Happy July Fourth, Eagles fans. Football season is getting closer — the Eagles report to training camp three weeks from today.
This is an offseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will come every Wednesday until camp opens. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
The Eagles play the Saints in New Orleans on Nov. 18, but the Eagles will wear their home colors (green jersey) and the Saints will be in their road colors (white jersey).
The reason is because of a bet that took place in Orlando back in March.
Doug Pederson and Saints coach Sean Payton golfed together at the NFL annual meeting. They discussed some wagers in the golf cart and the jersey colors became an option. Pederson won the third hole to put the Eagles in green.
"I think Sean and I both got to the point where it was like: All right, we need to do something here," Pederson said this week on a conference call for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament July 13-15 at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Lake Tahoe, where Pederson and Payton are playing.
"We've got to play for something, and let's do something and we started talking about it. And we started talking about jersey colors. … I remember Sean saying, there's only so many things as head coaches we can control. And obviously we can control this. And I said, you know what? This is a great idea. … I was fortunate enough to win that bet."
Pederson shared the news later that day with Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman. Payton joked that he needed to figure out how to explain it to his higher-ups.
"It would be much easier to hand him $20 than to package up beignets and coffee from New Orleans," Payton said. " It made it a little bit more fun."
Payton needed to do that, too. Pederson won a bet for a "Taste of the City," so Payton sent New Orleans food to the Eagles staff.
Pederson, by the way, is 100 to 1 to win the American Century Championship. He enjoys the event, which he participated in last year. But believe it or not, it makes him more nervous than a fourth down in the Super Bowl.
"I'd much rather be on the sideline, fourth-and-goal at the 1, than swing in a golf club and hit a golf ball with that many people in watching this event," Pederson said. "I'm a little more comfortable in that role than swinging a golf club."
If you missed it last week, Nigel Bradham has been suspended for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
This is obviously a big loss considering Bradham's importance to the defense, and it's too soon to say how the Eagles will compensate for Bradham's absence. There is much riding on Jordan Hicks' recovery from a torn Achilles tendon. His status was already one of the key summer storylines, but it will be even more important with the Bradham news because the Eagles will need Hicks making the calls and stabilizing the middle of the defense.
The Eagles already have a competition to determine who will replace Mychal Kendricks. Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill are returning options, with Corey Nelson and LaRoy Reynolds both newcomers who could push for playing time. One of them will need to be the second linebacker with Hicks in the nickel defense when Bradham is suspended.
The Eagles could play more dime defense with only one linebacker on the field in the opener. If it's a three-safety package, Malcolm Jenkins is used almost like a linebacker.
There's much for Jim Schwartz to determine. But a position that was already unsettled now has more questions, at least for Week 1.
Running back Jay Ajayi switched agents this summer and is now represented by Drew Rosenhaus. This is behind-the-scenes news that does not necessarily capture fans' attention, but it's worth noting considering Ajayi is entering the final year of his contract and is set to be a free agent after the season.
The Eagles have a good relationship with Rosenhaus, who in the past year negotiated Tim Jernigan's contract extension and the new contract that kept Bradham in Philadelphia.
Ajayi will be an interesting player to watch because he is a talented young player and will be the team's top running back this year, yet the Eagles might not be compelled to pay big money to the running back spot. He could earn more money elsewhere. You can't rule out a new deal and the Eagles have shown a willingness to spend to keep their own up-and-coming players, but they know they can't keep everyone — especially with Carson Wentz eligible for a contract extension after this season.
The agent change is another move in what will be big year in Ajayi's career.
I like this question, and I'll go in more depth during the next few weeks to cover many of the new players. As for today, I'll look at three highest-profile additions:
Michael Bennett: In Bennett, the Eagles acquired a proven pass rusher and run stopper who can play on the edge and the interior. He's had at least five sacks in the past six seasons and has made three Pro Bowls. You'll see Bennett fit what the Eagles ask of their defensive ends – he'll attack upfield and he can move to an interior rush spot on passing downs like Brandon Graham did last season. Bennett will be part of the defensive end rotation, but he'll have a big role.
Mike Wallace: Wallace will take Torrey Smith's role in the offense, and he could be an upgrade as a vertical threat. He's averaged 15 yards per reception in his career, which ranks fifth in the NFL among active receivers with at least 400 receptions. And his big-play ability has continued in recent seasons, including eight catches of 50-or-more yards during the past two years. Drops were an issue in Baltimore last season – they were also a problem with Smith in Philadelphia – so that will be something to pay attention to this year. But he should be a starter on offense.
Dallas Goedert: The first-round pick provides size (6-5, 256) and receiving ability to the Eagles' No. 2 tight end spot. He wasn't known as a blocker during the pre-draft process, so that will be something to watch in the summer as he develops. But he showed how he can help in the passing game during the spring, and the Eagles will line Goedert up with Zach Ertz in two tight-end sets to put pressure on the defense in the middle of the field.