Eagles analysis

Run it back; Bradberry lands on Eagles' most important list

Returning on a three-year deal, James Bradberry takes his place on the most important Eagles list of 2023

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota
21. Reed Blankenship
20. Brandon Graham
19. D'Andre Swift
18. Avonte Maddox
17. Cam Jurgens
16. Fletcher Cox
15. Landon Dickerson
14. Jordan Davis
13. Nakobe Dean
12. Jalen Carter
11. James Bradberry

Entering the 2023 offseason, it seemed pretty likely that James Bradberry wasn’t going to return to the Eagles for a second season.

“I thought so too,” Bradberry admitted this spring.

But Bradberry wanted to be back in Philly and, eventually, the Eagles were able to make it happen.

How did the Eagles end up keeping Bradberry? Well, Bradberry’s market in free agency was a little more tepid than expected and after the Eagles weren’t able to reach an agreement with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson on a long-term contract, they had money to spend. That money went to Bradberry.

Bradberry signed a three-year contract worth $38 million and $20 million guaranteed. The contract could turn into a two-year deal worth $18-20 million, a league source told NBC Sports Philadelphia. So a little stability for Bradberry and for the Eagles this represented a chance to bring back a talented player without exorbitant risk.

“I had a lot of uncertainty going into free agency,” Bradberry said this spring. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be back or not. But I definitely wanted to come back and I’m glad it worked out this way. This is a great situation here and I love being here.”

And after it looked like the Eagles might keep Bradberry and lose Darius Slay, they found a way to keep Slay too. These two form one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL.

Bradberry, who will turn 30 in August, had a really good season in 2022. He started all 17 games in the regular season (and 3 in the playoffs) and had 3 interceptions, 1 returned for a touchdown, 17 pass breakups and 44 tackles. While he didn’t make the Pro Bowl roster, Bradberry was named as a second-team All-Pro.

In each of the last three seasons, Bradberry has had at least 3 interceptions and 17 pass breakups. He’s the only player in the NFL to do that the last three years. And, according to StatHead, in the last 20 years, the only players with more combined seasons of 3 interceptions at 17 PBUs are Charles Woodson, Asante Samuel, Joe Haden and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who each had four such seasons. And none of them did it four years in a row.

If nothing else, Bradberry has been incredibly consistent.

In 2022, Bradberry led the NFL in opposing passer rating against him, according to ProFootballFocus. Opposing quarterbacks had a 51.8 rating while targeting him. And Bradberry allowed just 46 catches on 98 targets — 46.9%. He was really good.

Of course, Bradberry’s 2022 season didn’t end the way he or the team wanted. It was the ticky-tack holding call against him in Super Bowl LVII that helped sink the Eagles in their 38-35 loss to the Chiefs. It wasn’t the only reason they lost and Bradberry was a big reason why they were there in the first place.

To Bradberry’s credit, he never blamed anyone else. He admitted that he held and just wished he hadn’t. For the Eagles, it was just a shame to see their magical season end in that fashion.

The Eagles have some better depth at cornerback entering the 2023 season after using a fourth-round pick on Kelee Ringo out of Georgia and after signing Greedy Williams in free agency. But the Eagles are still clearly going to be relying on Slay and Bradberry this season. If there’s any reason for concern, it’s not ability, it’s age.

There were just six cornerbacks in the NFL over 30 last season to start at least 10 games. One of them was Slay, who started 17. Cornerback is a position where we see players drop off pretty suddenly. Perhaps the good news for Bradberry is that he’s never been known for blazing speed.

Bradberry, despite the Super Bowl hold, played extremely well in his first season with the Eagles. He’ll need to do that again in 2023.

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