Philadelphia Eagles: Fact or Fiction with the Latest News Ahead of Free Agency
The Philadelphia Eagles just spent over $100 million in new contracts last week. So why do we get the feeling business is only about to pick up?
Because free agency in the NFL is little more than a week away, of course. Teams are allowed to begin contacting impending free agents starting March 8, and the marketplace officially opens for business on March 11.
It’s not just free-agent signings that are rumored to be in the works, either. There is talk of potential trades, releases to come and more as we inch closer to the start of the new league year.
As always, half the fun is trying to decipher fact from fiction this time of year. So with days to kill before the next round of news hits, we’re examining the latest stories involving the Birds, picking out fantasy from reality.
DeSean Jackson Available for Trade
The Eagles made it clear they view Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin as part of the team’s future with contract extensions last week, but do those deals send the opposite message to DeSean Jackson? Jimmy Kempski for Philly.com theorizes the return of both could make the three-time Pro Bowler expendable should the right offer come along.
Through six seasons with the organization, DeSean Jackson has provided the Eagles a very good return on investment. However, there is ample evidence that would suggest that now could be the time that the Eagles try to maximize their return on the back end of his tenure with the team, especially if indeed they have tired of his personality.
Kempski’s ample evidence includes the inordinate amount of salary-cap space Philadelphia has allotted to wide receiver—second-highest in the NFL by far heading into free agency—the fact that Cooper and Maclin were offered five-year contracts, Jackson feuding with his position coach, No. 10’s desire for a new contract and the forecasting of his inevitable decline.
All of those are true to some degree, and yet a move this offseason is still highly unlikely. A Jackson trade right now would carry with it significant risk.
If Maclin isn’t the same coming off of a torn ACL or suffers another injury, the offense would be left without anything close to resembling an ideal No. 1 and thin on receiving talent across the board. On a similar note, Maclin’s desire to sign a one-year contract this offseason leaves even more questions beyond 2014.
Jackson could be a candidate for trade, only probably not until next offseason. While he’s not likely to cause much of a stir this season, contract demands will undoubtedly be a bigger issue a year from now. And while Kempski suggests actively shopping a player hurts his value, let’s face it, these deals often don’t get done without some motivation on the seller’s part.
Kempski admits the Eagles won’t put Jackson on the block after a career year. In the meantime, it’s difficult to envision another team swooping in from out of nowhere with an offer the Birds can’t refuse.
Jason Avant on the Chopping Block
Regardless of what happens to DeSean Jackson, it does not appear Jason Avant is in the Eagles’ plans. Jeff McLane for the Philadelphia Inquirer has described the eight-year veteran’s release as “likely,” while Philly Mag’s Tim McManus points out the team will be compelled to reach a decision soon.
The Eagles will have to weigh all of that as they decide how to proceed. Complicating matters is that the veteran wideout is scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus, which kicks in the fifth day of the league year (March 15). They will need to either release Avant or restructure his deal before then to avoid incurring that cost.
A bonus of $1 million is not such a large sum that the Birds couldn’t pay it and change their minds later, but it’s certainly a deterrent. Plus, cutting Avant now as opposed to waiting gives him a better shot at catching on with another team, an opportunity management may feel it owes such a respected player.
With Jackson, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin all under contract, it seems the writing is on the wall for Avant. There simply aren’t enough balls to go around for all four to play prevalent roles in the offense.
Avant turns 31 this year, and his decline appears to have begun. Numbers-wise, 2013 was his worst season since ’08 with 38 receptions, 447 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles stand to save a little over $3 million by letting Avant go. While he’s been nothing less than an upstanding citizen and his leadership will be sorely missed, this is a prime example of the ugly business side of the NFL at work.
Eagles Could Make Offer to Jairus Byrd
Contrary to last week’s reports, the Buffalo Bills may not force free-agent safety Jairus Byrd to stick around after all. Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 now says the five-year veteran will not get slapped with the franchise tag after all, meaning Byrd could hit the market on March 11. Eliot Shorr-Parks for the New Jersey Star Ledger believes the Eagles will have interest.
Byrd is an ideal fit for the Eagles on many levels.
Signing Byrd would fill a major need for the Eagles, as they are in desperate need of a safety. Bringing in a Pro-Bowl caliber player certainly would fill that hole.
This story is a little tricky to give an answer to black and white as either fact or fiction. Of course the Eagles will have some level of interest in Byrd, as should any team that could stand to upgrade at safety and with the space under the salary cap to do it.
Where the disconnect would lie is in how much money the club is willing to spend on one free agent. Byrd is in position to ask for a long-term deal that makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL, and some franchise will be all too happy to oblige for the three-time All-Pro.
But would the Eagles? While general manager Howie Roseman has been careful not to rule out any option, he’s mostly tried very hard to temper enthusiasm. The term “stop-gap” has been thrown around this offseason, and according to Philly Mag’s McManus, agents are under the impression the Birds won’t spend big on one player.
Philadelphia obviously has a glaring hole at safety and is $21 million under the cap, according to EaglesCap.com. Byrd is not without risk, though. He’s battled injuries, and any contract is going to last well into his 30s.
Expect the Eagles to pick up the phone if Byrd is available, but the guess here is talks won’t go beyond that unless he’s willing to take less than record money to come to Philly.
Eagles Would Have Interest in Dion Jordan
The Eagles need an outside linebacker or two. The Miami Dolphins have one for sale, per CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. There's been a ton of speculation this offseason about Dion Jordan potentially being shopped by the new front office, and ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan believes Philadelphia is a sensible destination.
That’s relevant because of reports that the Dolphins are gauging Jordan’s value in a possible trade (ESPN's Louis Riddick mentioned this earlier this month and CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported it Friday).
At 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan personifies Kelly's archetype for an edge defensive player. The fact that Kelly basically said the Eagles would have taken him fourth will trigger speculation that the Eagles should go after Jordan now.
Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less. Speculation by Salguero of the pass-rusher’s potential availability dates back to January (h/t Brandon Lee Gowton of SB Nation's Bleeding Green Nation), so let’s suppose he can be had if the price is right.
It’s not a question of interest from the Eagles’ standpoint. Head coach Chip Kelly intimated a reunion with the Oregon product would’ve been possible at the 2013 draft, if only Jordan had fallen to the Birds’ pick at No. 4 overall, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today (h/t JP Starkey of SB Nation).
The only hold-up would be what Miami is asking for in a swap. The Dolphins would likely want the first-round pick they invested in return, perhaps more, whereas potential suitors are likely to view Jordan skeptically since the Dolphins are willing to part with him after just one season in the league. After all, he recorded just two sacks as a rookie.
It’s a conversation the Eagles would love to have, though. By no means is a trade likely, but the interest is there for sure.
Eagles Not Fully Committed to Nick Foles
Nick Foles finished 2014 as the league leader in passer rating, set an NFL record with a 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and helped guide the Eagles to a division championship. So why, as Jeff McLane suggests for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has the team not been stronger in their backing of Foles for the long haul?
If you’ve wondered why the Eagles haven’t climbed to the highest mountain to scream their devotion to Nick Foles, you aren’t the only one.
Howie Roseman was a little more emphatic about the team’s support of Foles, but the Eagles general manager and coach Chip Kelly have yet to say anything that equates to – “Foles is our quarterback. He’s our future. Period.” And people around the league are noticing, particularly some that are close to the third-year quarterback.
Foles is obviously the starting quarterback in 2014. And the Eagles can’t technically say he’s their long-term quarterback because he still can’t receive a contract extension. But the less-than-full backing suggests that Kelly and Roseman are still leaving themselves some wiggle room in case Foles regresses this season.
There’s little doubt the careful choice in words is by design. The Eagles are not permitted to sign Foles to a contract extension until next offseason after he’s completed his third year in the league, and with just 16 starts under his belt, it’s difficult to project where the 25-year-old goes from here.
No reason the organization should put all its eggs in one basket.
That being said, to suggest folks within the organization have given Foles any less than their full backing seems a bit disingenuous. Roseman in particular has been pretty adamant that the job belongs to No. 9 based on comments made to Reuben Frank for CSNPhilly.com.
There’s not an opportunity for a starting spot here.
I think that we have tremendous support for Nick. I think we’ve been unquestioned about Nick. Even when we talk about Mike Vick, that there’s not an opportunity for a starting spot here, I think that’s a reflection on Nick Foles and where he is in his career.
Barring a complete 180 in 2014, there’s no honest reason to think the Eagles intend to give Foles anything less than the full commitment of a long-term contract extension. Seeing as they can’t do that right now even if they wanted to, there’s literally nothing to read into this for the moment.