Is Brent Celek's Contract Extension with the Eagles Too Much Too Soon?

Lou DiPietroAnalyst IDecember 3, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 08:  Brent Celek #87 of the Philadelphia Eagles catched an 11-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against Gerald Sensabaugh #43 of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on November 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

“The Philadelphia Eagles have signed Brent Celek to a six-year contract extension that will keep him in Eagle green until 2016. The extension could be worth up to $33m and contains $10.5m in guaranteed money—quite a haul for a man making the league-minimum $460,000 this season."

When I first saw the above news on Tuesday, I was happy. In only his third NFL season, Celek has exploded onto the scene and become the weapon everyone thought he could be. Following in a long line of excellent Eagle tight ends like LJ Smith, Chad Lewis, and Keith Jackson, that’s high praise.

But then I sat on it for a couple days, and something dawned on me.

Didn’t the Eagles do this a couple years ago with a guy named Reggie Brown?

Okay, before you scratch your head, yes, I think Celek has a lot more long-term value than Brown. And even though Celek had a really bad game against the Redskins last Sunday, this has surely been in the works for a long time.

But even if it had been working since his breakout game—a six-catch, 131-yard performance against Seattle last November—isn’t one year still too small of a sample size?

Apparently, Andy Reid doesn’t think so.

Let’s hope this one works out better than last time.

After all, when Reggie Brown signed his huge contract extension in November 2006, he looked like he would become the receiver the Eagles had been looking for since the Calvin Williams/Fred Barnett era.

Three years later he’s an afterthought, one that has 21 catches in the last two seasons combined.

Maybe the emergence of Kevin Curtis and then DeSean Jackson overshadowed him…but if they were that much better, what would the Eagles have seen in Brown in the first place?

Good question. But at least Celek can avoid that pitfall.

The Eagles only carry three tight ends at most, and right now they have only Celek and Alex Smith. Sure, Cornelius Ingram is on injured reserve, but after losing two straight years to torn ACLs, no one’s sure what the Florida product will bring to the table.

So Celek doesn’t have to worry about his spot…but will his production hold up?

Yes, he performed very well last season in LJ Smith’s absence, especially in the NFC Championship Game. And yes, he’s had a very solid season—hauling in 54 balls for 601 yards and five touchdowns.

But Celek is clearly Donovan McNabb’s third option at best, even lower when everyone is healthy.

As a disclaimer, I discount last weekend; the first Redskins game was Celek’s least productive by far, so it stands to reason that would happen again. Plus, he’s rumored to have torn thumb ligaments.

What I don’t discount, however, is that Celek’s two best games of the season came with Kevin Kolb at the helm. While McNabb looks to his receivers first and foremost, Kolb had no problem throwing to No. 87 over the middle.

The result? 16 catches, 208 yards, and a TD in two games—or roughly one third of his season total.

Maybe the Eagles are banking on the fact that Kevin Kolb is their quarterback of the future, and they wanted to lock up his favorite target before Celek fully emerged and priced himself out of their range.

Or maybe I’m overreacting, and I fail to see that Brent Celek is going to join the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates in the very near future.

I hope it’s the latter, because if Celek fails to reach the level that has to be expected of someone who just received what amounts to be a seven-year contract, the only thing anyone can say is “I told you so.”

Keep in mind that this is a man who has played all of 43 regular-season NFL games. Sure, he’s done well, but his career numbers (97 catches, 1097 yards, 7 TD) are just barely better production-wise than what Gonzalez put up last season alone.

If it still doesn’t seem like a risk to give him that much money now, just remember the other albatross that’s already on the Eagles’ roster—one that was also sculpted from being given too much too soon.

And if that’s not enough of a deterrent, perhaps you can ask the man who coached Celek in his senior year of college. That would be Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, a.k.a. the rumored top candidate to replace Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

You know Weis, right? He’s the guy who was given a huge contract extension after having huge early success, only to run the most storied program in NCAA football straight into the ground and get fired within five years.

Let’s hope Celek’s wings don’t get clipped just as quickly.


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