Good morning, Eagles fans. Well, with the season opener against the Washington Football Team just 26 days away and the “acclimation” portion of training camp in the books, the Eagles finally will get to put on their pads this week and start hitting each other.
NFL teams are allowed 14 padded practices over the next three weeks. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said last week that he will have “eight or nine’' padded practices, including a pair of scrimmage-type sessions.
“I typically have two days where it’s more of a controlled-live, tackle-to-the-ground sort of practice,” he said. “I’m going to stick to that schedule. I’m going to stick to two days of having situational, scrimmage-type practices. I feel like it’s a great way to get our guys prepared for game situations, game action.”
Pederson didn’t reveal what practices will be padded or when he will have the two scrimmage-type sessions.
There were a couple of big signings around the league last week, with tight ends Travis Kelce (Kansas City) and George Kittle (San Francisco) agreeing to huge extensions. More on that and the impact those signings could have on the futures of Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert below.
— Paul Domowitch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Two of the league’s top tight ends hit the jackpot last week. George Kittle signed a five-year, $75 million extension with the 49ers, and Travis Kelce agreed to a four-year, $57.2 million extension with the Chiefs.
Time will tell what impact those deals ultimately will have on the Eagles’ two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
Both Ertz and Goedert have two years left on their current deals. Ertz, who had 204 receptions and 14 touchdown the last two seasons, is in the fourth year of a five-year, $42.5 million extension that he signed in 2016. Goedert is entering the third year of his four-year rookie deal.
The Eagles have had discussions with Ertz’s agent, Steve Caric, about a contract extension, though not recently.
Caric and Ertz wisely decided to wait for Kittle and Kelce to set the salary bar for the position rather than do a deal that they knew quickly would get outdated.
Ertz never has said he’s better than Kittle or Kelce. But he made it clear in a Zoom call with reporters two weeks ago that he considers himself “in that upper echelon, in that same tier,” with the two of them.
“I don’t mean any disrespect [to them],” he said. “I’ve never been in the business of comparing people. But I feel all of three of us are at the top of our games and are perfect in the offenses we play in.”
In other words, he feels his next deal should be in the same financial neighborhood as Kelce and Kittle’s.
Ertz’s pass-catching numbers over the last two years are every bit as good, and in many instances, better, than Kelce’s and Kittle’s. He has more overall receptions. He’s been more productive in the red zone. The three have nearly identical third-down numbers.
Does he have the after-the-catch explosion that those two do? No. But his “in that same tier” claim certainly is legitimate.
Ertz, who will turn 30 in November, doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to finish his career in the same place he started it. “My goal is to be like Kobe Bryant,” he said two weeks ago. “Play for one organization my entire career. I’ve made that known.”
The Eagles would like that, too. “Our goal is to keep homegrown players here,” general manager Howie Roseman said in January.
Ertz’s desire to stay in Philadelphia likely would impact his asking price to a certain degree. In other words, he’d take less to remain an Eagle. But not a lot less.
The problem for the Eagles, if you want to call it that, is that Goedert, a 2018 second-round pick, is quickly emerging as a potential star, and he’s also going to be looking for a big payday.
The Eagles typically invest heavily in their offensive and defensive lines, which they have long believed are the keys to winning championships, along with a franchise quarterback.
According to overthecap.com, 36.8% of their projected cap space in 2021 will be taken up by their top five defensive linemen. Their five projected offensive line starters will take up another 22.5%.
And then there’s Carson Wentz, who is scheduled to take up 16.1% of the Eagles’ cap next year when his 2021 cap number jumps to $34 million. That’s more than 75% of their cap space taken up by 11 players.
Given all of that, can the Eagles realistically afford to give mega-contracts to both Ertz and Goedert? And do they want to?
The Eagles wouldn’t have made the playoffs last year without Ertz and Goedert. Definitely wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl three years ago without Ertz.
With their top three wide receivers missing a total of 24 games last season, the Eagles used two- and three-tight end sets 56.3% of the time. Ertz and Goedert combined for 146 receptions, 1,523 yards, and 11 touchdowns and accounted for 38.6% of the Eagles’ passing first downs.
While head coach Doug Pederson has acknowledged that the Eagles’ two-tight end sets “have been a productive personnel group for us,” he clearly would like to use more 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers), much like he did in 2017 when the Eagles employed 11-personnel 65.1% of the time on the way to the Super Bowl title.
The Eagles drafted three wide receivers in April draft, including Jalen Reagor in the first round. They still are bullish on 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and found an inexpensive keeper in the slot late last season in former practice-squad player Greg Ward.
The development this year and next year of those players will go a long way in determining Pederson’s long-term offensive philosophy.
And whether the Eagles give a big contract to one tight end or two.
How’s the offensive line shaping up? Is there a need or concern there, or are they fine? — Dave DiPalma (@DoubleD1458)
It’s still too early to make any judgments about any unit. But the offensive line appears to be in good shape. Losing Brandon Brooks, who is one of the two or three best guards in the league, was a blow. Jason Peters has never played inside, but I don’t think he’ll have any trouble with the transition. A bigger question with him is whether the 38-year-old nine-time Pro Bowler will be able to stay healthy. Their new left tackle, Andre Dillard, has added 20 pounds of muscle, which should help him immensely this season. And they’re in pretty good shape depth-wise.