Free agency continued for the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday as the defense added another piece to a secondary that figures to be extremely competitive when the 2020 on-field portion of the season begins.
The Eagles agreed to terms on a one-year deal with cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, a standout with the Rams in their run to the Super Bowl in 2018 and a player who has had success playing the, yes, nickel cornerback position as an inside slot cover man.
"Nickell Robey-Coleman is a guy that we've had our eyes on for a long time," Howie Roseman said in an exclusive one-on-one interview that will be available to watch Thursday morning. "He's explosive. He's twitched-up. When he became available as a free agent the first time (in 2017), we were interested in signing him because he can really mirror receivers and he's got the competitiveness, the speed, the toughness we're looking for in our defensive backfield."
During the Rams' Super Bowl season in 2018, Robey-Coleman limited opposing receivers to 295 yards and under eight yards per reception on 58 targets. For a second straight season, he earned a grade of 80-plus from Pro Football Focus and he played well in the postseason with three pass deflections.
Pro Football Focus rated the 28-year-old Robey-Coleman as the 19th-best cornerback in the entire NFL in 2019. Here is what PFF wrote about him:
"Nickell Robey-Coleman continues to solidify himself as one of the league's best slot cornerbacks. He accelerates with quick closing speed after showing patience in press man-to-man coverage, and he is good enough to stick with receivers at the top of their routes. As a seven-year veteran who anchors the middle between fellow corners Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill, Robey-Coleman allowed just an 80.1 passer rating and 0.63 yards per slot coverage snap through Week 17, ranking 13th and sixth, respectively, among qualifying slot cornerbacks in 2019. The Rams finished with the 10th-best coverage (83.9) in the league this year, and Robey-Coleman will continue to play a significant role in any future success."
Not with the Rams, who needed to create space within the salary cap and declined 2020 option on the 5-8, 180-pound Robey-Coleman's deal last week.
Robey-Coleman played collegiately at Southern California and signed with Buffalo in 2013 as an unrestricted free agent. After four seasons with the Bills, during which Robey-Coleman played for Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz in 2014, he signed with the Rams, where he worked with new Eagles Director of Sports Performance Ted Rath, and created a role for himself in the nickel position. Robey-Coleman was highly publicized for his part in the 2018 NFC Championship Game when he was involved in a collision on a pass thrown in the direction of New Orleans wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and was not penalized on a play that appeared to be a blatant case of defensive pass interference.
Los Angeles went on to defeat New Orleans to advance to Super Bowl LIII. Ultimately, that play led to a change in the way the league called pass interference in the 2019 season, making it subject to instant replay.
"I just know I got there before the ball got there," Robey-Coleman said after the game that the Rams won in overtime. "I thought it was going to be a bang-bang play. But when I got up, I thought it was P.I., because I didn't look back for the ball. My teammates were like, 'Think about if you were to look back, that could have been a pick-six.' Because he threw it kind of short. But that didn't happen. I seen his hands go up, and I just hit him, bro. I just hit him."
Robey-Coleman played with Los Angeles in 2019 and will not return along with higher-profile players like running back Todd Gurley and linebacker Clay Matthews. A durable, productive player, Robey-Coleman had a steady amount of defensive action with the Rams, playing 656 snaps (61 percent) in 2017, 556 (55 percent) in 2018, and 708 (64 percent) in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference. He's only missed one game due to injury in his career.
The Eagles are adding him to a cornerback group that has had Cre' Von LeBlanc and Avonte Maddox play in the slot, with Maddox having shown he can play at a high level outside as well, returns Jalen Mills after he tested the free agent market, brings back Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, and features Darius Slay, who was acquired in a trade from Detroit last week.
"We're just trying to add guys at a position that we think you can never have enough," Roseman said. "We've seen it over the last couple of years, how many corners have gotten hurt."