With LeSean McCoy's contract extension finished, and only one draft pick -- Fletcher Cox -- left to sign, the feeling around town is the offseason has officially come to a close for the Eagles. The front office is always tinkering with the back end of the 90-man roster they'll take to Lehigh, and a veteran safety could still enter the mix before the regular season gets underway, but Shady was the last of the headline grabbers.
Training camp is a couple months away though, and only so much can be gleaned about a football team from reading reports on OTAs, but fear not, armchair GMs. Next offseason is less than a year away, where another round of moves that will shape the direction of the franchise are right around the corner. We take a sneak peak at what hurdles possibly lie ahead for Eagles management once the 2012 campaign ends.
Extension for Jeremy Maclin
One of the staples of this regime has been locking their own talent into long-term contracts before the current deal expires, a move we saw plenty of this offseason. McCoy, Trent Cole, and Todd Herremans received the priviledged treatment this Spring, and it's most often applied to players nearing the end of their rookie deal, like Shady, and also Brent Celek mid-2010. Maclin would appear to be next on the list. The 19th overall selection in '09, he'll be turning 25 with one year remaining at season's end.
Exactly what kind of contract he'll be in line for has yet to be determined. Maclin is averaging 63 catches, 865 yards, and six touchdowns per season through three, which are solid numbers, though not quite star caliber. He's certainly flashed that kind of potential, hauling in 10 touchdowns during 2010, and his yards per game have climbed every year, from 50.8 as a rookie to 66.1 last year. Over a full 16 games, the latter equates to 1,057 yards. Perhaps all Maclin needs to reach the next level is a full season in good health, which he's experienced only once during his brief NFL career.
For all intents and purposes, this is a contract year for Maclin, so there is no time like the present.
Logjam at Left Tackle
The silver lining to Jason Peters' season-ending injury was the best free agent left tackle was still on the market, and because nobody else felt any urgency to sign Demetress Bell, the Eagles have him under a favorable contract. The problem is the terms of the deal will force a decision about the future of the position very early into the offseason.
The Eagles can cut ties on the remainder of Bell's five-year contract worth $35 million after just one season, but he's owed an $8.5 million roster bonus. We haven't located details on exactly when that takes effect, though it's typically on or around the first day of the new league year in March, which means to avoid paying that lump sum of cash, the team must release him before that date. It all sounds so easy, but will they have the confidence in Peters returning from multiple Achilles surgeries to dump Bell? The front office could also be in for a showdown with their All-Pro, whom they are taking $3.25M from to pay Bell's base salary in 2011, which apparently the front office is allowed to do because this was classified as a non-football injury.
The possibility certainly exists Bell's play won't warrant further consideration of his bonus, or they could pay it then attempt to trade him, move him beforehand, etc., but they can't afford to keep both tackles on the books going forward. (Well, maybe they can, but that would be more than a little ridiculous.) Maybe Peters will be the one deemed expendable, which would be a real shame considering how great he's been. Whatever the case is, unless they run into problems elsewhere on the line, one of the two should be gone.
Contract Dispute with Jason Babin
Unlike some of the other items on the list, this is purely speculative. Jason Babin is currently under contract through 2015, a free agent deal he and his agent negotiated just last summer. Ideally, he'll play that out for another year or two before making waves. The problem is he might be vastly outperforming what he's slated to receive. Babin finished 2011 third in the NFL with 18 sacks. He had 12.5 the season prior with the Titans. Another double-digit sack season would cement him as an elite pass rusher, while his contract would be anything but.
Babin's five-year deal was for just over $27 million, with just $4M in guarantees. He's slated to make $4.4M in '13, $6M in '14 and '15. That's a lot of change, but not comparatively speaking. Mario Williams just signed with the Bills for six years, $100 million, with $50 million guaranteed. That's basically three times what Babin will earn over the life of his deal, and while he's no Mario Williams, the discrepancies are all over the place. The Lions used the franchise tag of Cliff Avril this offseason, which guarantees one year at over $10 mil -- roughly the average of the five highest-paid ends in the league.
Babin seems like the kind of guy who has no problem speaking his mind, and while he followed defensive line coach Jim Washburn to Philly, and despite having a far more extensive history of non-production, players averaging 15 sacks per season usually want to be paid in a manner reflective of that status. Could be trouble on the horizon.
Renegotiate with DeMeco Ryans
If Ryans is everything he is cracked up to be, the $6.8 million per year he's owed between 2013-15 may not be an issue next season. On the other hand, if he's lost a step, the Eagles might think that a steep price tag.
Ryans became expendable to the Texans after their move to a 3-4 defense. Only one interior linebacker -- Brian Cushing -- was used nearly 50% of the time as Houston shifted to their dime personnel on passing downs. However, Ryans was also returning from a ruptured Achilles from the season prior, the recovery paired with learning a new defensive system slowing him down some. Excitement is high that the Eagles finally added a Pro Bowler and leader in the heart of their defense, but some are a little more cautiously optimistic.
Like Babin's supposed dispute, we're merely guessing about a situation that should only arise if Ryans turns out to be ordinary. The Eagles did not assume any of his signing bonuses though, so they seem to have the leverage should they choose to rework the deal.
Sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
There is one player the Eagles absolutely must act on before next offseason begins, and that is is Rodgers-Cromartie -- as long as they intend to keep him, that is.
One of the two pieces to come over in the trade for Kevin Kolb, DRC is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. While he is being penciled in as the starter at left corner, the 16th overall selection from the '08 Draft showed little in his first campaign with the Birds, mostly playing out of posi
tion in the slot. Management probably needs more performances to evaluate before deciding how they want to approach negotiations.
Cromartie has flashed star potential through his first four NFL seasons however, even earning a Pro Bowl nod in '09, and he looked like a different player last season when given the opportunity to line up outside. Being that he was a key part of the Kolb deal, the Eagles likely intend to keep him in the nest beyond 2012. If they don't offer him an extension at some point this season, it will be interesting to see how they go about it. If DRC plays well enough, the franchise tag could be the device used to keep him in Philadelphia.
Fill Need at Safety
There is much discussion about whether the current crop of safeties are going to cut it for the Eagles. That remains to be seen, and a debate best saved for another time, but the front office has been put on notice.
Nate Allen, assuming he continues progressing the way he did last season, should be in Eagles green for a long time. In fact, along with Maclin, Allen might be one of those young players on their rookie deal who are being looked at for a quick extension. He'll have one year left next offseason, so if he elevates his play and stays healthy in 2012, he could be heading for a payday.
What has yet to be determined for certain is whether they have a need at the other spot. Kurt Coleman seems serviceable, if a bit limited in terms of athletic ability, but he hasn't exactly locked down a job. He'll compete with Jaiquawn Jarrett, a second-round pick a year ago who hasn't been able to get on the field. We've suggested Jarrett's troubles as a rookie may have stemmed from the lockout-shortened offseason, but the point is he remains a mystery.
To say Jarrett only has this season to win over the coaches might be a bit of a stretch, but he at least needs to show something to convince them he can make it at this level. Either that, or Coleman could make the leap in his third NFL season and instill confidence in this group for the first time since Brian Dawkins departed. If neither Jarrett's or Coleman's growth comes to pass, it appears it could be back to the drawing board for the Birds. Safety could be their greatest need heading into 2013.