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.

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

Today's lineup: Ryan Howard batting fifth again

In his second-to-last game in a Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard will man first base and bat fifth against the Mets on Saturday afternoon (1:05/FOX).

Howard went 1 for 4 Friday night with a double. The first baseman has three home runs and five RBI in 44 at-bats against the Mets this season. 

Andres Blanco takes Freddy Galvis’ starting spot at shortstop and bats second. Galvis left Friday night's game with hamstring tightness. Blanco has not made a start since Sept. 16, but is batting .294 against the Mets this year.

Cameron Rupp catches and bats sixth for the second day in a row. Rupp went 2 for 3 on Friday night with an RBI. Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr follow Rupp in the lineup and man the corners in the outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Andres Blanco, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Phil Klein, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. James Loney, 1B
8. Travis d'Arnaud, C
9. Bartolo Colon, P

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Love Isn't Always on Time: Approaching the Ben Simmons injury rationally

Does it hurt? Yeah, it hurts. 

You know when the last year the Sixers went into the preseason without a devastating injury to a frontcourt player hanging over their heads was? 2011. Back when LMFAO was big. Since then, it's been:

2012: Andrew Bynum
2013: Nerlens Noel
2014: Joel Embiid
2015: Joel Embiid
2016: Ben Simmons

Even the Blazers, heretofore the NBA franchise with the most cursed big-man luck, got years, decades in between the NBA tragedies of Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, and Greg Oden to grieve. The Sixers seem unprecedently determined to get their bad juju all out of the way at once. 

The last item on that list was, of course, announced last night - Simmons has a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot -- and is especially tough, mostly because it was so unforeseeable. Andrew Bynum had a long history of injury. Nerlens Noel was ruled out for the season before draft night, as was Joel Embiid. But as far as we knew, Ben Simmons had lived a long and healthy life that, failing a Shaun Livingston-type freak injury, was just going to continue in its elongated healthiness. Foot trouble was definitely not in the plan. 

It's also tough because it proves we're not out of the woods yet. Not like anyone thought Philly was gonna win 40 games and challenge for the playoffs this year, but certainly most of us allowed ourselves to believe that the worst was over, and that karma was gonna finally owe us for a little while. Turns out, we may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with us. Doug Collins musta really sold this team's soul to get us to that Game 7 against Boston in the conference semis four seasons ago. 

But we can deal. For better and worse, Sixers fans have developed a hard-earned resilience to news of such maladies, and this revelation isn't nearly as bad as some other casually-in-crisis press releases we've had to deal with in recent years (yet). So once we're done processing the initial sorrow that comes with hearing we're not going to get to see our No. 1 overall pick play meaningful basketball as soon as we deserve, let's make our parents proud by being good little Process Trusters, and approaching this situation rationally: 

This is only a two-month injury. 

This isn't yet, and shouldn't be, a season-ender. ESPN estimates Simmons will be out eight weeks; a wise bet would probably have him staying sidelined a little longer than that Just to Be Sure. Christmas seems like the reasonable mental goalpost for his return, which means -- barring setbacks -- at most he'd miss the team's first 30 games. 

That's a lot, but not really: Jahlil Okafor missed 29 games last season, and I don't think most of us even remember injuries as being a particularly notable part of his rookie year. By this point, the Sixers are used to going entire seasons without proof of life from our star rooks. Two months? We can do that standing on our heads. 

This doesn't necessarily mean anything for Simmons' long-term prospects. 

Feet-related injuries are rivaled only by head stuff as the scariest thing you can see on an NBA medical report — especially for big men, as memories of giants like Walton and Yao having their careers plagued by such maladies continue to reverberate. In Simmons' case, his injury is reminiscent of Nets center Brook Lopez, who lost the better part of several seasons to recurring problems stemming from an initial foot fracture. 

But as that above list shows, the great majority of NBA players to have suffered this injury -- presumed to be an avulsion fracture, not the ghastlier Jones fracture -- have bounced back from it pretty quickly, and not been subsequently effected. Pau Gasol and Mike Bibby both went on to have long, productive, mostly health-drama-free-careers -- hell, Pau just averaged 19 and 13 in 72 games as a 35-year-old. C.J. McCollum suffered the injury as a rookie just three years ago, and I'd already forgotten it was even part of his story. Our Once and Always Dark Lord-willing, it doesn't have to be part of Simmons', either. 

The Sixers — and Simmons — were gonna be bad anyway. 

Not like this much hurts the Sixers' playoff chances, which were basically 0 to begin with. As much excitement as we could have expected from the early parts of this season, "wins' was not gonna be part of the deal just yet — Vegas set our over-under at 27.5, and most of our local experts have logically taken the under. Hopefully we actually get at least one of our first 17 this year, but with a poorly balanced rotation consisting mostly of rookies and free agents, W's were always gonna be slow-coming. 

And I personally believed that Simmons was gonna take a while to blossom himself. We'd get some gorgeous passes and fun full-court shenanigans, sure, but we'd also get a lot of clanked jumpers, missed rotations, and soul-sucking isos that take up 18 seconds of the shot-clock and still finish where they started. He'll still have that rough adjustment period two months or so later, but at least with the season already underway and the rest of the squad maybe finding their footing a little, hopefully there'll be less pressure on him to do everything immediately. 

Simmons can still put in work while sidelined. 

Remember how horrific Nerlens Noel's shooting form was coming into the NBA? The upside of him missing a year with his torn ACL was that he was able to spend a good portion of his should've-been-rookie season rebuilding it. He's still not Kevin Garnett on offense and likely never will be, but he was able to reach Respectably Bad at the free-throw line, and that alone will make an enormous difference in the arc of his NBA career. 

Simmons' jumper isn't nearly so broken, but he could also use the work. Time spent perfecting his mechanics while he doesn't have any other aspects of the game to really worry about could be huge for Benny's early development, and hopefully will give him the confidence to take -- if not yet make -- those open jumpers when first presented to him. 

We still have the two other guys. 

Truth is, Simmons was only the rookie I was third-most-excited about on the Sixers this year, and the other two -- Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who we've waited a combined four seasons for -- are still on track to play. Of course, putting all (or at least half) our eggs in Emiid's basket is never gonna be a particularly secure feeling, and the mind goes even catatonic considering the possibility of Embiid also getting hurt before season's start. But if (knock on lumber-yard) this as bad as the preseason news gets for the Sixers, and we enter with just the two mega-hyped rooks, with a third on the way shortly... that's still cupcakes and sprinkles as far as I'm concerned. 

So yeah, this is a bad weekend, and a rough development for a fanbase who'd finally begun to let their guard down the teensiest amount. That said, it's not the end of the world, the end of the season, or really the end of anything besides our foolishly unbridled optimism. A valuable lesson in hoping for the best and always fearing the worst, but just because we're not floating in the clouds anymore doesn't mean we're plummeting to the ground yet, either.