Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A during the season with The Inquirer’s longtime pro football writer, Paul Domowitch.
This week’s conversation:
Domo: The Eagles gave Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks a four-year, $54.2 million contract this week. Your reaction?
Banner: We did the exact same thing the last time the CBA was getting ready to expire. Let’s compare it to the stock market. If you say the stock market is at 2000 right now, and you knew for an absolute 100% fact that in a couple of years it was going to be at 3000, you would buy as much stock as you could afford right now.
And that’s the reality in the league right now. Once the new CBA is done, once some of the new revenue streams from scanning and stuff like that comes in, it’s going to be the equivalent of basically a guaranteed higher stock market.
If you take a player of Brandon’s caliber, and like everybody there’s injury risk and risk of play deterioration, up against the benefit of getting what a couple of years from now is going to be not only a very good financial deal for him but also for the Eagles, it becomes a no-brainer.
Somebody just asked, is he worth $16 million [a year]? You could have a healthy debate about it, and I might even come down on the side of no. But if you say, as you look forward over the next few years and where we know the cap is going, the term an investor would use is I’m getting to buy the stock really cheap with a high-quality person playing a position that they identify as very important.
So I think it’s a very smart move and one that’s very consistent with their philosophy. Unless there’s a major injury issue, it should turn out to be a very, very good deal.
Domo: That said, might they do a few more deals? Maybe Zach Ertz or Jordan Howard or Malcolm Jenkins?
Banner: The answer to that question is in the hands of the agents. Any player that the Eagles think very highly of, who is high-character, who is willing to do even a moderately reasonable deal right now, they’ll scoop up and do.
Remember, they were finding ways to create extra cap room earlier and people were speculating why. This is the why. They know that the market is going to go up, and quite dramatically in the next couple of years. So why not buy, to borrow a Bill Parcells reference, as many groceries now before the prices go up, as you possibly can.
I don’t know if it’s Ertz or Howard or somebody else. But I’m willing to believe that if they can get contracts with quality players that once the market resets in a couple of years will look like very good deals for the teams, they’ll do it.
Domo: OK, let’s move on to Sunday’s game. Do you like Eagles’ chances against the Patriots?
Banner: I’m not going to go as far as saying “like,’’ but I think they have a much better chance than people think. They appear to be getting on track. And I risk sounding like a real moron by saying this, but I think the Patriots are somewhat overrated. I didn’t say the Patriots aren’t very good. I said they are somewhat overrated.
I think their defense is very good. But I think it looks better than it actually is because of who they’ve played. I think their offensive line is creating huge problems for them. Problems they haven’t seen in a very long time. And there are ways to exploit that.
Certainly, the Patriots are the favorites. They should be the favorites. They’re more likely to win the game. But I definitely don’t go into this, as some seem to be doing, thinking [the Eagles] can’t win. I think they have a chance to be competitive in the game.
Domo: Do the Eagles need to win one of these next two games against the Patriots and Seahawks to make the playoffs?
Banner: I was no to that question when they were 1-2, and I’m still saying no. While it certainly would help to win one of these next two games, even if they don’t, they’re going to win the division.
Domo: The Eagles passed on Jadeveon Clowney when Houston was shopping him earlier this season. They also passed on wide receiver Josh Gordon after the Patriots waived him. The Seahawks, who are 8-2, gobbled up both. Clowney quickly has become a difference-maker on their defense, and Gordon had a couple of catches in their win over the 49ers Monday night and could be an important cog going forward. As I recall, you felt the Eagles should’ve been more serious about trading for Clowney. But you felt Gordon was just too big a risk because of his off-the-field problems. Still feel that way on both?
Banner: Yes. Josh was just too big a risk. His ability had nothing to do with it. He’s a very talented player. But Clowney is a guy who could determine who wins the Super Bowl at a position that they were a little bit thin at.
I didn’t say they should’ve run out and absolutely got him at any price. But for me, the Clowney thing was worth a serious conversation. [Finding out] what exactly the cost was for a player like that essentially on a one-year deal. Part of the deal was an agreement that you wouldn’t tag him. So he was in as motivated a position as you could put a player in.
And he’s making a huge difference with the Seahawks. He might be playing the best he’s played in his career. Take the team the Eagles have right now and add Clowney. How much better would they be? A difference-making player. A highly, highly motivated player at a crucial position. And he’s having a huge impact.
Domo: DeSean Jackson’s decision to try to rehab his core muscle injury rather than have surgery right away ended up backfiring. Should the Eagles have encouraged him a little more strongly to have had the surgery? Or was there nothing they really could’ve done?
Banner: Hindsight is 20/20. I agreed with what they did. Mostly it was up to him. You can talk to him all you want and tell him what you think. But you can’t tell him he has to have the surgery. He obviously had other people giving him advice who agreed with his decision to try and rehab it.
When they put together the team and were thinking about how can we compete with the top teams, DeSean was an important part of the plan. He ain’t there now, and that’s going to make a big difference.
I’m sure he realizes he made a mistake. I’ve had that surgery. It’s not pleasant rehab, but it’s not a horrible rehab. You have it, you suck it up for a couple of weeks, and you’re back pretty quick.
Domo: I don’t think DeSean had ever had any surgery before. Do you think that played into his reluctance to have it done initially?
Banner: That’s a good question. There’s definitely a psychological difference if you’ve been through surgery itself and the anesthesia, been through the rehab. You realize you don’t want to do it if you can avoid it. But you also realize it isn’t as daunting as it may seem.
Domo: Give me your biggest first-half surprise.
Banner: San Francisco. I’ve worked with Kyle Shanahan. I believed in Kyle Shanahan and thought he’d be a very good coach. But he’s a year ahead of where I thought he would be. I thought they’d be a good, solid, moving-up-the-ladder team, as opposed to a team that I do not think will win the Super Bowl for a variety of reasons, mostly [Jimmy] Garoppolo being good rather than great. But they’re clearly in that upper echelon of top-tier teams in the league.
Domo: What makes Kyle so good?
Banner: Everybody calls it a copycat league. But a couple of the most obvious things to copy haven’t been copied in 20 years. Kyle’s running his father’s offense with some really smart tweaks to it, and it’s been a really tough offense to stop.