In his four seasons with the Eagles, Avonte Maddox has shown all the traits that winning players and great teammates have – talent, toughness, versatility, unselfishness, a love for the game, and a willingness to do anything the coaches ask him to do. He has lined up at safety, at outside cornerback, and inside at the nickel position. He has dropped back in coverage against fast receivers, gone chest-to-chest against big-boy tight ends, blitzed to get to the quarterback, and played physical against the run.
All of the above are reasons the Eagles wanted so much to keep Maddox as they expand the list of young players signed to long-term contracts. On Saturday, the team announced that Maddox signed a three-year contract extension that keeps him in Philadelphia through the 2024 season. It's a well-deserved deal for Maddox, who is enjoying perhaps his best season to date playing the nickel position and thriving in Jonathan Gannon's defense.
"I'm so excited," Maddox said just minutes after signing the contract. "We have a game on Sunday and I'm focused on that, but it's a big moment for me. It's something you always dream about. It's surreal, like Dallas (Goedert) said yesterday, all the work that we've put in, I'm just so thankful that the team recognized it and here we are. We're building big things here."
Maddox is the fourth member of the Eagles' 2018 NFL Draft Class to gain a second contract with the team, joining Josh Sweat (signed through the 2024 season), offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (signed through 2025), and tight end Dallas Goedert (signed through 2025).
"It's super special that our draft class has signed," Maddox said. "We came in together and now we're here for our second contracts. Jordan came up and dapped me up and Sweaty gave me some love. Of course, Dallas and I are happy for each other, too. The plan with me and Dallas is to buy some land somewhere in Pennsylvania and build connecting homes (laughs). We aren't going to live together, but we'll always be connected."
While Maddox played well and helped the Eagles' defense in a lot of ways from the time he was selected in the fourth round of the 2018 draft from the University of Pittsburgh, 2021 has been his most impactful campaign to date. Instead of bouncing around the secondary, Maddox has been firmly entrenched at the nickel cornerback position. He's been outstanding. Maddox has 47 total tackles and has already established career highs in tackles for loss (4) and forced fumbles (2) this season. In addition, he has totaled four passes defensed, including one interception, along with two quarterback hits, and a half-sack.
Maddox is one of only four NFL cornerbacks with at least two forced fumbles and an interception this season. His four tackles for loss are tied for the second most among league cornerbacks, trailing only Jalen Ramsey (Rams, with eight). Overall, he is tied for the third-most tackles (47) among his position.
More playing time – Maddox has played a career-high 63 percent of the defensive snaps – has meant more opportunity for Maddox and he has taken full advantage of the situation from a nickel cornerback spot that, while not generally recognized as a "starting" position in an NFL defense, actually plays almost as much as the outside cornerbacks and has to read and react and adapt to a lot of different scenarios.
The nickel cornerback is an extremely valuable position and Maddox's contract extension is an example of the value the Eagles place on the premium spot.
"I've worked hard to get to this point, overcome a lot, and really embraced whatever role they've given me," Maddox said. "JG told me when we first met to get ready to play the nickel. He said, 'You're gonna be great there, so let's go out and do it.' I love the defense and I love being in that role."
"We put a lot on his plate. And he has a lot to process and think about. And we put him in that spot as a slot nickel corner. He wears a lot of hats. He's in the run game, he's covering man-to-man. He's in zone. He's got a pattern match. He makes a lot of adjustments. So, I mean, I like where Avonte is. I like where he's going. And he's doing a really good job for us playing winning football in that spot, which you need in that spot," Gannon said of Maddox earlier this week. "I was in another place and we had a good nickel and he got hurt and, I mean, the pass defense went south really fast just because of that one guy.
"That shows you the value of that position. That guy has to play winning football in there for you because of what we ask him to do. So, he's doing an excellent job. I love having him."
The Eagles have been busy retaining the young core of the roster and they've addressed the 2018 draft in a remarkable way, signing four of the five players selected to second contracts and trading the fifth player from that draft class, offensive lineman Matt Pryor and a 2022 seventh-round draft choice, to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 sixth-round draft pick. Value, value, value.
On Friday, the Eagles signed Goedert and on Saturday his best friend, Maddox, scored a new deal. The focus is on Sunday's showdown with the Saints and a chance to win an important game at Lincoln Financial Field. Focusing on the present and still working toward the future, the Eagles are making good things happen both on and off the football field.