guard in recent years. With Vaitai signing elsewhere in a few weeks, the Eagles will have to find a versatile veteran OL in free agency. We'll take an inside look at some of those players in the coming days. On LB: While the Eagles typically don't spend a lot of money at the linebacker in free agency, there are some good values to be had in this year's group of UFAs. With that in mind, keep an eye on Nick Kwiatkoski when free agency opens on 3/18. The 5th-year player and former 4th-round pick out of the 2016 NFL Draft would likely fit in at MLB should the Eagles pursue signing him. One NFL personnel source called him "a young, more than functional NFL starter." Kwiatkoski, who started a career-high 8 games last season, posted 76 combined tackles along with 3 sacks, 4 PDs, 1 INT, 1 FF. The 6-2, 242-pound LB saw 518 defensive snaps (47.4%) while also seeing a lot of time on special teams (255 snaps/60.6%).