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, they discuss the Eagles’ playoff chances, the repercussions of Alshon Jeffery’s injury on rebuilding the wide receiver position, Zach Ertz’s future as an Eagle, why the salary cap is going to soon take a dramatic jump, and why there isn’t going to be a line around the block to interview for the Redskins’ vacant head-coaching position:
Domo: Let’s start with your take on Monday night’s come-from-behind win, both the good and the bad.
Banner: The good is simple. They won the game and showed some resiliency and determination. On the other hand, we still saw the same problems for most of the game that they’ve been having. That said, the rest of the schedule may afford them the opportunity to get away with those problems and still win the division.
Domo: OK, let’s say they do win these last three games and win the division. Given their injury situation at wide receiver, there’s no way they could possibly win a playoff game, is there?
Banner: It’s going to be tough for a number of reasons, the receivers as they now sit being one of them. We’ve talked about this before. Most teams in this situation, at least as we perceive their talent, would be utilizing the running backs in the passing game on a more consistent basis. They finally did that late in the Giants game, but it was almost like it was a last resort. They need to exploit that more here.
Domo: Alshon Jeffery is out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. He’s probably looking at a lengthy rehab that likely will take him into next season before he can play again. That pretty much assures that the Eagles are stuck with him and his onerous contract, right?
Banner: You can’t cut a player while he’s injured. And if he’s not healthy enough to pass a physical before his money is due or becomes guaranteed, then you own his contract. Given the severity of his injury, the chances that he could pass a physical before the beginning of next season are very small, if not zero. My initial thought was that they would just deal with [the ramification of] his contract and move on and get somebody more dependable at the position. This makes that just a little bit trickier because of when he may be able to pass a physical.
Domo: Looking ahead, what do you see as a higher priority for the Eagles in the offseason right now – cornerback or wide receiver?
Banner: It’s not an either-or thing. They’re going to have to address both areas, including making some tough decisions on the people they have there this year. We used to believe and I still believe, watching good teams in the league, you can’t have a weakness. You can have some positions where you have players that are just kind of solid. But other teams in the league, especially when you get to the playoffs, are too good and too smart, so that any spot where you have a really true weakness can get exploited. At the moment, in my mind, they have that at both wide receiver and corner.
Domo: The Eagles have signed a few of their top players, including Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, to contract extensions. They clearly would love to add Zach Ertz, whose current deal runs through 2021, to that list, but that hasn’t happened. Word is Zach’s asking price is pretty steep and he’s content, if the Eagles don’t meet it, to wait for the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, who also has a deal through 2021, to set the new tight-end market. Your thoughts on that from both his side and the team’s.
Banner: The bad news from the team’s side in my opinion is if you’ve got top players, players you feel are going to be integral over the next three years, it’s going to be a lot cheaper signing them now than at any date going forward. I mean, obviously within reason. The ask could be so aggressive that that becomes false. But generally that would be a true statement, and they’ve done a good job of signing some people early before we see the market move. But if I were representing Ertz, I would do what it sounds like he’s planning on doing. I would wait and maximize my leverage and hopefully have the deals at my position get done that need to get done to reset the market. If that doesn’t happen, he can just reset the market himself. But that [tight-end] market is way below where it should be. And whoever of the top players does the next deal should be much, much higher than the previous deals. Not just moderately higher, but much, much higher.
Domo: Can you see any way that they let him walk after 2021?
Banner: Assuming he stays healthy and continues to play at this level, that’s a guy that I’m sure they’ll pay what it takes to keep.
Domo: At the beginning of the season, a lot of people, including myself, believed the Eagles were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. That’s not looking likely right now. Can it be next year?
Banner: [Andre] Dillard needs to be able to step in and play left tackle, or that will be a very big problem. But assuming he can, and assuming they upgrade the wide-receiver position in the offseason, there are a number of pieces in place that are good enough to win a Super Bowl. Their lines should be strong. The tight-end and running back positions are strong. Wentz, despite his struggles this season, is a very good quarterback. The defense is good enough if they can either get better up front or stronger at corner. These are all doable things. They have the money to do it. They have draft picks. They maybe even have some young guys that they feel are on a developmental path that we haven’t really seen enough of to know whether they’re right or wrong. If you’re strong on both lines and strong at quarterback, that at least assures you of being good. Now you’ve got to do some other smart things to get to great. But they’re within range and they’re going to have the resources to do those other things.
Domo: Let’s talk about the salary cap. You’ve mentioned a number of times that it’s going to take a significant jump once a new CBA is signed. How is that going to happen? What new revenue streams can we expect to see in the NFL money-printing business?
Banner: First of all, the CBA is not to be understated. Even a few-percentage-point increase on the share the players get will add many millions of dollars per team to the cap. So it starts with that. The TV contracts, I believe, will increase, but probably modestly. But there will be new opportunities in things like streaming and how they utilize Red Zone and maybe a 17th [regular-season] game, maybe an extra playoff game. Those are big-dollar items. A playoff game, just the TV rights alone for a playoff game, not even counting the other marketing opportunities and attendance at the game and everything else, is huge. And a 17th game would obviously increase the TV deals. Streaming opportunities will be added to the media revenue the league already has that they’ve just started to tap into. But there’s no doubt it’s going to be an explosive market. The other major thing is, once the Los Angeles stadium complex opens, assuming the teams are fairly successful in selling the inventory, a piece of every dollar that’s generated by that stadium, about half of that will go straight to the cap as well.
Domo: The Redskins are looking for a new head coach. Given the ineptitude of the organization, starting with its meddling owner, Dan Snyder, how difficult is it going to be for them to find someone competent?