The Eagles enjoyed some rare positive publicity this week for "taking care of their own" and re-signing veterans Todd Herremans and Trent Cole to contract extensions even though they had 2 years left on their deals.
Although Herremans and Cole have been loyal soldiers who never griped about those outdated contract extensions that they signed back in 2006 and which probably factored into the decision to give them new deals, the team's motivations weren't totally altruistic.
The team also did it to help stabilize its salary-cap situation over the next few years.
A good many teams in the NFL are of the opinion that the league's salary cap, which barely budged this season, is going to jump dramatically over the next few years. The Eagles, who are as good as anybody at forecasting and managing the cap, don't share that opinion.
They think that increases in the cap over the next 5 years are going to be relatively modest, and they're planning for that. The cap numbers for both Herremans' and Cole's extensions stay relatively flat for the next few years.
Herremans' cap number for this season is $4.2 million. It rises to $4.3 million next year, back down to $4.2 million in '14 and up to $5.2 million in '15 and '16.
Cole's cap numbers for the next three seasons are $5.8 million (2012), $5.3 million (2013) and $6.6 million (2014). It will jump to $11.6 million in 2015, but at that point, Cole will be approaching 33, and depending on his production and health, likely would be either released or asked to restructure his deal.
There are several reasons why the Eagles think the cap isn't going to take a significant jump in the next few years. One is local revenue. They don't expect a lot of teams to raise their ticket prices, and they also think the ticket-sales problems that have plagued franchises like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders could hit other teams as well as more fans opt to stay at home and watch the game on HD.
Then there's the league's television money. Although it recently renewed long-term deals with its TV partners (through 2021 with ESPN, through 2022 with CBS, NBC and Fox), it has yet to be determined how the revenue from those deals will be distributed with respect to the cap.
The Eagles also are anticipating a fairly significant rise in the cost of player benefits, which also would affect the rate of increase in the cap.
"Our thinking [about the slow cap growth] is different than other teams' thinking," one Eagles executive said. "So in 2014, maybe you'll be writing a story about how the Eagles made a mistake, or maybe you'll be writing a story about how we were really smart and were one of the few teams in the league that realized that maybe the cap wasn't going to grow as much as speculated."
This and that
Todd Herremans and Trent Cole were two of four players from the Eagles' 2005 draft class that the team signed to early extensions in '06. The other two: wide receiver Reggie Brown and defensive tackle Mike Patterson. The Eagles obviously miscalculated on Brown. Patterson, who is recovering from brain surgery after a very good season last year, is locked up through 2016. Several former Eagles players who signed long-term extensions early in their careers, later openly regretted it. Not Cole. "To this day, I don't regret it one bit," he said. Said his agent, Rich Rosa: "The way I look at it, he was a fifth-round pick, and after the extension, he was a first-round pick a year later. You only play this game so long. When opportunities present themselves, the money that he made [from the extension] and the opportunity he was given back then, he doesn't regret it and no one in our office does. No regrets at all."
According to one NFL executive, the salary cap penalties against the Redskins and Cowboys didn't have as much to do with frontloading of contracts during the uncapped year (2010) as it did the structure of miscellaneous charges. In '09, the Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a 7-year, $100 million contract, including $41 million in guaranteed money. They traded him to the Patriots last July and stuck all of the cap charges for his guaranteed money in the uncapped year. "The way the system works," the executive said, "if you gave a guy like Haynesworth $40 million in bonuses and then get rid of him, at some point you're going to have to owe the cap $40 million. At some point, you're going to be charged for it if he's not on the team. What the Redskins did was get rid of Haynesworth and put the entire cap charge in 2010. If they had done it proportionately, they would have been fine. But to flush such a huge amoung into that [uncapped] year created a real imbalance to compete."
Quarterbacks will be going 1-2 in the draft next month with Andrew Luck being selected by the Colts and Robert Griffin III going to the Redskins, who acquired the second pick from the Rams. Could Ryan Tannehill make it 1-2-3? Considering the need-level for quarterbacks around the league, it's not out of the realm of possibility. The Texas A & M quarterback still hasn't worked out for teams because of a foot injury. But if he has a good workout, several teams are expected to call the Vikings, who have the third overall selection, about a trade-up so they can jump over the Browns, who have the fourth pick, and position themselves to possibly take Tannehill. The Browns tried unsuccessfully to trade up to No. 2 for Griffin. They now are saying they would be comfortable sticking with Colt McCoy as their starting quarterback, but nobody's believing them. "Tannehill's got everything you want," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "He's got size. He's got arm strength. He's a really good athlete. All you have to do is look at his tape as a wide receiver 2 years ago to see that. He's a big, strong, fast kid with a really good arm. What I don't like about him is he waits for routes to develop before he throws the football, and consequently, throws late into coverage and makes mistakes. And he's only got 19 starts, which isn't as many as you'd like to see from a high first-round quarterback. Typically, you'd like to see about 25 [college starts]. But he can play."
Evan Mathis signed with the Eagles last year because he wanted to play for offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Under Mudd, Mathis went from a journeyman who had made just seven starts in the previous four seasons to one of the league's better guards. Which is why I'd be shocked if he doesn't end up re-signing. If he does leave, don't look for the Eagles to go out and overspend on a replacement. Mudd is very high on 2011 fifth-round pick Julian Vandervelde, another smart (he speaks three languages), undersized (6-2, 300), athletic lineman who has a good grasp of Mudd's blocking techniques.
Mathis, last week, visited the Ravens, who offered him "a nice deal," according to multiple reports. Mathis was returning to his offseason home in Arizona to make his decision.
At some point, the Eagles are expected to add a veteran running back to back up Shady McCoy, along with Dion Lewis. One possibility is former Colt Joseph Addai. He obviously has experience running behind a Mudd line and is one of the league's top pass-protectors, a quality that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg value highly. Addai, who'll be 29 in May, missed four games last year with a hamstring injury and eight the season before with nerve damage in his shoulder. But he would be a good backup option.
There is an incorrect perception that the Eagles' red-zone offense was hideous last year. The nine red-zone turnovers, including six by Michael Vick, certainly were. But aside from that, their red-zone offense was pretty good. The Eagles finished 14th in the league in red-zone offense, converting 51.5 percent of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. Take out those nine turnovers and you're talking about a 59.6 percent success rate. In their last six games, the Eagles had an impressive 14 touchdowns in 21 trips inside the 20. Plaxico Burress? Gimme a break. Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek combined for 19 red-zone receptions and nine TDs last year.
Unless the Eagles come up with an alternative, I'd be in favor of moving linebacker Keenan Clayton to safety. Clayton was a safety at Oklahoma until being switched to linebacker after his sophomore year.
I'm convinced the Eagles will take a quarterback somewhere in the first four rounds of the draft. Although they are hopeful that Michael Vick will rebound with a strong season in 2012, what if he doesn't? The team doesn't have a financial commitment to him (guaranteed money) beyond this season. So they need a Plan B in case they decide to go in another direction in '13. It won't be Trent Edwards or Mike Kafka. Could it be Michigan State's Kirk Cousins or Wisconsin's Russell Wilson?
Contact Paul Domowitch at email@example.com.