Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman spoke Sunday about free agency, the draft and other issues facing the Eagles this offseason in an interview with CSNPhilly.com Eagles columnist Reuben Frank on 94 WIP. The quotes in this story are from that interview.
As a late-round draft pick still playing on his rookie contract, Jason Kelce is among the NFL’s most underpaid players.
And until now, the Eagles couldn’t do anything about it.
Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman said this week that while he couldn’t comment specifically on whether the Eagles have opened contract talks yet with Kelce, they hope to re-sign him at some point.
“The kind of guy that you'd like to have in Philadelphia for a long time,” Roseman called Kelce.
A league source said the Eagles and Kelce’s agent, Jason Bernstein, have not yet started contract talks but plan to fairly soon.
Contract negotiations are always unpredictable, but it would be surprising if by the start of training camp this summer, Kelce doesn’t have a long-term multi-year deal worth in the vicinity of $4 ½ million or $5 million per year.
Because of the rule in the new CBA that prohibits teams from giving new contracts to drafted players before they finish their third season, the Eagles couldn’t even talk contract with Kelce’s representatives until the end of the season.
Kelce is signed through 2014, so there’s no pressing need to get him under contract, but because he is so dramatically under-paid and because he’s really the only member of that 2011 draft class the Eagles would want to give a pay raise to, it’s certainly possible something could get done soon.
Plus, if Kelce has another big year in 2014 and gets to his first Pro Bowl, which is certainly realistic, Kelce’s value will increase next offseason and the Eagles could risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent.
Signing him now would protect the Eagles from his value increasing and losing him and would give Kelce the kind of big money and security he’s never received in three NFL seasons.
“With contract situations, I think it's not only our business but their business, and I think you hate to have that kind of out in the public,” Roseman said.
“But I would say Jason Kelce, when you talk about the characteristics you're looking for on your football team, obviously an explosive athlete, has played tremendously well at the center position when he's been healthy -- and really just had an unfortunate knee injury, which is a freak injury against the Ravens last year -- and fits into our culture, fits into our scheme.”
Kelce missed virtually the entire 2012 season with a knee injury after an all-rookie season in 2011.
This past year, Kelce returned healthy and according to football analytics web site Pro Football Focus was the top center in the NFL.
“He's been huge,” head coach Chip Kelly said of Kelce late in the season. “I think everything that we get started on the offensive side of the ball starts with him.
“He sets the blocking schemes for us. Very, very smart, and a real student of the game and spends a lot of time on the intricacies with him and [offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoutland kind of going over how do we want to block this, how do we want to do that.
“He's really almost the coach on the field for that group, and he takes a little pressure off the quarterback. In some systems, the quarterback is making all those calls, and in our system our center does it, and it's because Jason can handle it, and I think he's been really invaluable to us.”
Yet despite all this, Kelce was the 48th-highest-paid center in the NFL last year and the 50th-highest-paid player on the Eagles.
Among the teammates who have a higher annual average salary are Dennis Kelly, Najee Goode, Clifton Geathers, Kurt Coleman, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Matt Barkley, Allen Barbre and Jason Phillips.
Kelce, a sixth-round pick in 2011, signed a four-year deal worth a total of $2,137,432 on July 28, 2011, a deal that included a modest $97,432 signing bonus and minimum-wage base salaries of $375,000 in 2011, $465,000 in 2012, $555,000 in 2013 and $645,000 in 2014.
The top centers in the NFL earn in excess of $6 million per year, with Ryan Kalil of the Panthers topping the list with an average annual salary at $8.186 million, including $28 million guaranteed.
Nick Mangold of the Jets ($7,725 million average, $14.668 guaranteed), Max Unger of the Seahawks ($6,4605 million average, $11.5 million guaranteed), Eric Wood of the Bills ($6.35 million, $14.5 million guaranteed), Chris Myers of the Texans ($6.25 million, $14 million guaranteed) and Scott Wells of the Rams ($6 million, $13 million guaranteed) are also at $6 million and above.
All but Wood have been to at least one Pro Bowl, and Wood is a former first-round pick playing on his rookie deal.
For the sake of comparison, the 10th-highest-paid center in the league is Jeremy Zuttah of the Buccaneers with a $4.125 million annual average and $7.5 million guaranteed.