In many ways, the signing of Terrell Edmunds by the Eagles nearly 10 days into free agency seems a little too good to be true.
Edmunds’ resume doesn’t match Philadelphia’s other low-risk, high-reward lottery tickets like Rashaad Penny or Justin Evans. Edmunds is a 26-year-old player with five years of starting experience on a good defense who has proved durable.
The Virginia Tech product also has the kind of physical traits that made him a 2018 first-round pick, most notably 4.47 speed on an imposing 6-foot-1, 217-pound frame. Heck, Edmunds has even got the bloodline. His brother Tremaine was the No. 16 overall pick to Buffalo in the same draft Terrell went 28 to the Steelers, the first and only brother tandem to go in the first round of an NFL Draft in league history.
This is the guy you’re supposed to want to pay in free agency.
But Edmunds, unlike his brother who just got four years and $72 million from the Chicago Bears, signed a one-year deal for the second consecutive season after the first wave, and the big money was already budgeted.
So what gives?
Unlike Tremaine, Terrell wasn’t “supposed” to be taken in the first round but once that label is affixed, the expectations that accompany it are unrelenting, at least in the original city. See Derek Barnett in Philadelphia to validate that thesis.
In the case of Edmunds, he wasn’t flashy enough in Pittsburgh, amassing five interceptions in five seasons. Conversely, C.J. Gardner-Johnson had six interceptions in 12 games with the Eagles’ top-ranked defense last season.
Sizzle doesn’t always equate to steak, however. Edmunds’ was graded by Pro Football Focus as No. 36 of the 88 safeties who played enough to be ranked last season. Gardner-Johnson, who got a disappointing one-year deal for $6.5 million with incentives from Detriot in free agency, was No. 49.
The film, according to PFF, says Edmunds was performing at a higher level than CJGJ in all three phases, perhaps not a surprise when it comes to run support or the pass rush but certainly a bit of one in coverage where Edmunds was at 68.0 compared to 66.2 for Gardner-Johnson.
“That’s about consistency and doing your job,” a former personnel executive told JAKIB Sports. “Playmakers tend to take more chances and there is some good and bad to that when it comes to grading film. It’s a fine line. The turnover margin is really important to [Nick] Sirianni but there is a point where it can become a detriment if you’re trying to force the issue and playing outside the design of the defense.”
Not that NFL teams don’t get things wrong all the time but contracts do tell a story because there are 32 organizations essentially setting the market for players.
“I’m not a contract guy but I agree with that,” the exec said. “It works both ways. You can say that about [Edmunds] but you also have to recognize you guys [the media] probably overvalued the other guy [Gardner-Johnson] relative to what the league thinks.”
As for the Eagles and Edmunds, it doesn’t seem like a natural fit or perhaps new defensive coordinator Sean Desai is going to be a little bit more malleable than expected.
The conventional wisdom is that Desai would continue with the same defensive philosophy. After all, Desai is a direct descendant of Vic Fangio, whose philosophy the Eagles’ defense was built on over the past two seasons. Gannon admired Fangio’s scheme from afar when close friend Brandon Staley, another Fangio protege, began having success with it.
Typically in the Fangio-inspired defenses, there are no designations between free and strong safeties, just left and right with the goal of being interchangeable. Edmunds is a traditional strong safety, however, who is better suited closer to the line of scrimmage rather than center field.
In Pittsburgh, Edmunds did exactly that while Minkah Fitzpatrick, one of the best in the business, handled things deep.
“That’s correct. I wouldn’t call Edmunds a Fangio safety at first glance,” the personnel executive said. “Could be indicative of a different mindset or more likely the best player at this stage for Philadelphia. You can’t get caught up in schemes over the Jimmys and Joes or at least you shouldn’t.
“Maybe you have to play a little differently until you find the right fit with a similar talent level.”