The Eagles are in a deal-making mood right now. They re-signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson and guard Evan Mathis, and handed shiny, new contract extensions to offensive tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole. They even went out and traded for a big-ticket middle linebacker (DeMeco Ryans).

Will LeSean McCoy be next?

As almost everyone in Philadelphia knows, the 23-year-old All-Pro running back is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him only $600,000 this season. He wants a new deal and the Eagles want to give him a new deal. The dilemma, as it was last year with Jackson, is agreeing on a price.

On the plus side, McCoy doesn't have some of the issues that complicated the Jackson negotiations. He doesn't have two concussions on his medical chart, and he doesn't weigh less than a Rhodesian ridgeback.

He's been extremely durable, averaging 20 touches a game the last 2 years. And unlike the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Jackson, he's been consistently productive, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and scoring 24 rushing touchdowns in 2010-11, including a league-best 17 last year.

On the minus side, well, he's a running back, which isn't a good thing to be if you're looking for an NFL team to send a Brinks truck to your house and fill your swimming pool with dead presidents.

"The hardest position to sink long-term money into is running back because it has the shortest shelf life," former NFL executive Andrew Brandt said. "There's a graveyard of bad contracts that were given to running backs over a certain age going back to Eddie George, Corey Dillon, Jamal Anderson and Shaun Alexander."

The Eagles know a little something about that. In 2007, Brian Westbrook led the league in yards from scrimmage. The next summer, they gave the then-28-year-old running back a contract extension that included $13 million in guaranteed money over the next two seasons. Westbrook's rushing and receiving numbers dropped significantly in '08. In '09, concussions and knee problems caught up with him and he started only seven games and had 86 touches. He was released after the season.

Of course, McCoy is considerably younger than Westbrook was when he got that extension. But he's still a running back.

"There's no question the running back position has been devalued," said agent Mike McCartney, who negotiated Arian Foster's 5-year, $43.5 million deal with the Houston Texans this month. "The way the passing game has evolved in the league, it used to be a two-back, vertical passing league. It's now a three-wide, four-wide horizontal passing league. The spread offense is here to stay, and it's clearly impacting the running- back position."

Foster has rushed for 2,840 yards and 26 touchdowns over the last 2 years. Those numbers are right in the same ballpark as McCoy's, who rushed for 2,389 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2010 and 2011.

The $8.7 million-a-year average on Foster's new deal puts him third among the league's running backs, behind only the Vikings' Adrian Peterson ($14.3 million) and the Titans' Chris Johnson ($13.4 million). But it pales in comparison with the mega-deals given to players at other positions. So does his $21 million in guaranteed money.

"There's a mentality in a lot of personnel departments that, 'We'll just get one wherever,' " McCartney said. "But there's a big difference between a good running back and a great running back."

You have to read the fine print to find the true value of a player contract in the NFL. Total dollars mean nothing since the last couple of years of a deal usually are make-believe, put there to make the agents look good. Guaranteed dollars are the key to a contract.

Even then, what you see isn't always what you get. There is a "hard" guarantee, money guaranteed for both skill and injury. And there is a "soft" guarantee, money guaranteed for injury only. Agents usually fail to mention that when they do a deal.

Peterson's 7-year, $100 million contract, which he signed last September, includes $36 million in guaranteed money. But only $20.5 million of it is guaranteed for both skill and injury. Johnson's 4-year, $53.5 million deal, which he also signed last September, includes $30 million in guarantees. But initially, only $13 million of it was a hard guarantee. Since then, another $8 million has been converted to a hard guarantee.

The other three running backs whose contracts will influence McCoy's negotiations belong to the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (5 years, $43 million; $21 million guaranteed; signed last July), Foster ($20.75 million guaranteed) and the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch (4 years, $31 million; $18 million guaranteed, much of it for injury only, signed this month).

In case you were wondering, the fact that Drew Rosenhaus represents McCoy is actually a good thing for the Eagles as far as the chances of completing a deal. There is a misperception that the man who likes to call himself "The Shark," - I prefer "The Snake" - is a tough negotiator. Truth is, the guy's all about the commission. He deals in bulk. With 200-plus NFL clients, he wants to get a deal done and move on the next one.

Just look at the questionable contract he negotiated this month for Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowler who got only $15 million in guaranteed money. Agents all over the league are having a good laugh over that one.

In fact, last fall, McCoy fired Rosenhaus twice, before eventually rehiring him. According to a source close to McCoy, part of it had to do with the fact that Rosenhaus was doing nothing for the running back off the field as far as marketing and endorsement opportunities. But a much bigger reason was the fact that Rosenhaus tried to persuade the running back to accept a $6 million-a-year contract offer the Eagles were dangling in front of him.

While the Eagles want to get McCoy signed and avoid the risk of yet another case of Unhappy Player Syndrome, they know they are in the driver's seat in the negotiations. He's under contract this year and could be franchised in 2013 and 2014 at a very affordable number.

Two comparable running backs to McCoy - the Ravens' Ray Rice and the Bears' Matt Forte - both were franchised this offseason. If they don't sign long-term deals, they'll play for the franchise number, which is $7.7 million. Best guess right now on the franchise number for running backs in 2013 is only $8.4 million.

"I would think there's a good chance they'll get a deal done," one agent who represents Eagles players told me. "Howie [general manger Howie Roseman] doesn't want to go through another situation like he went through with DeSean. You've got running-back contracts out there to use as a guide. Williams, Foster and Lynch. Peterson and Johnson. This isn't rocket science.

"LeSean is in a tough spot. That $600,000 number [McCoy's 2012 base salary] makes it tough for him. At some point, he will need to ask himself, 'Do I really want to roll the dice when they're offering me $19 million to $20 million in guaranteed money when I'm only making $600,000 and they could franchise me for $8 million next year?'

"He's got a contract. He can't hold out. If he holds out, we know the Eagles aren't the kind of team that caves. So I think something will get done by the start of camp."

So does Brandt.

"A player like LeSean seems to just be entering his prime," he said. "He's an ascending player rather than a descending player. So I think there would be more of a willingness to make an investment in him than, say, there was with Westbrook later in his career."

This and that

Thanks to last year's rule change moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, 45.1 percent of kickoffs in the league resulted in touchbacks in 2011. That's up dramatically from the year before, when the touchback percentage was only 17 percent. Falcons president Rich McKay, who co-chairs the league's competition committee, acknowledged that was probably "7 to 8 percent higher" than the league projected. But he said there has been zero sentiment to move kickoffs back to the 30. "That [change] was made for one reason only and that was player safety," he said. "Looking at the results of it, it achieved its objective. Concussions and injuries were down [on kickoff returns]. As much as 40 percent on concussions. We knew quality-of-gamewise, it would have some impact. But we were still committed to doing it. There's been no push at all by any team or anyone on the [competition] committee that we should change the rule."

During Sheldon Brown's final couple of years with the Eagles, there was occasional speculation about him moving from cornerback to safety because of the Eagles' need for help at that position and Brown's run-support ability. Well, it looks as if it finally could happen this season. The Browns, who acquired Sheldon in a trade after the '09 season, are considering such a move. Brown, who turned 33 this month, is one of the toughest, most durable athletes I've ever covered. He hasn't missed a game since the Eagles drafted him in '02. He once played an entire season with a sports hernia and never gave any indication that he was hurt.

According to Forbes, the Eagles' Jeff Lurie is the NFL's 11th richest owner, with a worth of $1.1 billion, which essentially is the value of his football team. The Seahawks' Paul Allen is the league richest owner. He's worth $14.2 billion.

Quick hits

You want to know the real reason Roger Goodell came down so hard on the Saints for Bountygate? Take a walk down to the federal courthouse in Philly and peruse the lawsuits filed by more than 400 ex-players charging the league with negligence and deception over the long-term effects of concussions. Goodell and the league hope that if they mention enough times how important player safety is to them, they might be able to sway a potential jury. If Bountygate had surfaced 5 years ago, the league would have fined Gregg Williams $50,000 and moved on.

When the Eagles cut down to 53 players next summer, don't be surprised if no fullback is on the roster. Owen Schmitt was on the field for only 16.7 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps last season. Late in the year, the Eagles lined up Brent Celek in the "I" in front of LeSean McCoy a couple of times. And they frequently lined up Celek and their other tight end, Clay Harbor, in the backfield in three-wide receiver shotgun formations. Andy Reid figures if it's good enough for Bill Belichick, it's good enough for him.

I'm secure enough in my manhood to admit that, yes, I watch "Dancing With the Stars." I also like listening to Barry Manilow. You got a problem with that? Anyway, I'm here to tell you that the NFL's latest "DWTS" contestant, Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, is one helluva dancer. Might even take home the Mirror Ball Trophy before it's all over.

Jamie Dukes is an idiot. The NFL Network finally is starting to make some smart decisions regarding its on-air hires. I even like the guy with the big ears. But Dukes is the Bad Analyst Who Won't Go Away. Even the people on the air with him don't quite know how to react when the former Falcons offensive lineman offers up his crazy opinions, like suggesting this week the Colts might want to draft Robert Griffin III over Andrew Luck if they're going to focus on rebuilding their defense because Griffin "can do more things" with less talent around him. Huh?

Pro Day stuff

Brent Celek's brother Garrett, a 6-4, 245-pound tight end, did well at Michigan State's Pro Day earlier this month, running a 4.69 40 and recording a decent 34-inch vertical jump. Celek was a lot more athletic than many scouts thought. He figures to be a third-day pick in the draft (Rounds 4-7).

Scouts were impressed that Andrew Luck opted to throw into a strong wind at Stanford's Pro Day on Thursday. Threw a duck early, then spent the rest of his workout looking like a guy who will be the first pick in the draft.

Two quarterbacks who have yet to work out for scouts are Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler. Both are recovering from foot injuries. Tannehill will work out Wednesday and Osweiler will go Thursday. A good workout could solidify Tannehill's chance of going third or fourth in the draft behind Luck and Griffin.

LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne had surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. It shouldn't affect Claiborne's draft stock. He caught the ball well in position drills at LSU's Pro Day on Thursday and still figures to be the first corner off the board.

It just keeps getting worse for Arizona State linebacker Vontage Burfict. He managed only 16 bench-press reps at ASU's Pro Day last week. The only notable linebacker in the draft who had fewer reps was Miami's Sean Spence, with 12. Boston College's Luke Kuechly, who will be the first inside 'backer off the board, did 27.



"I had no idea what to expect going into free agency. When 4 o'clock hit on the 13th, I thought, 'Is it time for my phone to ring now?' Nothing was happening, so I had no idea what was going on. Howie [Roseman] played it real smart. He was kind of like waiting on eBay until the last second so that he didn't bid the price up."- Guard Evan Mathis on re-signing with Eagles

"I'm shocked. It's too severe, and I 100 percent don't agree with it. To lose your head coach for a whole year? That's essentially an $8 million fine against Sean. That's wrong. Drew Brees will stay in New Orleans, step up and rally the troops, but this is going to cripple the Saints." - Fox studio analyst Jimmy Johnson on Saints coach Sean Payton's 1-year suspension for Bountygate

"Once we started talking, I almost asked him to marry me."- new Giants tight end, Martellus Bennett, on Giants tight end coach Mike Pope.

"I think if you tell me Mike Smith is on the hot seat, then find a hot seat on the North Pole. That's as hot a seat as he's on. That perception is about as far from the truth as you can get." - Falcons owner Arthur Blank on coach Mike Smith's job security

"He's a great kid. If I want somebody to marry my daughter, it'd be him." - Broncos president John

Elway on Tim Tebow


According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles' Brent Celek led all NFL tight ends in yards after the catch in 2011. Celek averaged 8.0 yards after the catch, which was more than any tight end with at least 10 receptions. The Bucs' Preston Parker led all wide receivers in yards after the catch, averaging 7.9 on 40 receptions. The Falcons' Julio Jones was second at 7.8. The YAC average for the Eagles' wideouts: Jeremy Maclin (4.4), DeSean Jackson (4.3), Jason Avant (3.5) and Riley Cooper (3.4).

Scoring in the league was the highest in 46 years last season. NFL games averaged 44.6 points.

Viva la parity! Last year, 48.8 percent of 256 games were decided by seven points or fewer. In addition, seven of the league's eight divisions had new champions in 2011.

Eighteen times last season a team came back to win after trailing by 14 points or more.


Contact Paul Domowitch at and follow him on Twitter @pdomo.