2024 NFL Draft

The Quinyon Mitchell vs. James Bradberry competition is officially over

The Eagles will talk about rookie cornerback Quinyon Mitchell competing for playing time in the coming months. But you don't draft this player and sit him. The competition is already over.

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Three words you never hear from Howie Roseman when he's talking about the draft: “Position of need.”

We all know cornerback was a position of need going into the draft. A desperate one. All you had to do was watch one James Bradberry rep from 2023 to understand that.

But you never hear anybody from the Eagles talk in those terms because they’re so dedicated – and rightly so – to drafting the best player available so they’re not reaching for someone. When you draft for need, that’s when you draft the wrong guy.

That’s why it was so surprising to hear those words late Thursday night from Roseman: “We contemplated (trading) up. But we kept going back to the fact that we felt like we had a really good chance to get a first-round player at a position of need where we were picking.”

Position of need.

He said it.

All offseason, Roseman has been talking about Bradberry like he remains a vital part of the Eagles’ future and is primed for a mighty bounce-back season. Roseman has talked about how good he was in 2022 – which he was - and how hard he’s working to turn things around in 2024. 

Even Thursday night, Roseman alluded to Bradberry being here in 2024: “James (is) working to get back to how he was two years ago.”

But Bradberry has never been 30 before. And he’s never been as bad as he was last year. Not many cornerbacks have. 

Since Stathead began tracking these things, the 11 TD passes Bradberry allowed last year are the most on record, and his 114.3 defensive passer rating is 2nd-worst among corners who were targeted at least 100 times (behind Sean Murphy-Bunting’s 121.3 rating in 2020).

I get why Bradberry is still here. There’s no reason to cut him at the moment. Maybe Roseman feels like he has a chance to trade him. Which is fine. Maybe the Eagles are going to stash him on the roster but not play him to avoid $15 million in dead money. Keep him around in case of an emergency. Which is kind of fine although I don’t think that’s a particularly healthy thing to do for the locker room. 

The reality is Mitchell wouldn’t be here if the Eagles believed Bradberry could still play at a high level. The instant Howie talked about “position of need,” the Eagles’ true feelings about Bradberry came out for the first time.

Bradberry is a class act and a true professional and he helped the Eagles get to a Super Bowl two years ago. But let’s be honest. He can’t be a starting cornerback for the Eagles in 2024 if they want to get back there. 

He just can’t.

Bradberry was never a speedy corner. He got by with physicality, instincts, intelligence. He didn’t have a step to lose, and then he lost a step. And then another.

Roseman has never seemed to care about dead cap money because it’s never stopped the Eagles from making the moves they need to make. If the Eagles can trade Carson Wentz and painlessly take on $33.8 million in dead cap in 2021, when their adjusted cap figure was about $189 million, they can certainly take on $15.1 million in dead money with Bradberry with their cap now at around $232 million.

The Eagles will talk in the coming months about Mitchell competing for playing time, but there’s no competing. He has to start.  

You don’t come off a season with the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL and select the first cornerback in the draft and then sit him.

Darius Slay isn’t quite what he used to be, but he’s still very good. And the combination of Slay and Mitchell gives the Eagles their best chance at getting this pass defense back to respectability.

I like Kelee Ringo and I think he’s got a bright future. Eli Ricks did some good things as an undrafted rookie and could become a pretty good slot. Isaiah Rodgers has a lot of experience and is a solid pro.

But Mitchell is on a different level. And you don’t draft a corner with 4.33 speed at 22 and then sit him behind a 30-year-old veteran with, what, 5.33 speed.

You don’t. You can’t. It’s football malpractice if opening day rolls around on Sept. 6 in São Paulo and Bradberry is starting and Mitchell isn’t.

There are some very good reasons Mitchell is considered the best corner in the draft. He shut down every receiver he faced at the Senior Bowl, and there were some big-time SEC studs across the line of scrimmage from him. He went to the Combine and crushed it with that 4.33, a 38-inch vertical jump, 20 reps and a 10-2 broad jump. 

It’s been two decades since the Eagles had an elite young homegrown cornerback. Lito and Sheldon were rookies 22 years ago. 

Now they finally have what even Roseman admits they had to have. A young, fast, confident, playmaking cornerback.

He plays. Bradberry doesn’t. There are no other options.

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