Flyers to (Eventually) Sign Dan Cleary to ‘Baffling’ 3-Year Deal

Flyers to (Eventually) Sign Dan Cleary to ‘Baffling’ 3-Year Deal

Where to begin. Do we start with the Flyers’ always-maddening salary cap situation, which prevents them from physically signing anybody to an actual contract right this moment? Or should we talk about the multi-year deal the club is giving yet another player in his mid 30s?

How ‘bout we just go with the news that the Orange & Black have reportedly agreed to a three-year, $8.25 million contract with longtime Detroit Red Wing forward Dan Cleary.

But the only thing the Flyers and Clearly have truly agreed on here is a wink-nudge “tryout.” The team is $2 million over the cap at the moment, but they’ll be below the threshold once the season starts and Chris Pronger can be moved on to the long-term injured reserve list, which will free up close to $5 million. Only then can the pact with Cleary become official.

It’s the same reason why the team couldn’t do anything with Simon Gagne this summer. On that note, with Cleary now in the fold in Philadelphia as a probable third-line winger, it appears Gagne’s ship has sailed here.

Meanwhile, the Cleary deal has its critics. He’ll be 37 years old at the end, which means the Flyers are blocking a roster spot that could eventually go to or even right now belong to one of their young, developing players with yet another aging veteran, and for years to come at that.

Oh, and the contract comes complete with a full no-trade language.

Greg Wyshynski for Puck Daddy described the signing as “baffling,” while Travis Hughes expressed exasperation with the deal on his post at Broad Street Hockey.

Cleary is likely to be no more than a third-line forward, and the three-year deal makes this a real head scratcher. There was no obvious need for a guy like Cleary. I'm just baffled, and I don't think that's just because I'm tired. What does Cleary bring the Flyers that's worth more than what Tye McGinn or Jason Akeson or Gagne or [Scott] Laughton or any other number of options could of provided?

Purely from the standpoint of what the Flyers are getting for their money, it’s probably fine. Cleary is your proverbial glue guy, somebody who will score some dirty goals and play important special teams minutes.

Ideally though, they could have found a similar contribution from the group of players currently in their minor-league system, or with a one-year deal to a veteran like Gagne. Yeah, baffling sounds about right, but you know the Flyers -- always going for it.

>> How can the Flyers fit Dan Cleary on the roster? [CSN]

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.