By securing the services of cornerback Joselio Hanson for the next five years, the Eagles made sure they kept one of their key, unsung standouts in this defense. Hanson, signed by the Eagles in 2006 as, well, an afterthought, was one of the primary thoughts in this off-season. He agreed to terms on a five-year contract on Friday night as the Eagles started what is going to be a busy and, hopefully, fruitful walk-up to the beginning of free agency.
Hanson could have entered free agency and, chances are, he would have found some suitors. Why not? Hanson is a smart, talented player who is always in the right place. His rise in 2008 helped this defense improve when offenses brought on an extra wide receiver. Not the biggest cornerback, not the fastest cornerback, Hanson simply made enough plays and did enough of the right things to vault up the depth chart and contribute 32 total tackles, one interception, one sack, a memorable fumble return for a touchdown against Dallas and four passes knocked down.
And a staff of coaches that believes in him big time.
Getting Hanson done was a good first step in this off-season, and there will be many more to follow. By keeping Hanson on board, the Eagles retain their continuity at cornerback, and at the same time they allow themselves some flexibility should they look to make some moves.
Cornerback is a position to watch, given Hanson's status on the team and the numbers situation. Lito Sheppard is coming off a season during which he played very little at cornerback and was mainly a special teams contributor by year's end. Second-year man Jack Ikegwuonu is a prospect, a strong, good-sized player who was considered a first-round prospect before suffering a knee injury prior to last year's draft.
There are also a couple of kids to look at -- Dimitri Patterson, signed late in the season and armed with some NFL experience with the Chiefs, and Trae Williams, who was with the Eagles on the practice squad last year.
It's a good group, one that could see a move or two at some point in the next months. There are natural questions, starting with Sheppard's situation. Does he stay and compete for playing time next year? Does he become part of a trade package for a veteran or a better spot in the draft? Is Ikegwuonu -- and I'm sure to spell his name wrong a dozen times before I get it right -- ready to contribute and build on his collegiate career? Using a fourth-round pick on him is either going to be a boom or one of those moves soon to be forgotten.
Certainly, though, the solvency of cornerback is there with starters Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown, along with Hanson. The Eagles and Hanson made sure of that with some pre-free agency negotiations and a wrapped-up deal well in advance of February 27.
What's next for the Eagles? Oh, there are surely talks going on behind the scenes and there are plans being laid out and there are multiple scenarios being discussed. One potential headache has been averted. Hanson is a done deal after some thinking out there that he might want to dip his toe into free agency.
But he didn't. He realized that the Eagles are good for him, and that he is good for the Eagles. One block has been put in place in the off-season as Hanson agrees to stay and the Eagles can move on to their next project to solve.