12 Early Winners and Losers of the Philadelphia Eagles' Offseason
The Philadelphia Eagles are still in the preparation stage for their 2012 season. The team finished free agency and the draft, and is now in the process of working the players in OTAs to get the roster down to the league expectancy of 53 players.
Along the way, a handful of players and even coaches and other members of the organization emerged as clear winners, while others came way in less-than-ideal situations.
Winner: DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson wanted more money, and he got it.
After struggling through the 2011 season, Jackson received a five-year, $51 million contract that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2016. Jackson is an immensely talented receiver who possesses otherworldly speed, but he lacks the physicality to go across the middle and be an effective receiver when he isn’t running a fly pattern.
Jackson will be bringing in $10 million per year, though, and he’s worth it because of the way he forces other teams to change their game plans. Opposing safeties typically play anywhere from 15 to 20 yards deep with Jackson lining up on the outside, knowing that his speed could cost them in a big way. This in turn opens up routes underneath for Jackson’s teammates, namely Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek.
Loser: Michael Vick
By drafting Nick Foles in the third round, the Philadelphia Eagles may or may not be looking at Foles as their quarterback of the future.
Foles will likely sit on the bench for at least two years before taking over the reigns from Michael Vick, at least assuming he is any good. But Vick will likely get hurt this year (he’s played all 16 games in a season just once), and that means Foles could see action in 2012. If he plays well, the Eagles may feel ready to go into 2013 with Foles as their starter, considering how much Vick is set to make next year.
That puts Vick more on the hot seat than ever in 2012, especially since the Eagles missed the playoffs last year and Vick’s injuries, inconsistencies and turnovers played a big factor in that.
Winner: Todd Herremans
The Philadelphia Eagles have had themselves an extremely underrated offensive lineman in Todd Herremans for many years, and his value to the team was never exhibited more than in 2011.
Herremans moved to right tackle after playing six years at left guard, and he thrived as the blindside blocker for Michael Vick. He also filled in at left tackle for one game when Jason Peters was injured, and that was his best single-game performance, according to Pro Football Focus.
Herremans will have an even greater role in the offense in 2012 with Peters out due to a torn Achilles tendon, and he will have all the opportunities to show how valuable he is. Factor in that he received a much-deserved three-year contract extension this offseason, and he emerges even more of a winner.
Loser: Jason Peters
Jason Peters enjoyed by far his finest NFL season in 2011, rating nearly twice as good as any other offensive tackle in the game, according to Pro Football Focus. He is stout as a run-blocker and as a pass-blocker, and no one in the league is better at getting downfield to block on screen passes.
Then Peters tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason, and actually re-injured it later, and this could set him back for quite some time. He is very likely to miss all of 2012, but the problem could be returning in 2013 at full strength.
History has shown that players that suffer Achilles tendon tears often have a difficult time returning as the player they previously were, and if Peters struggles in 2013, the Eagles may actually part ways with their All-Pro tackle.
The Eagles also signed Demetress Bell in the offseason to serve as a stopgap for Peters, but if Bell plays well in 2012 and Peters doesn’t seem to have recovered from his injury heading into 2013, who knows what will happen? Maybe the Eagles will move on from Peters and go with Bell.
Winner: LeSean McCoy
A handful of running backs have received lucrative contract extensions recently. Adrian Peterson was given $100 million over seven years, Chris Johnson received $53 million for four years and Jamaal Charles was handed $32.5 million over five years.
Add LeSean McCoy to the list, as he earned a five-year, $45 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
McCoy has been a phenomenal addition to the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense since the team drafted him in the second round in the 2009 NFL draft. He rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, scoring 20 touchdowns in all without fumbling the football more than once. Still just 23 years old, he was on the field for more snaps than any other running back in the game.
McCoy deserved every penny of that deal he got, and you could make a strong case that he even deserved more. He’s been remarkably durable, and few running backs in the game are as effective as he is both rushing and receiving the football.
Loser: Asante Samuel
The Eagles have been trying to trade All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel for two offseasons now, and they finally did so, shipping their prized corner to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round pick.
They knew they couldn’t get much, given Samuel’s age (31) and contract status (set to earn $10 million in 2012). But the fact that no team felt Samuel was worth more than a seventh-rounder has to be embarrassing for Samuel, a man who has made a handful of Pro Bowls and played in a handful of Super Bowls in his nine NFL seasons.
Samuel will go to Atlanta, and I can’t see him enjoying his time there. He was openly critical about the fact that the Eagles acquired both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha last offseason, saying if the Eagles don’t want his big-play skills, he will go elsewhere.
The problem for Samuel is that he will have to share time with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes in Atlanta, which is exactly the situation he wanted to avoid. I think Samuel is good enough that he will push Robinson to the slot and start opposite Grimes on the outside, but still, that’s not a great situation for Samuel.
Winner: Trent Cole
Philadelphia made sure to lock up its All-Pro defensive end, Trent Cole, in the offseason to the tune of a four-year, $55.25 million extension that will keep Cole in an Eagles uniform through at least the 2017 season.
Cole has been nothing short of one of the top five defensive ends in the NFL during the last several years, and he’s a stellar defender both against the run and at rushing the passer.
The Eagles now have one of the game’s best defensive lines with Cole, Jason Babin, Fletcher Cox, Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins, not to mention Vinny Curry, Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon and Brandon Graham rotating in.
Loser: Derek Landri
Prior to last season, the Eagles signed Derek Landri to a one-year contract and he responded with a stellar year. In limited snaps, Landri rated as the fourth-best overall defensive tackle in the game, according to Pro Football Focus, and he’s valuable both as a run-stuffer and pass-rusher.
Landri received just a one-year deal, though, for 2012, and that has him fighting for a roster spot given the depth that the Eagles have on the line, particularly the interior line. Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson will enter the season as the starters, with this past year’s first-round pick, Fletcher Cox, filling in as a valuable player in the rotation.
That leaves Landri and Antonio Dixon likely fighting for the final defensive tackle spot.
Considering the Eagles will definitely have Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham as their ends, that’s already a lot of spots on the defensive line. Phillip Hunt will likely make the team and Darryl Tapp could as well. That doesn’t bode well for Landri, who didn’t get near the contract he deserved this past offseason.
Winner: Evan Mathis
Like Derek Landri, Evan Mathis was signed to a one-year deal prior to 2011. He won the starting left guard spot in training camp and responded with a phenomenal season, rating as the single best offensive lineman in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Mathis still hasn’t given up a sack in 1,746 snaps since PFF was founded in 2008, and he’s a stellar run-blocker as well.
That’s a big reason the Philadelphia Eagles inked Mathis to a five-year, $25 million deal in the offseason, one that will keep him in a Philadelphia uniform through 2016. He will be a key element of a solid offensive line that should help the Eagles compete for the division again in 2012.
Loser: Brandon Graham
The Eagles passed on All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to select Brandon Graham with the 13th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft, and so far, Graham is exhibiting strong signs that he may be a bust. He has just three sacks in two seasons and he never really came back from his ACL injury at full strength.
Philadelphia is preparing itself to have arguably the NFL’s best defensive line in 2012—with or without Graham. Trent Cole and Jason Babin are a pair of Pro Bowlers at the end positions, and Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox give the Eagles probably the best trio of interior defensive linemen in the league. Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon round out the league’s best defensive line.
Simply put, if Graham wants to contribute, he better be good in training camp and preseason, because the Eagles have a lot of players willing to make some plays.
Winner: Andy Reid
Andy Reid will be back in 2012 and Joe Banner was fired. That round very clearly goes to Reid, who has had an off-and-on struggle with Banner regarding control and power.
Reid has been given his own way, as he was allowed to extend key players in DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole, while trading for DeMeco Ryans this offseason.
Reid’s contract only runs through 2013, but I predict he gets an extension soon. I think owner Jeffrey Lurie likes Reid too much to let him go, and I think firing Banner was his way of picking Reid over him.
Loser: Joe Banner
With Andy Reid being a winner, this makes Joe Banner a loser.
Banner was often seen as the penny-pinching president of the Philadelphia Eagles, a man unwilling to pay for any talent, and now he is finally gone. He will be allowed to remain with the team at a lesser position, but I can’t imagine that working out, and I think he may choose to leave on his own terms.