Looking Ahead to Next Offseason for the Eagles

Looking Ahead to Next Offseason for the Eagles

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.

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies (47-58) at Braves (36-67)
7:10 p.m. on NBC10

Two starters with uncertain futures take the mound in Atlanta on Saturday evening . Will either Phillies righty Jeremy Hellickson or Braves ace Julio Teheran be traded before, during or shortly after Saturday's first pitch? Time will tell.

Here are five things to know before Saturday night's contest at Turner Field:

1. Hellickson on the trading block
When the Phillies acquired Hellickson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-November, there was always a strong possibility the veteran righty would be flipped before this year's non-waiver trade deadline. 

With Charlie Morton going down with an injury early in the year, it appeared that Hellickson would be the only member of the Phillies' improved rotation likely to be gone on Aug. 1 (maybe not true, but more on that later). So after the Marlins already shored up their rotation with the acquisition of Andrew Cashner, who is still interested in the righty?

Teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, among others, come to mind. After all, many top starters are far from free agency or locked up by their teams, making a middle-of-the-road starter like Hellickson a hot commodity at this year's deadline.

Face it: There are always teams that need starting pitching. Pitchers can go down in an instant (like Morton did) or begin to struggle out of nowhere (look at Aaron Nola). With Hellickson's early career resume and his recent resurgence, plenty of teams could make use of him (see full story)

In 21 starts this season, he has thrown 125 2/3 innings and has a 3.65 ERA, nearly a full run lower than his final ERA from 2015. He's regained his trademark command and upped his strikeout rate. However, he is still a fly ball pitcher who can be burned playing in a small ballpark (Citizens Bank park, for instance). A team like the Blue Jays that plays in the home run-friendly Rogers Centre may think twice before acquiring him.

If Hellickson is traded, it would continue a youth movement for the Phillies, and not just with the prospects they would acquire in a potential deal. Top pitching prospect Jake Thompson is on turn to start Sunday in Triple A and with the Phillies' day off on Monday, he could easily slide into Hellickson's rotation spot. 

2. Teheran could be gone as well
The Braves' scheduled starter for Saturday could also be in another uniform when the calendar flips to August. However, an injury has thrown his status into flux.

Atlanta currently has the worst record in baseball, so any and every player could be considered a trade chip at this point in the year. That includes a player like Teheran, who is signed through 2019 to a team-friendly deal that includes a team option for 2020. 

And Teheran has been easily the best pitcher for the Braves. In 20 starts this year, he has a 2.71 ERA while averaging just shy of 6.5 innings per start. He earned his second All-Star Game appearance with a career-best walk rate, not to mention a 4.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also only allows 6.7 hits per nine innings, contributing to a career-best 0.956 WHIP. 

But the righty left his last start on July 22 with a tight lat muscle in his back. There was talk he may need to go on the DL, but he avoided it with a few extra days between starts. 

Teheran has been healthy in the past. He's made at least 30 starts each of the last three years and has thrown at least 200 innings each of the last two. He led baseball with 33 starts last season. 

However, the lat injury may scare teams hoping to acquire him before this deadline, making this start crucial. If there's no one willing to meet the price for Teheran, the Braves can simply retain him and see if anyone wants him in the offseason.

3. Hug watch on Velasquez?
In case you missed it, the Phillies are in deep discussions with the Texas Rangers on a deal involving 24-year-old starter Vince Velasquez (see full story)

Wow. It's certainly a shocker. Velasquez has been the Phillies' best starter in his first season with the club and has made Matt Klentak look like a genius for trading Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for him in the offseason. His fastball has electrified Philadelphia at times, especially during a 16-strikeout gem in his first start at Citizens Bank Park.

So could that really be coming to an end so soon? The Rangers, as mentioned above, are in the market for a starting pitcher. Their only consistent pitcher in the last month has been a certain familiar name acquired from the Phillies last year: Cole Hamels. 

Beyond Hamels, the Rangers' rotation has been battered by injuries this year. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are both on the 60-day disabled list and Yu Darvish has been off and on the DL in his first season after Tommy John surgery. Furthermore, Velasquez isn't eligible to become a free agent until 2022, giving value beyond any normal deadline acquisition.

But if Velasquez is under team control for so long, why would the Phillies trade him? Two possible reasons: First, a team knows its pitchers better than anyone and may be concerned with something in his health record or they simply don't value him as highly as other teams. 2. The Phillies know they can extract a tremendous haul for the flamethrowing righty.

The Rangers have some exciting prospects and young pieces that could make the Phillies jump. Slugging prospect Joey Gallo, starting outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Jurickson Profar intrigue teams and have been mostly deemed untouchable by Texas. But if Velasquez is in discussion, it's easy to speculate that one of those could be the headliner in a package coming back to Philadelphia. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: No one may be seeing Teheran on the mound than Freddy Galvis. The Phillies' shortstop is 6 for 14 against him with two walks. He could use a multiple-hit evening after piling up just five hits in the last week.

Braves: After tonight, Nick Markakis will have faced Hellickson more than any other hitter. Markakis has made 46 plate appearances against Hellickson and has just nine hits in those appearances. Two of the hits, though, have been home runs.

5. This and that
• Teheran has not allowed a run in his last 14 innings, dating back to July 9. 

• The Phillies and Braves have identical .240 batting averages this season. The Phils have a big advantage in home runs, however, outpacing the Braves, 101-64. 

• Ryan Howard has two career home runs off Teheran in 24 at-bats. Cody Asche has one homer in 21 at-bats against him. 

• A.J Pierzynski has nine at-bats against Hellickson and just one hit. However, the one hit is a home run.

Howie Roseman: Darren Sproles signing about culture, which is expensive to build

Howie Roseman: Darren Sproles signing about culture, which is expensive to build

The Eagles didn’t need to sign Darren Sproles to a one-year contract extension on Friday morning. 

Sproles is 33, not getting any younger, and his production dropped off significantly in 2015, at least from an offensive standpoint. Sure, he’s still quick and elusive and a dynamic punt returner, but he’s a running back well on the wrong side of 30. 

The Eagles could have waited. They could have gambled — with decent odds — that Sproles, by season’s end, wouldn’t be worth the reported $4.5 million extension they handed him on Friday. If they still wanted him after this year, they could have re-signed him then. 

But they didn’t wait. They signed him now (see story).

Why? 

“I think it’s the message that you’re sending to the team and the players,” vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on Friday after practice, inside the bubble. “That you do the right thing here, and you’re productive, and you have a chance to stay here. And we want people to feel that way on and off the field, that this is a place that, if you do the right thing, you have an opportunity to continue to be here. And when you look around the team, he’s a great example of that. 

“That’s part of it, we’re trying to kind of build that culture of having guys here who feel like, ‘Hey, I can be here if I do the right thing and I play well.’ For us, Darren, we had been having these discussions for a while and to get it done is a great relief on our part.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the “message” or the “culture” the Eagles are trying to breed by sending it. In fact, since Roseman reascended into his power position, it’s been a theme of the offseason. The Eagles are trying to keep their own, instead of ousting them the way Chip Kelly once did. 

During the offseason, the Eagles went out and signed some free agents; Brandon Brooks, Leodis McKelvin and Nigel Bradham, just to name a few. But Roseman has continually said the most important moves the team made were the ones that brought back their own players, like Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Vinny Curry, Lane Johnson, and, of course, Fletcher Cox. 

In Sproles and Celek, the Eagles have now extended two players over 30, and they’ve elected to keep Jason Peters, who is 34 (more on Peters here).

“I think we’re kind of looking at each individual case as it comes,” Roseman said. “And when you talk about those guys, we know they still bring to our football team on and off the field. When you’re implementing some young players, it’s good to have a nice mix of guys who have done it before and also understand what it was like when teams have had success.”

With all the contracts the Eagles have handed out over the last several months, they’ll be up against the cap soon enough. As PhillyVoice.com pointed out, the Eagles, as of now, will have the least amount of salary cap space in 2017. 

Roseman is aware. 

“Yeah, I think for us, when you’re looking at this, it’s never in a one-year window,” he said. 

The contract Sam Bradford signed this offseason is pretty easy to get out of this year, but if he goes out and has a Pro Bowl season and the Eagles want to keep him on the roster next year, he’ll have a $22.5 million cap hit. It seems like it would be tough for the Eagles to keep him at that number, but Roseman said there’s “no question” they’d be able to figure out a way to do it. 

Aside from Bradford, several players, most notably starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan, will be free agents at the end of 2016. 

“We love Bennie Logan,” Roseman said. “Bennie Logan’s a heckuva player and a great person off the field. He’s someone that we see here. Just because, like I said, someone doesn’t have a contract right now, it doesn’t mean that they’re not in our plans going forward.”

Doug Pederson Q&A: Coaching philosophy, off-field Issues, QBs & more

Doug Pederson Q&A: Coaching philosophy, off-field Issues, QBs & more

As Eagles training camp kicked into gear, head coach Doug Pederson sat down with Comcast SportsNet's Quick Slants crew earlier this week at the NovaCare Complex and addressed a number of Eagles topics with co-hosts Derrick Gunn and Reuben Frank.

In a nine-minute interview, Pederson talked about his philosophy of handling off-the-field issues when they arise, he spoke of how he wants this team to be different than a Chip Kelly team and — of course — he talked about his quarterbacks.

Here are some highlights of that conversation:

Quick Slants: What do you feel needs to change the most about the team from last year to this year?

Doug Pederson: "The biggest thing and really what I want to get across is we need to be a smarter football team, a tougher football team and we need to be a better-conditioned football team. That said, that covers a lot of ground, but it’s very simple when you break it down. Smarter means we need to eliminate penalties, a tougher football team is just that, we’ve got to find ways to win football games. And conditioning is just how well you perform in the fourth quarter and down the stretch. We need to be a better-conditioned football team and it’s something for them to work on."

QS: A lot of people are going to doubt you because of your lack of coaching experience. How do you handle that?

Pederson: “I’m OK with that. My life’s always been that way. Sort of been the underdog and sort of come out swinging. You just go day by day and you just work hard and you study tape and you put your players in great positions and you build relationships with your guys and eventually they’re going to run through walls for you and that’s what you want and that’s the type of coach I want the team and the players to see. And at the same time you’re fair and you’re honest and you’re up front with guys and when you come to Sundays, man, those guys are eager and ready to go.”

QS: Two of your players, Nelson Agholor and Nigel Bradham, were involved in off-the-field incidents this offseason. Agholor’s situation has been resolved but not Bradham’s. Generally speaking, what is your philosophy with this kind of thing? What message do you give to the players?

Pederson: “When the players step on the NovaCare property and they’re in the building, my message is always: ‘You’re representing the Philadelphia Eagles and the entire organization, guys, you’ve got to make smart decisions. You’re in a high-profile business. Everybody out there is a reporter, everybody’s got a cell phone, everybody wants to take your picture or antagonize you or do whatever they can do to see if you respond. You just have to be the bigger man, you’ve got to turn your back and walk away.’ And if something happens, we as a staff have to gather all the information we can and they will have to suffer the consequences if there’s going to be any down the road. So learn from your mistakes. We all make them. But let’s be smart about it and move on.”

QS: You’ve made it clear Sam Bradford is the No. 1 quarterback, Chase Daniel is No. 2 and Carson Wentz is No. 3. Why line up the depth chart that way?

Pederson: “For me, really when I evaluated the 2015 roster and the quarterback position, I felt like Sam Bradford was the guy for me. I felt like in conversations with Howie [Roseman] and when I hired [quarterback coach John DeFilippo] and [offensive coordinator Frank Reich], that he's going to be our guy. And it started there. … And then I wanted to go and get somebody. I didn't know I was going to get Chase Daniel, but I needed a quality backup and it just so happened that a Chase Daniel was there who knows the offense. So now you bring in a guy who knows the offense, who can help Sam, can help a young, third-string quarterback. At the time, I think we were picking [13th] in the draft, and then some things happened, some trades, some moves and now you're up to No. 2 and you take a quarterback. And the beauty of that is he doesn't have to play the first year right now. And we can develop him and focus our attention on Sam and getting him ready to go and get ready for Cleveland on Sept. 11.”

QS: The last 11 quarterbacks taken with a top-five pick have started at least 10 games. That goes back to JaMarcus Russell, who started just one game in 2007. So why make Wentz No. 3? What is the benefit of giving him a likely redshirt year?

Pederson: “The benefit is that he gets to learn our system, he gets to learn our players, gets to learn the city, gets to learn our fans. And gosh, coming to Philadelphia and that being your first year and you get thrown to the wolves right away? That can be very mind-blowing for a young quarterback. So being able to sort of protect him that way I think gives the longevity of his career, whether it's here or eventually somewhere else, who knows what's going to happen, but it gives the longevity and the confidence level that he'll have going into Year 2, becomes that much more important for him and really us as an organization.”

QS: What about Wentz made you think he could be the eventual franchise quarterback?

Pederson: “Well when you look at him, you kind of had flashes of Donovan [McNabb]. The athleticism, the big arm, the size, the whole thing, the way he can run and move. And the fact that he's a proven winner, he knows how to win. I know he had an injury his senior year but he was able to bounce back and win some championships. He knows how to win football games, and just watching him these last couple days with the rookies and his communication level with them, where he is mentally with our offense, is everything we sort of knew and read and studied and researched in the offseason before we drafted him and felt like he could definitely be potentially the quarterback of the future, whenever that is. But right now, like I mentioned, we're full steam ahead with Sam and we'll let everything kinda settle whenever it settles.”

QS: You’re an offensive coach and have never worked on the defensive side of the ball. Now as a head coach, what will your involvement be with the defense?

Pederson: “Yeah, I definitely want to have a hand in not necessarily game-planning but knowing and understanding the game plan and how [Jim Schwartz] plans on attacking an offense. And if there's any particular insight I have on the offense we're playing that week, I'll throw that information at him and vice versa. If he has knowledge of a defensive game plan then I'd love to hear that. Having those conversations on a weekly basis, staying plugged in, in-tune and open lines of communication and understanding how he's going about his defense that week and understanding what I'm doing.”