Eagles Urged to Add Former $58 Million All-Pro Safety

The Philadelphia Eagles will open training camp in about a month with one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, certainly the NFC East. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one more addition the team could make. ESPN’s Aaron Schatz argued that one more addition should be former All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson.

On June 20, Schatz named signing Jackson the final move the Eagles should make before training camp.

“What the Eagles could use is defensive depth. At safety, for example, Sydney Brown is coming back from an ACL injury suffered late last season, leaving little depth behind C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship,” Schatz wrote. “Jackson, a former Bears star, would help stabilize the unit.

“He could play strong safety if Gardner-Johnson lines up in the slot, or he might even beat out Blankenship for the free safety position.”

Jackson hasn’t made an All-Pro team since 2018. But injuries have mostly been responsible for slowing down the two-time Pro Bowler the past couple seasons. Jackson missed 10 games over the past two years because of a foot issues.

In 2023, he registered 37 combined tackles, 5 pass defenses and 1 interception in 12 games.

The Chicago Bears released Jackson on February 15 with one year left on his contract. Chicago signed Jackson to a 4-year, $58.4 million extension in January 2020.

How Safety Eddie Jackson Could Fit With the Eagles

Similar to other analysts this offseason, Schatz is concerned about safety Reed Blankenship remaining in the Eagles starting lineup. The 25-year-old is a former undrafted free agent and had only played 291 defensive snaps in his NFL career prior to last season.

Blankenship, though, played well with his opportunity during 2023. He finished second for the Eagles in defensive snaps and posted a 73.4 Pro Football Focus player grade. That grade was fourth-best among Philadelphia defensive players who lined up for at least 400 snaps last year.

But even if the Eagles are confident in Blankenship, where rookie defensive back Cooper DeJean plays could determine whether Philadelphia desires to add another safety. DeJean could receive snaps at safety or nickel back. But he could also play outside cornerback, which might mean opportunities for veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson to play in the slot.

If the Eagles foresee DeJean and Gardner-Johnson both primarily playing somewhere other than safety, then a veteran such as Jackson would be a necessary addition.

The status of rookie cornerback Quinyon Mitchell could also determine if the Eagles add to their secondary. Philadelphia grabbed Mitchell in the first round and then DeJean during the second of the 2024 NFL draft.

Jackson is familiar with new Eagles defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, which makes him a natural fit. Jackson played in Fangio’s defense during the first two seasons of his career. Jackson’s lone All-Pro season was in Fangio’s system.

Could Jackson Not Be the Best Safety Option?

There’s a scenario where the Eagles sign a safety this summer. But the question is whether Jackson would be the right choice.

Although he is a former first-team All-Pro safety, it’s been five years since he’s even made the Pro Bowl team. Injuries may have been his biggest issue the past two years, Jackson was almost entirely healthy for the 2020 and 2021 seasons and didn’t earn any post-season accolades.

Last year, he played a career-low 87% of Chicago’s defensive snaps during the games in which he played. Jackson’s production also dropped significantly despite the fact he lined up for nearly as many snaps as he did in 2022.

His 37 combined tackles during 2023 sticks out like a sore thumb on Jackson’s career stat sheet. Prior to 2023, he never had fewer than 51 combined tackles in an individual season.

If the Eagles do add a safety, fellow veteran Justin Simmons may be a better option. Like Jackson, Simmons has experience playing in Fangio’s defense. But Simmons has experienced more success, having made four All-Pro teams and two Pro Bowls during his career.

Simmons made second-team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl with 70 combined tackles, 8 pass defenses and 3 interceptions last season.

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