Eagles analysis

Eagles Stay or Go 2024: How many safeties will be back?

In the latest Stay or Go, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro break down the safety position.

NBC Universal, Inc. Dave Zangaro and Reuben Frank assess the safeties on the Eagles roster and the outlook for the position in 2024.

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2024, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.

We already looked at quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, interior offensive line, offensive tackle, specialists, defensive tackle, edge rusher, linebacker and cornerback.

Up last: Safety.

Reed Blankenship

Roob: He’s not going anywhere, but the same as just about everybody else we’ve written about in this series, he’s got to play better than he did the second half of last season. I’ve seen Blankenship playing at a high enough level – for 4 ½ games last year when Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was hurt last year and through about the Chiefs game this past season - to know what kind of player he can be. I do expect Blankenship to go into 2024 as one of the starters, and I also expect the changes on the coaching staff and on the defense to benefit him. And if the Eagles can have a more settled secondary in general that will help him as well. But he's got to be better than he was the second half of the season.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: After coming on strong at the tail end of his rookie season, Blankenship was a full-time starter in Year 2 and definitely saw some ups and downs. He ended up starting 15 games and had 113 tackles, 2 TFLs and 4 interceptions. It seems likely that Blankenship will enter Year 3 of his career as a starter but the Eagles will need to find the right player to start next to him. It’s a bit unclear of what Blankenship’s ceiling will be in the NFL but he definitely belongs in the league.

Verdict: Stays

Sydney Brown

Roob: Just when you felt comfortable tentatively slotting Brown into the second safety spot opposite Blankenship, he suffered a torn ACL in the regular-season finale against the Giants. While there’s no timetable for his return, it’s hard to imagine he won’t miss multiple regular-season weeks. Eventually, he will be back and we’ll see where he fits in, but in the big picture, he’s an impressive kid but certainly not a lock to be a long-term starter. You just hope the injury doesn’t set him back too far because the Eagles need all the help they can get at safety.

Verdict: Goes (to PUP)

Dave: It was very unfortunate that Brown tore his ACL in January. At locker cleanout day, Brown said his goal was to be ready for training camp and Week 1 but that seems a bit unlikely. Either way, Brown will be with the Eagles in 2024. It’s just a matter of whether or not he starts the season on the roster or on the PUP list. Brown’s rookie season had some ups and downs but he showed some definite flashes of why the Eagles used a third-round pick to draft him. Brown appears to be a high-variance player with the ability to make huge plays, which we saw on his 99-yard pick-6.

Verdict: Stays

Kevin Byard

Roob: Byard started out mediocre after the Eagles acquired him in October but faded as the season went on and ultimately had a disappointing season considering his resume. Byard is a functional veteran, but he’ll turn 31 during training camp, he’s already trending the wrong way, and even if the Eagles decided to keep him – which they shouldn’t – they’ve got to get rid of his unwieldy 2024 salary. Byard only cost the Eagles Terrell Edmunds and a couple late draft picks, so  it’s not like they’re under any obligation to keep him. They can do better. They have to do better.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The Eagles tried at the deadline by trading for Byard but it didn’t quite work out. Of course, it’s worth noting that nothing worked out for the defense in the second half of the year so it’s hard to pin it on Byard. But the former Pro Bowler didn’t make many big plays either. The Eagles would save $13 million in cap space by cutting Byard, who has a base salary of $9.6 million in 2024, and that seems like a no-brainer. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out but it’s probably in everyone’s best interest for the two sides to part and for the Eagles to find a different starting safety this upcoming season.

Verdict: Goes

Justin Evans

Roob: Evans is about as injury-prone as anybody we’ve ever seen. He’s played exactly 19 games over the last five years and was limited to just four games this past season after winning the opening-day starting job. Even if he were an elite player, you can’t count on anybody who barely plays. And he’s not an elite player. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Evans started four of the first five games of the season and then got hurt and never returned. There was a period during the middle of the season when Evans returned to practice but he suffered a setback and spent the rest of the year on IR. The former second-round pick has been plagued by injuries throughout his NFL career and despite the hopes that he moved past that with a solid 2022 season in New Orleans, the injury bug bit him again in Philly. Evans was going to be a decent piece for the Eagles last year but now he’s set to be a 28-year-old free agent who just can’t stay healthy. Unfortunately, the Eagles can’t rely on him and need to move on.

Verdict: Goes

Tristin McCollum

Roob: McCollum has decent size and did fine on special teams in three games as a practice squad elevation. He’s also got the bloodlines, since his twin brother Zyon was a starting corner for the Bucs. But I expect the Eagles to really replenish the safety position this offseason, and McCollum is going to have an uphill battle in camp to make the 53. But could definitely see him back on the practice squad.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The 24-year-old defensive back played three games in the regular season and in the playoff game in Tampa as a practice squad elevation. He played a grand total of 29 snaps on defense this year. He figures to be in camp to compete and will have a chance to be back on the practice squad again. But unless the Eagles just decide to completely ignore the position this offseason, McCollum’s best shot is to be back on the practice squad in 2024.

Verdict: Goes

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