Philadelphia Eagles Who Are Playing for a New Contract and What the Future Holds
The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t dabble a whole lot in free agency this offseason—much to the chagrin of some observers—but with good reason. While the club is in good financial health at an estimated $18 million under the salary cap, according to Spotrac, the Eagles will be happy to roll that leftover money into next year.
That’s because there are a number of players on the team who will be up for new contracts next year. Of course, you have your impending free agents, some of whom will be retained, others allowed to depart. Then there are the kids who will be coming up on the final year of their rookie contracts and will be eligible to negotiate an extension for the first time.
By my count, the Eagles have no fewer than four young players they will likely attempt to lock up for the long-term next offseason, in addition to three upcoming free agents to consider. Who are they, and what is likely to happen in what is either essentially or literally a contract year?
It’s a safe bet Nick Foles is going to come back down to earth a little bit in 2014.
That’s not to say he couldn’t have an excellent season or even lead the league in passer rating again. The man threw 27 touchdown passes to only two interceptions, though. Nothing like that has ever been done before—not even close. I’m not sure it will ever happen again, either.
Even assuming Foles doesn’t enjoy another historic campaign, my guess is he’ll be wearing midnight green for years to come. A quality starting quarterback is a hard thing to come by in the NFL, and at the very least, Foles has proved himself as that through 16 career starts.
Unless he seriously regresses in his first full season as a starter, Foles will be up for a huge contract extension next offseason when he enters the final year of his rookie deal. If the contract Colin Kaepernick signed with the San Francisco 49ers in June is any indication, Foles could receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million per year on a long-term pact.
Even if Foles has something of a down year in ‘14, an extension of sorts could be in the works. What it boils down to is the Eagles' need to commit to Foles or start over under center. At this point, it would probably take a lot for the Birds to consider going in a different direction.
Jeremy Maclin could’ve broken the bank in free agency this offseason. He reportedly turned down a five-year deal from the Eagles as well. Maclin is thinking bigger picture.
While Maclin told Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com that he doesn’t feel like he has anything to prove, actions speak louder than words. At the very least, Maclin is out to prove he’s fully recovered from the torn ACL that erased his 2013 campaign. It wouldn’t hurt if Maclin proves he can serve as a team’s No. 1 receiver, either.
This will be the first season since he was selected 19th overall in the ’09 draft that Maclin won’t line up opposite DeSean Jackson. In other words, it’s a chance for Maclin to step out from the three-time Pro Bowler’s shadow.
In four healthy seasons, Maclin never quite eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving—though he’s come close, posting 70 receptions, 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. With Jackson out of the picture and in head coach Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense, there’s no reason why Maclin couldn’t improve upon those numbers this year.
At which point, Maclin will be 27 years old and likely worth a heck of a lot more than the $6 million he ultimately re-signed for. Let’s just hope his season isn’t so good that he prices himself out of Philadelphia.
Fletcher Cox quietly had a very good 2013. While his sack numbers declined from 5.5 in his rookie season to just 3.0 last year, according to PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Cox led the team with 21 quarterback hurries.
Let’s not forget, this was while Cox was learning an entirely new position. A converted defensive tackle, Cox had lined up at end before, but never in a 3-4 alignment. The responsibilities are completely different. Traditionally, it’s not a flashy position that’s going to produce big sack numbers.
Cox held his own despite being dropped into a new world. On top of remaining an effective pass-rusher, he was also stout against the run.
Cox did fade down the stretch last season, likely a result of overuse. According to the game-charters at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Cox played on 75 percent or more of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps in 10 of their last 12 games including the playoffs—a heavy workload inside the trenches.
The Eagles added depth during the offseason, which should help keep Cox fresh for a full 16-plus games. While a team operating out of a traditional 4-3 could theoretically get more out of the 12th overall pick from the 2012 draft, Cox held his own just fine in ’13, and only stands to improve now that he better understands his role.
While he’s not likely to become a player who pushes double-digit sacks in the Eagles defense, Cox could be the recipient of a nice long-term extension next year, the final year of his rookie deal. He’s still the best defensive lineman they have, flashing enough potential to possibly anchor the unit for years to come.
Mychal Kendricks had some terrific moments in his second NFL season en route becoming one of the top all-around playmakers on the Eagles defense. The 2012 second-round pick finished with 106 tackles, 4.0 sacks, four passes defenses, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
That being said, Kendricks still looked a little rough around the edges at times. His needs to work on becoming a more sure tackler—though he got better in that department as the year went along—and he still can be exposed in coverage with some frequency.
The reality is Kendricks might have some limitations due to his size, particularly in coverage. At 6’0”, 240 pounds, it’s simply difficult to compete with some of the bigger tight ends who can be upwards of six inches taller.
However, the flip side to that is there is no denying Kendricks possesses rare athleticism. According to NFL.com, he clocked in the 4.4-second in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, which is unbelievable speed for an interior linebacker.
Kendricks is always going to be a guy who makes plays all over the field due to that ability, and that’s a good weapon to have. Whether he’s going to develop into a lockdown defender in the middle of the Eagles defense is still a bit of a question mark.
Then again, with DeMeco Ryans turning 30 this summer and no real prospects in the pipeline, Kendricks looks like an important piece of Philadelphia’s future. As long as he continues showing a knack for making impact plays, you have to figure he’s in line for an extension in the offseason as he approaches the final year of his rookie contract.
One of the most pleasant surprises in 2013, Bradley Fletcher was the Eagles’ best cornerback outside the numbers last season. Signed as a free agent from the St. Louis Rams, Fletcher finished tied for 17th in the NFL with 15 passes defensed despite missing two games with injuries. Anecdotally speaking, it’s difficult to recall many instances where he didn’t have tight coverage.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Fletcher was a fairly under-the-radar addition. Even the Eagles Twitter feed didn’t seem to know who he was, mistaking him for "Fletcher Bradley" when he signed a two-year contract.
An ’09 third-round pick, Fletcher had been pushed out the door in St. Louis after he lost the starting job and the franchise invested a pair of first-round picks in corners. With their own secondary in disarray, the Eagles pounced on the opportunity to add a stopgap with starting experience.
Now entering the final half of his two-year contract, it’s debatable whether the Birds will be interested in bringing Fletcher back on a new deal. He’ll be 29 next season, and the front office added Nolan Carroll from the Miami Dolphins and Jaylen Watkins in the draft this offseason—not to mention Cary Williams will still be under contract.
That’s not to say unequivocally that Fletcher could not return, especially since Williams could be a cap casualty. However, it seems likely Philadelphia will continue moving forward with younger players at cornerback, regardless of what type of season Fletcher has.
The Eagles eventually re-signed Nate Allen to a one-year contract a week into free agency, but only after the club’s rumored flirtation with Mike Mitchell ended. Eliot Shorr-Parks for NJ.com reported the Birds had interest in Mitchell, but he eventually inked a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So Allen returned to Philadelphia, where he started all 16 games at safety in 2013. However, it’s hard not to get the feeling the team is trying to move on.
To begin with, Allen was made no promises about keeping his job in the secondary. For the second year in a row, he’ll compete with Earl Wolff, a 2013 fifth-round pick. The Eagles used another fifth-rounder in May on Ed Reynolds, who isn’t expected to be ready this season but could be in the mix next summer.
And, of course, the team’s big free-agent signing was former New Orleans Saint Malcolm Jenkins, who is penciled in to start at the other safety spot for the next few years.
Allen seemingly erased his draft-bust label with reliable and gradually improved performances last season, particularly over the second half. However, he didn’t make many impact plays, recording just one sack, one forced fumble and one interception. If that’s his ceiling, you can see why the Eagles are searching for more.
Perhaps Allen will continue to grow in defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ scheme. Who knows, he might even start living up to the second-round pick the team invested in 2010. At this point in time, though, it appears the organization views Allen as little more than a stopgap, which means he could be testing free agency again next year.
Brandon Boykin’s contract situation will be by far the most interesting of all to follow.
On one hand, Boykin has quickly developed into one of the best playmakers in the NFL. Last season, he tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions—while only playing 50 percent of the defensive snaps, mind you.
Therein lies the problem, though. General manager Howie Roseman has been on the record with Reuben Frank for CSNPhilly.com that the team views Boykin as a slot specialist. They have no intention of giving him more playing time.
That leaves two questions. One, is Boykin content with his smaller role in the defense? Boykin tells Frank he is confident in his ability to play on the outside, and having seen it with my own eyes during training camp, I don’t think he would be completely exposed in that role.
Two, what is a slot specialist worth in dollars to the Eagles? Even if Boykin agreed to remain the No. 3 cornerback, he’s playing that position at a Pro Bowl level. Should he be paid as one of the top corners in the game?
It’s going to be a difficult battle, one in which Eagles fans should be anxious about how it could play out. Fortunately, Boykin has this year to play out before they can even begin talking extension, plus an additional year on his rookie contract.
However, looking down the road, there has to be some concern over how that situation will play out. If Boykin is committed to starting or even hopes to break the bank, he may eventually be forced to go elsewhere to make it happen.
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