Eagles set to release Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay in stunning turn of events

The Eagles are planning to release cornerback Darius Slay after the new league year opened at 4 p.m. Wednesday, NFL sources told The Inquirer.

In a relatively stunning turn of events, the Pro Bowl cornerback went from a sure lock to return to the roster, to wanting an extension and receiving permission to seek a trade, to now slated for free agency after the Eagles directed their attention to re-signing fellow Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry.

Bradberry officially signed the three-year, $38 million contract with $20 million guaranteed he agreed to on Tuesday.

Slay, meanwhile, was slated to make $17 million in base salary for the 2023 season. The Eagles approached the 32-year-old about restructuring his deal, in light of their salary cap issues, but he wanted new money and additional years, sources close to the situation said.

His agent Drew Rosenhaus was given permission to shop Slay to other teams, but when the Eagles were neither able to find a partner or come to agreement on a restructure, they began their pursuit of the younger Bradberry.

Slay’s release will be designated post-June 1 to allow the Eagles to spread the dead money over 2023 and 2024. The Eagles will save $17.5 million in 2023 with the remaining $8.611 million still against their cap.

“Nothing but love Philly!!” Slay tweeted. “Lets see where we heading next..”

Later Wednesday, Slay opened the door on a possible return, tweeting, “Might be back lol never kno!!” Last offseason, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returned to the Eagles when a release indicated he would have to depart. Slay’s release wasn’t made official as of the evening.

Slay should have worth on the open market, especially from teams with more cap space than the Eagles. He went to his second straight Pro Bowl last season — the fifth of his career — and with Bradberry formed one of the better outside cornerback tandems in the NFL.

He got off to a strong start, recording three interceptions and eight pass breakups in his first six games. Slay’s best performance came in Week 2 against the Vikings when he kept all pro receiver Justin Jefferson in check and notched two picks and five passes defensed. He earned NFC defensive player of the week honors in the Eagles’ 24-7 Monday night win.

He wasn’t as reliable in the second half of the season, but Slay still remained among the best at his position. He’s never been shy about his talents or where he thinks he ranks at cornerback. Three years ago, disgruntled at having to play for Lions coach Matt Patricia and in the middle of another contract dispute, Slay was traded to the Eagles.

General manager Howie Roseman sent third- and fifth-round draft picks to Detroit in exchange for the then-29-year-old. In the 2020 season, Slay struggled at times in then-defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme, especially when asked to travel with top receivers like DK Metcalf and Davante Adams.

But the demands of the playing cornerback have only increased in today’s pass-happy, offensive-friendly NFL, and Slay was among those victimized by restrictions placed on defenders.

He bounced back under a new regime in 2021 and thrived in former defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s zone-heavy defense that emphasized not getting beat over the top. His pass breakups (23) and interception (3) numbers weren’t as great as they were with the Lions, but Slay often blanketed his side of the field.

Slay made a crucial mistake in Super Bowl LVII when he bit on presnap motion and left receiver Kadarius Toney wide-open for a touchdown that gave the Kansas City Chiefs their first lead of the game. He wasn’t alone in his struggles that day.

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