Like most of the rest of the league, the Philadelphia Eagles have valued their nickelbacks more and more over the past five seasons. That’s because in a passing league you are going to have to rely more on that extra guy with corner skills to take over in obvious pass-coverage situations for a linebacker whose forte is not exactly coverage.
We’ve seen guys who were once buried on the depth chart at cornerback come to life as the nickelback, the “third corner” on passing downs. In recent Eagles history, Ron Brooks comes to mind in the 2016 season…then there was Patrick Robinson in the 2017 season. De’Vante Bausby opened some eyes in the 2018 preseason. Then Sidney Jones tried to lock down the spot. Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox got their shots.
Anyway, the nickelback role as a position group just got paid.
Temple’s own Tavon Young has agreed to a contract extension with the Ravens, according to multiple reports, worth $29 million over three years. That’s a lot of bread for a nickelback.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a three-year extension. Young was under contract through 2019.
With this extension, the Ravens are keeping a 24-year-old member of their defense in the fold as he enters his prime. Young will turn 25 next month.
Young has spent three seasons with the Ravens and has blossomed into one of their best defensive players. Not only is he adept at covering slot receivers, he is one of their best open-field tacklers and playmakers. Despite his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame, Young plays with big-time physicality. EYE wish the Eagles had somehow acquired him. It just seems wasteful that Philly had this guy doing his thing in their own backyard for so long and somehow didn’t draft him. Size was the issue, so we are told. Maybe we ought to factor in football-playing ability and IQ a bit more in future scouting.
Young was a fourth-round draft pick out of Temple in 2016 and immediately earned playing time as a rookie with 44 tackles and two interceptions in 16 games. Because of injuries, he started 11 games, including as an outside corner. Young missed the entire 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL in June of that year.
However, Young bounced back with his best season in 2018 when he returned to his position in the slot, which is an increasingly important spot all across the NFL. He logged 37 tackles, two sacks, one interception and two touchdowns. (Young returned two fumble recoveries for touchdowns last season, one against the Atlanta Falcons and one against the Los Angeles Chargers.)
The evolution of the nickelback role as a premium-pay position has been a trip for me to savor as a fan. If ever there were a traditional underdog position on the field of play, this was it. Now there is no shame at all in admitting your job description as being the third best cornerback on the team.
We gettin’ paid, baby! Welcome to the new NFL!
[For the record, I do not like the band “Nickelback” as a matter of personal taste. I don’t like the band “The Eagles” for the same reason, and in some ways they’re similar. But I also do not completely understand why this Canadian band is “hated” by so many. They have sold 50 million albums and only The Beatles beat them in U.S. sales by a foreign band in the 2000s. And yet everyone knows that everyone hates Nickelback, right? Perhaps Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something…The band also once allowed their music to be used in a furniture advert, which triggered lots of rage about “authenticity”.]
The last big payday I can remember for a nickelback was when on March 14, 2018, Patrick Robinson signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Saints. Sadly, on September 25, 2018, Robinson was placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken ankle in Week 3.