This should be a great time to be Leonard Weaver and Jason Avant. Both are having breakout years. Both are in the final years of their contracts with the Eagles. Both should be red-hot commodities in the 2010 free agent market.
There's only one problem. Unless the owners and players unexpectedly shake hands on a new labor deal in the next 3 1/2 months, which is about as likely as Tiger and Elin Woods renewing their wedding vows, neither Weaver nor Avant will have enough years of service to qualify as unrestricted free agents.
If there isn't a new collective bargaining agreement by March, the salary cap goes away in 2010. And if the cap goes away, the requirement for unrestricted free agency jumps from 4 years to 6 years.
Weaver is in his fifth NFL season. Avant is in his fourth. Both would be restricted free agents if 2010 is uncapped.
"It's a major, major negative for fourth- and fifth-year veterans," said an NFL agent who represents several players in that category. "If you just look at the lack of activity in the restricted free-agent market in previous years, it's clear that being unrestricted has a dramatic impact on your value. And both the agents and clubs know it."
Weaver's situation is a really strange one. The guy was an unrestricted free agent last March when he signed a 1-year deal with the Eagles. Now, if there's no new labor deal, he'll be only a restricted free agent, which means the Eagles would have the right to match any offers he receives, which means he probably won't be receiving any other offers.
The Eagles have 14 players whose contracts will be up after this season. Four - safety Sean Jones, linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Tracy White, and defensive end Jason Babin - will be unrestricted free agents regardless of what the years-of-service qualification is. Two others - linebacker Akeem Jordan and Sav Rocca - will be restricted free agents regardless.
The other eight - Weaver, Avant, linebackers Chris Gocong and Omar Gaither, offensive linemen Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles, tight end Alex Smith and injured cornerback Ellis Hobbs - would be unrestricted free agents under the current terms of the CBA, but restricted free agents if 2010 is uncapped.
Eagles president Joe Banner said he is proceeding as if 2010 will be uncapped.
"All you can do is follow the rules that are in place right now [for an uncapped year]," he said. "Whether that turns out to be the case or not, for the moment, you've got to assume that. If it turns out differently, you just have to quickly adapt and do what makes sense."
"The [cap] system is set up so that you can't keep everybody. So we'll have to go through all the names and prioritize them and determine who it makes sense to sign and who it makes sense [not to sign]. You may be up against the cap. A lot's going to depend on what that cap is. Nobody knows that."
Upon further review
NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said the league is seriously considering making clock controversies, like the one late in the first half of Sunday's Eagles-Giants game, reviewable in the playoffs next month.
To refresh your memory, after Michael Vick put the Eagles up, 30-17, with a 1-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left in the half, Moise Fokou recovered a fumble by the Giants' kick returner, Domenik Hixon, on the Giants' 32-yard line. There still were 2 seconds left on the clock when Fokou was downed by the Giants' Bryan Kehl. But the clock continued to run and the half ended.
The Eagles complained to referee John Parry, but he told them - correctly - that the clock isn't reviewable.
Pereira said the reason the league has been reluctant to use replay in clock controversies is because it was never sure that the clock on the television screen was completely accurate.
"The networks will have a small clock at the top of the screen somewhere," he said Wednesday during his weekly "Official Review" segment on NFL Network that looks at controversial calls from that week's games. "That's not always accurate, even though it's synced to the scoreboard clock. You can see that [TV] clock will sometimes skip. And we were always leery of getting to the end of the game and whether you could rely on that clock."
On Sunday night, NBC showed the actual scoreboard clock during the play, which clearly indicated that the Eagles recovered the ball with 2 seconds left and should have been allowed to run a play, which would have been 50-yard field goal attempt by David Akers.
The other networks also assured the league this week that they designate a camera to the game clock, and in many cases, the play clock as well.
"That makes me very comfortable," Pereira said. "If you have that [the actual scoreboard clock] on the screen, then I think it could be reviewable. But without that guarantee, which we really haven't had, that's why we haven't made it reviewable."
From the lip
** "The guy's a bum. Dirty and always will be. Really wish I was playin' right now. Seriously. I know we're in need of offensive line [help]. But this guy [stinks]." - Injured Bills LB Kawika Mitchell on his team's signing this week of offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who was recently named the league's dirtiest player in a survey of players by Sporting News
** "Is it a trap game? A trap game? We're in the last part of the season and trying to position ourselves to do what we need to do game by game. How can you have a trap game? There is no such thing as a trap game this late in the season." - Broncos S Brian Dawkins when asked if Sunday's game against the 4-9 Raiders was a trap game
By the numbers
** DeSean Jackson, who has 10 touchdowns this season (seven receiving, two punt returns and one rushing), is averaging 61.3 yards per score. That's the highest one-season TD average in NFL history for players with a minimum of 10 TDs. The current record is 50.6 yards per TD by Harlon Hill of the Chicago Bears in 1956.
** Since being benched in Week 6, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has a 92.3 passer rating, 11 touchdowns and just six interceptions in seven games.
** In 13 games, the Chiefs still have not scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter.
** Brett Favre needs just three touchdown passes for his ninth career 30-touchdown season. That would be the most in NFL history. With one more TD pass, Peyton Manning will move into second with five 30-TD seasons.
** During their eight-game win streak, the Chargers have outscored opponents, 59-10, in the first quarter.
** Texans WR Andre Johnson notched his 13th 10-catch, 100-yard game last week against the Seahawks. Only two players in league history have more 10-100 performances - Jerry Rice (15) and Marvin Harrison (14). Rice played in 303 games. Harrison played in 190. Johnson has done it in just 99.
To former running back Warrick Dunn, who has joined the Falcons as a minority owner. Dunn, one of the game's finest men, played for the Falcons from 2002-07. He was the '04 winner of the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his longtime community service, which includes his Homes for the Holidays program. Dunn has helped 91 single parents and their children buy their first home.
To Redskins owner Dan Snyder for his rapid-fire hiring of former Bucs and Raiders executive Bruce Allen as his new football operations vice president. I've got two problems with this. One, Allen is a barely - and I mean barely - more competent talent evaluator than the boob he's replacing, Vinny Cerrato. Two, the Redskins announced the hiring of Allen less than 2 hours after Cerrato's long-overdue resignation was announced. Makes you wonder how earnestly Snyder complied with the league's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one African-American candidate for coaching and front-office positions. He probably brought in Bob from accounting and Frank from marketing for 5-minute interviews right before hiring Allen, who will fit in nicely as Snyder's newest yes man.
To the NFL owners' Super Bowl advisory committee, of which the Eagles' Jeff Lurie is a member, for giving preliminary approval to the Meadowlands Stadium Company to bid for the 2014 Super Bowl. Hey, I have no problem with putting Super Bowls in cold-weather cities, as long as those cold-weather cities have a dome to play the game in, like Indianapolis, which is hosting the 2012 event. The Giants' and Jets' new palace in the North Jersey swamp doesn't have a roof. More than a quarter-century ago, the Eagles' late owner, Leonard Tose, came up with the crazy idea of trying to convince his brethern to play the '87 Super Bowl in Philadelphia. Gave it his best shot, but couldn't get enough votes. The game was awarded to Pasadena, Calif. The day of the game, a foot of snow fell in Philly. What are you thinking, people?
Paul Domowitch's Rankings
1. Colts (13-0)
2. Saints (13-0)
3. Vikings (11-2)
4. Chargers (10-3)
5. Packers (9-4)
6. Eagles (9-4)
7. Bengals (9-4)
8. Patriots (8-5)
9. Broncos (8-5)
10. Ravens (7-6)
11. Cardinals (8-5)
12. Titans (6-7)
13. Giants (7-6)
14. Cowboys (8-5)
15. Dolphins (7-6
16. Jets (7-6)
17. Niners (6-7)
18. Falcons (6-7)
19. Jaguars (7-6)
20. Texans (6-7)
21. Steelers (6-7)
22. Panthers (5-8)
23. Bears (5-8)
24. Redskins (4-9)
25. Bills (5-8)
26. Raiders (4-9)
27. Seahawks (5-8)
28. Chiefs (3-10)
29. Browns (2-11)
30. Lions (2-11)
31. Rams (1-12)
32. Bucs (1-12)