With Jalen Ramsey (presumably) off the market, trading for William Jackson III could solve the Philadelphia Eagles’ cornerback issues once and for all.
Week 5 notwithstanding, the Philadelphia Eagles secondary is a mess.
With Rasul Douglas lacking the deep speed to be a reliable outside option, Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Cre’von LeBlanc all injured, and Sidney Jones in Jim Schwartz‘s doghouse, the Birds’ ultimate playoff potential could very well fall on how aggressive Howie Roseman plans to do be at the trade deadline.
And with Jalen Ramsey now (presumably) off the market, there’s no true number one available who could come in and elevate the secondary from Day 1.
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Sure, there are older stars like Chris Harris, boom-or-busters like Trumaine Johnson, and even a few former draft busts like Artie Burns who could be had in the lead-up to the deadline via trade from a non-contender, but for my money, there isn’t a better corner available than William Jackson III.
Measuring at an even 6-foot, 196 pounds, Jackson is an ideal fit in a man-press scheme. In 36 NFL appearances (26 starts), the former first-round pick out of Houston has logged 29 pass breakups, including a pair of picks and a defensive touchdown.
While those numbers suggest that opposing defenses aren’t particularly afraid to attack Jackson’s side of the field (typically the right side), they also show the 27-year-old’s impressive instincts and willingness to attack the ball in mid-air – one of the main attributes Schwartz looks for in a starting outside cornerback.
Furthermore, not only does Williams have the ideal size and mindset to play cornerback in the NFL, but he also possesses the three most important physical traits that signify success: speed, speed, and speed.
Running the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash of any cornerback at the 2016 NFL Combine with a blazing 4.37, Jackson could immediately set in and become the Birds’ second-fastest starting defender, edging out Darby by the hair of his nose.
And to top it all off, Jackson has inside-out versatility.
After spending his (redshirt) rookie season as the Cincinnati Bengals‘ nickel outside corner – a season that graded out as one of Pro Football Focus’ best single seasons in their history (more on that here) – Jackson slotted into the team’s top coverage option over the last two seasons, and has been moved across the defensive formation to cover opposing teams’ best options.
If the Eagles could add Jackson to their defensive backfield, Schwartz may finally be willing to buck his traditional side exclusive tendencies and deploy Jackson in the slot on some games (or plays) and on the outside the next. This versatility would not only let the Eagles mirror opposing top receivers from snap to snap, but also reconfigure the secondary to optimize game-specific matchups – with bigger receivers matching up with Douglas on the outside, or speedsters on the inside matching up with Orlando Scandrick.
So, you may ask, why would the Bengals be willing to move on from Williams if he’s such a high-upside young corner? Easy, they stink and will continue to stink for the foreseeable future.
With his $9.9 million fifth-year option already picked up for the 2020 season, Jackon is going to ask for a deal in the eight figures a season range sooner rather than later, and despite a wonderful rookie season, his numbers dipped in 2018.
With such a decision right around the corner (no pun intended) and no clean path to the postseason on the horizon, cashing out on Jackson to a cornerback-hungry team could help the team moving forward and award the Bengals’ front office with some additional draft capital to build upon.
After giving up a third-round pick to acquire Golden Tate in 2018, and a third plus Jordan Matthews to acquire Darby the summer prior, Roseman clearly isn’t shy about trading away value to get value back, and despite having less professional production than any of the players previously mentioned, Jackson could have the biggest impact of the lot.
With the compensatory pick formula as it is, the Eagles could trade a third-round pick with almost no reservation for a player of Jackson’s talents and feel confident that they could recoup similar value if he walks in free agency. Frankly, the Eagles could give up a second-rounder for the former 24th overall selection’s services and feel confident that the pick’s value could drop considerably due in large part to Jackson’s ability to improve the secondary.
If owner/GM Mike Brown wants to avoid paying out almost $10 million for a luxury shutdown cornerback on a team with virtually no chances of making the postseason, the chances of a deal getting done becomes even more likely – especially if the Eagles are willing to include another young player like Maddox, Douglas, or Jones in the deal.
While his name may not illicit jubilance in the eyes of Philadelphia Eagles fans, William Jackson III is the ideal man cornerback for the modern NFL, and if he’s available at the trade deadline, Howie Roseman should run to the phone and ensure number 22 makes his postseason debut in a midnight green jersey – it could very well be the difference between an early vacation or another trip to the Super Bowl.