The Eagles have only two starters set to become a free agent after this season, with defensive tackle Bennie Logan expected to be the most attractive on the open market.
Logan's last game under contract is Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. A 2013 third-round pick, Logan joined the starting lineup midway through his rookie season and has started 50 games in an Eagles uniform. At 27 and playing a valued position, Logan could be due for a lucrative contract once free agency opens in March. He said Thursday his priority is remaining with the Eagles more than testing the market.
"I've been around here for four years," Logan said. "I have a great relationship with these guys. And I enjoy playing next to Fletcher [Cox], Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin. Just a relationship we have. Trying to start over and do something new is not something I'm looking forward to because I enjoy being here, the city and everything. This is where I see myself at."
Logan's answer is not unusual for pending free agents, especially when they are in good graces with their employer. Logan is a valued member of the Eagles and has carved a role in the locker room and the area. The Coushatta, La., native even became a Flyers fan.
However, money is often the most powerful inducement when free agency begins. Logan said he does not talk about his contract during the season and deferred comment on negotiations to his agent.
"I grew up having nothing," Logan said. "The money thing would be good and everything, but I just enjoy playing football, and I enjoy playing next to the guys I've been playing with for four years."
Logan has 23 tackles and career-highs of 21/2 sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 games this season. He was mostly a run-stopper in his first three years, playing nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. But he's been allowed to pass rush more this season in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. His value in the trenches is not always seen in statistics, especially against the run, where his 6-foot-3, 315-pound frame is valuable.
Logan's production was affected the last two seasons by mid-season injuries, but Schwartz cited the way the Eagles played without Logan as a sign of how important he is when healthy.
"He's been a consistent player," Schwartz said. "He's made a lot of plays. The plays that I've been most impressed with him have been plays that he's made down the field. He's hustled. . . . When you are a 300-pound guy, effort is a big thing. When you are making plays versus the pass down the field, I think in some ways that's every bit as valuable as making a sack. Three-hundred-pound guys hitting smaller guys have chances to force turnovers. He's been consistent against the run. He hasn't got a ton of sacks, but he's been effective against the pass."
Logan said he has no preference about what scheme he'll want to play, although he likes being able to pass rush as a 4-3 defensive tackle. His ability to play in both defensive fronts will make him more attractive on the open market. Logan thinks he is close to becoming one of the NFL's top defensive tackles.
"I'm coming into being one of the best," Logan said. "I'm not quite there yet. I've still got some development to do, and things I need to work on in the offseason. But I think in a year or so, I'll be there."
The Eagles are expected to undergo roster maneuvering to create salary cap flexibility, but money will be tight on the defensive side. Fletcher Cox signed a six-year, $103 million contract last offseason, and Vinny Curry inked a five-year, $47.25-million deal. Defensive ends Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham also have big salary cap numbers next season. Barwin will count $8.350 million against the salary cap, and Graham will count $7.5 million.
Barwin, 30, would be a candidate for a restructured contract or to be released. He also expressed a desire to stay in Philadelphia, and he understands he needs more production if he returns for a fifth year with the Eagles.
"I expect to be here," Barwin said. "I know it's something everybody is talking about. Hopefully we work something out. . . . I've got about $4 million in park projects that I want to be here for. . . . But really, this has become my home. I love living in this city. I have a lot of respect for [Jeffrey] Lurie, my teammates that are here, the different neighborhoods I've been involved in, the guys who have played here before me, the guys who play here now. I think it's a great honor to play for this organization. And I want to be here when we win to be part of it."
If the Eagles cannot keep Logan, they'd have a big hole on the defensive line. Eagles executive Howie Roseman said in November that they want to keep Logan in Philadelphia and that he's a "fiber guy" who fits the draft-and-develop philosophy that the Eagles crave. But the challenge with that philosophy is what happens when the player becomes a free agent. Logan hits the market in March unless the Eagles can re-sign him in the next two months.
"Right now, I'm just enjoying it," Logan said. "And whatever happens, happens. If I'm here, I'm going to be happy. And if I'm not here, I'm not going to take it personally or anything like that. Because you can never overlook that this is a business. . . . Hopefully we'll get things done, and I'll be here."
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) was the only player who didn't practice. Left guard Allen Barbre (hamstring) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (ankle) were both limited.