Cooper DeJean joins Quinyon Mitchell as new Eagles DBs hoping to shore up secondary

PHILADELPHIA — Cooper DeJean acknowledged that Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft wasn’t all that enjoyable of an experience. The defensive back saw the day come and go without learning his future home, despite being projected by many to go in the top 32.

But that didn’t prevent him from congratulating another cornerback taken ahead of him — Quinyon Mitchell, selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 22nd overall pick. On Thursday night, as he still awaited his own fate, DeJean sent a quick text to Mitchell, who he apparently got to know a bit in the days and weeks leading up to the draft.

Less than 24 hours later they became teammates. The Eagles traded up to snag DeJean with the 40th overall selection.

“He’s a great player, does things the right way, really dynamic,” DeJean said of Mitchell. “So I’m excited to get to know him and get to play with him along with the other guys that are already there in Philadelphia.”



Eagles remained patient and landed arguably draft’s top CB in Quinyon Mitchell

The Eagles aggressively addressed what was arguably their biggest weakness in 2023 — their pass defense. The 253 yards per game they surrendered through the air was the second-worst mark in the NFL, and one of the many reasons they imploded over the final two months of the season. The Eagles have now added Mitchell and DeJean in the draft, while also reacquiring C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency. Isaiah Rodgers, who was suspended for a year for violating the league’s gambling policy, was reinstated last week.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said DeJean was a player they could have envisioned taking in the first round. When he was still around early in the second, they sprang into action.

“When you get to a day like today and certain guys stick out, you want to go get those guys,” Roseman said. “For us, Cooper was a consideration yesterday, and we thought (he was) one of the best defensive players in the draft. Obviously, we took a guy that we loved as well, yesterday. We made a concerted effort to try and go get (DeJean). Real excited to have him, and his skill set.”



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Where they will all play is to be determined, of course, as the Eagles still also have last year’s starters: 33-year-old Darius Slay and 30-year-old James Bradberry.

Mitchell, who said he’s tried to model his game after Slay’s, met with the local media at the Eagles’ training facility shortly before the start of the second round on Friday. He was asked if he would be content waiting to get into the starting lineup, or if it’s imperative to him that he plays right away.

“My approach to my rookie year is to just come in and do everything they ask me to do — play hard, play physical, be a great teammate and just work hard,” Mitchell said. “And whatever they ask me to do, to do it.”

As for DeJean, his versatility has been mentioned as one of his attributes. He expressed confidence he would be able to play multiple spots in the defensive backfield, if asked.

“I don’t have a preference,” DeJean said. “I’m a football player, so you put me on the field, I’m going to go play football.”

Both Roseman and coach Nick Sirianni also left open the possibility that DeJean could help on special teams, too, perhaps as a kick returner now that the NFL has instituted new rules.

“Obviously Cooper is very versatile in not only the things he can do on defense but also on special teams,” Sirianni said. “We’ve all seen those plays he’s made as a returner. He’ll factor into it, but we’ve got a long way to go before we’re at that point. … But we’re excited about him on this football team not only as a defensive player but as a special teams player, as well.”

The Eagles selecting defensive backs with first- and second-round picks harkened back to the 2002 draft when Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were taken — something Roseman, who was at that point early into his front-office career, referenced. Sheppard, selected No. 26 overall, played seven seasons for the Eagles, while Brown, selected No. 59, played eight.

“I think we’re all a product of our experiences. Obviously those guys played for us in the Super Bowl (in 2004), and I think that (then-coach Andy Reid) has always done a great job of being a year ahead,” Roseman said. “I think that’s one of the lessons that I got to learn from him working with him, (and) for him. I think from our perspective, obviously that’s always in the back of the mind when we’re making picks. But at the forefront of it is guys who can help the football team right now.”



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The Eagles moved all over the draft board on the second day, executing three different trades. They moved up to take DeJean 40th overall by giving up the Nos. 50 and 53 overall selections, as well as No. 161 in the fifth round, while also getting the Nos. 78 and 152 picks in return. They moved down twice after that, though, eventually picking No. 94 in the third round to take edge rusher Jalyx Hunt out of Houston Christian.

Hunt, who also played at Cornell before transferring, could be a bit of a project. He seemingly won’t be expected to jump into a starter’s role right away.

“He’s got freaky tools in his body,” Roseman said of the 6-foot-4, 247-pounder. “He’s an explosive guy. He’s doing things that are unique — he can bend, he can close, he can finish, he’s long. … We’re going to develop him, like we talk about. This is a perfect developmental guy for us because of the tools in his body, his work ethic and his character.”

The Eagles have seven picks remaining for Saturday: Nos. 120, 123 and 132 in the fourth round; Nos. 152, 171 and 172 in the fifth round; and No. 210 in the sixth round.

“We’ll sleep on some things, and then we’ve got a group meeting at 10 o’clock (Saturday),” Roseman said. “We’ll bring in all the scouts, we’ll bring in all the coordinators, and we’ll just have a passion meeting. We’ll say to the scouts: ‘You work your asses off all year. Tell us right now who you think you want to put your name on.’”

(Photo of Cooper DeJean: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

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