The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Saturday that they traded cornerback Brandon Boykin to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the draft choice can become a fourth-rounder based on Boykin's playing time. Let's walk through a few things to know about the deal.
1. Philadelphia's veteran exodus continues
Boykin is just the latest Eagles veteran to be jettisoned by Chip Kelly this offseason, joining LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Nick Foles, James Casey and Cary Williams, among others.
2. Steelers getting some serious slot skills
Boykin, who is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, has emerged as one of the NFL's best slot cornerbacks over the last two seasons. He's one of just 11 corners to play at least 50 percent of his team's snaps in the slot in each of the last two seasons.
He has a very high opinion of his play, and rightly so. "It's two years running with this story and it's getting real old for me, and I'm just going to continue to be the best slot in the NFL," he said in early June. "I feel like I am. I feel like my statistics show that and that's what I'm focused on."
If Boykin's not entirely correct, he's really close. Only Chris Harris has held quarterbacks to a lower passer rating while in the slot over the last two years than Boykin, and Boykin's seven picks are as many as the next two highest players (Harris and Buster Skrine) combined.
Boykin, though, has also been very vocal about his desire to play on the outside in addition to the slot, something he did not do very often in Philadelphia. Boykin, who stands 5-foot-10, played 820 snaps in coverage over the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus, and was in the slot on 727 (88.7 percent) of those snaps.
"I think here they have certain requirements. I think we should be honest and call it what it is," Boykin said in June. "Maybe they want a taller guy to be outside and that's what their preference is just to start the standard. And I'm sure there are some exceptions. There's a reason why I'm still here."
3. Chip Kelly's way or the highway
Based on Kelly's previous stances toward players who openly disagree with how he runs the team, it would not be a surprise if Boykin's voicing his desire to play on the outside factored into his being traded. He was rumored to be a potential trade chip all the way back as far as the lead-up to the NFL Draft.
4. Secondary upgrade addresses Steelers need
The Steelers had one of the NFL's worst pass defenses last season, as they ranked 23rd in completion percentage allowed, 27th in passing yards allowed per game, 28th in yards per pass allowed, passing touchdowns allowed and opponents' passer rating and 30th in Football Outsiders' passing defense DVOA.
Pittsburgh drafted Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, but those were the only significant imports made at the position. Incumbents Cortez Allen – who struggled badly in the first season of a four-year, $24.6 million contract – and William Gay returned, but neither of them was very successful in coverage last season. Boykin will likely be the best corner on the Steelers from the moment he hits the roster.
5. Low-cost acquisition, but what will it cost to keep Boykin?
Boykin is the seventh player to be traded for a fifth-round pick this offseason, following Brandon Marshall, Mike Wallace, Ben Grubbs, Jeremy Zuttah, Jonathan Casillas and George Johnson. All but one of those players is at least 29 years old, though, and Boykin is still just 25. He likely has more room to grow than any of them, and he's already near the top of the list (with Marshall and Wallace) in terms of pure football talent. The Steelers got themselves a very nice deal here, provided they can lock Boykin up long-term at a reasonable price.
By way of reference, Harris – the only slot-heavy corner to allow a lower QB rating than Boykin over the last two seasons – signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract that contained $24 million in guarantees and a $10 million signing bonus. That deal was widely viewed as a great one for the Broncos, but it's doubtful Boykin earns a contract as large as Harris, who has already shown the ability to play all over the field that Boykin wants to show off.
Skrine, meanwhile, signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Jets that contained $13 million guaranteed and a $5 milllion signing bonus. Boykin has largely outperformed Skrine during their careers thus far, so a deal somewhere north of that would probably make sense, based purely on performance.
However, if you judge Boykin's value by the fact that he was just dealt away for a conditional fifth-round draft choice, it seems probable he won't be getting a deal larger than Skrine's before this season starts. If he has another season like his last two, though, he could garner himself an even bigger payday.