Former Eagles president Joe Banner has been doing a weekly Q&A during the season with The Inquirer’s longtime pro football writer Paul Domowitch.
In our season-ending wrap-up, Banner discusses Malcolm Jenkins’ and Zach Ertz’s contract situations, the Jason Peters dilemma, the Mike McCarthy hiring in Dallas, and Tom Brady’s pending free agency:
Domo: Malcolm Jenkins has one year left on his contract. He’s scheduled to make $7.6 million next season. He said Monday that he will not return under his current deal. You said earlier this season that you thought the Eagles would quietly do something with Jenkins at a time when it didn’t look like they were being pressured to give him an extension. But that didn’t happen. Why has this lingered? And how do you think it’s going to play out?
Banner: The only explanation for why something hasn’t gotten done with him is because they may not want to. That would be a mistake in my mind. He’s still a key player on that team, and leadership is really crucial, and they have some of their leaders who are at risk of not being a part of the future.
I still think the best solution is a short-term extension with a signing bonus that’s paid up front so that he actually, from a cash perspective, makes a lot more than than $7 ½ million next year. I actually think this is an instance where the player means what he says. I think they’re going to have to find a way to address it if they’re going to bring him back. He’s making half of what the top-paid safeties in the league are making at this point.
So I think they’re going to have to deal with this, and I think the player has a little more leverage dealing with it now under these circumstances than if they had done something in-season kind of quietly and short-term.
Domo: Let’s move on to another one of their leaders, tight end Zach Ertz. He has two years left on his deal. They tried to sign him to an extension during the season, but the two sides weren’t really close on the numbers. Their other tight end, Dallas Goedert, already has emerged as one of the league’s top tight ends in just his second season and also is going to be looking at a significant raise in the next year or two. Zach has made it clear he wants to stay in Philly, and Howie Roseman said Wednesday that the Eagles’ goal is to keep their home-grown players. But do you see any way they’re going to be willing to invest the kind of money and cap space in the tight-end position that it would take to keep Ertz and Goedert together long-term?
Banner: I don’t think they will pay both of them top money going forward. But they’re still two years away from having to face that if they really want to push the envelope on it. I think they’re going to be very focused on improving the weapons they have for [Carson] Wentz next year. So the thought of them not bringing back his best weapon [Ertz] in 2020 is inconceivable to me. I think this is one of those situations that they can just leave exactly as it is for another year at least before they address it.
Domo: Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Peters said after the Seattle game that he wants to play another year or two. I don’t know if that pronouncement came as a surprise to Howie or not, but how do you expect the Eagles to handle it?
Banner: This is one of these situations that is really, really challenging if you’re in a front office. I mean they obviously drafted somebody [Andre Dillard] with the expectation that he would be replacing Jason, probably not as a rookie, but next year.
I think Jason still is playing at a solid level and he stayed relatively healthy. But he’s not what he once was. He’s been an outstanding Eagle. He’s a Hall of Fame player. He’s been a phenomenal leader. He’s been totally unselfish. And now they have to decide whether to have him move on, and if so, how to do it in the most respectful, reasonable way. Or bring him back for one year and just delay moving on.
I’m glad I’m not in their position right now. It’s a challenging situation. I’ve dealt with some that we’ve gotten right, and I’ve dealt with some that we’ve gotten wrong. You really, really want to have things end in a positive way with a player like that who’s done so much for you and has been so talented.
Domo: What are your thoughts on the Cowboys’ hiring Mike McCarthy as their new head coach? A good move?
Banner: You can check the box on knowing you’re getting someone who’s a very strong leader, is very well organized, and who can really run a program. At least that’s my belief. But he’s got to hire the right staff if he’s going to be really successful. He’s got to get a good offensive coordinator in there. Somebody who will be to him what Frank Reich was to Doug Pederson.
As far as his defensive coordinator, it looks like he’s going to hire Mike Nolan. There was a time when I considered Nolan a good defensive coordinator. Not necessarily a great one, but good. But he hasn’t been in that position for a long time. And he’s coached it both ways. He’s been kind of an aggressive coach, and he’s also been not quite as aggressive. I think if McCarthy gets the aggressive version of Nolan, the guy that coached back in Baltimore before he became a head coach, I think it could be a heck of a hire. If he’s getting the guy who in recent years was a little less aggressive, then I’m not completely sold on that hire.
Jerry [Jones] doesn’t think of his head coach the way most people do. He doesn’t really care about getting someone who’s going to make an impact on the X’s and O’s part of the game and is going to create an advantage scheme-wise. He’s looking for a solid leader who is compatible with him and that can really run the coaching staff and manage the game.
Assuming he has good coordinators on both sides of the ball, I actually think that’s what Mike is really good at. So, I’m fairly positive about the hire. But I’m going to reserve judgment until after I see the staff he puts together.
Domo: What if Mike wants to be his own offensive coordinator?
Banner: He can call the plays, but running his own offense and doing all of the installations and all of the game-planning and everything else like that, I don’t think that was his strong point in Green Bay. And there’s only a few coaches who can successfully manage both being the head coach and being on top of everything during the game, and also calling the plays. I think he’s better if he can find a really good partner who can help him on offense.
Domo: Tom Brady is a free agent. Do you think he’s played his last game for the Patriots?
Banner: I think not, and I hope not. And not because I’m pulling for the Pats. It just seems that there are certain players, based on what they’ve achieved, who should finish where they’ve started. I have trouble thinking of other places where he could go that would be a better situation than the Patriots. It may be that he’s holding his decision a bit to actually see what they’re prepared to do on the offensive side. To make sure he has a better chance than he did this year to be successful, as opposed to really looking or thinking he’s going someplace else.
Domo: Tom and Bill Belichick have achieved unparalleled success together. Do you think either of them would like to prove that he can win without the other?
Banner: I’m sure that thought has crossed both of their minds. Everyone who is successful has an ego to a degree. And I don’t use that word as a negative. I’m sure Belichick would love to prove that, while he was unbelievably lucky to have Tom and cherished every minute of their time together, that he can win without him. And Tom may have the same thought.