Dalton deal clears path for Nick Foles' big payday

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Dalton deal clears path for Nick Foles' big payday

For the second time since the start of the new league season, an NFL quarterback inked a filthy-rich contract extension that can directly impact the value of the deal Nick Foles can sign next offseason.

And for the second time, Foles essentially yawned and shrugged.

The Bengals and fourth-year quarterback Andy Dalton reached an agreement Monday on a blockbuster six-year deal. Reports vary on the total money, but they indicate a total that can be in excess of $95 million.

In June, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed an extension that could be worth more than $125 million.

Foles, who will be eligible for an extension after this year, insisted Monday that he’s not focused on dollars down the road.

“Like we were talking about earlier, I'm really happy for Andy, I think he's a great quarterback and well-deserved,” Foles said. “But I don't worry about it. When I’m on the field, that doesn't matter. My job is to do what I can to help us be a successful football team, so at the end of the day we'll see what happens.”

Per rules of the CBA, drafted players can’t sign extensions until after the completion of their third season. Kaepernick and Dalton were each second-round picks from the 2011 draft.

Foles, a third-round pick in 2012, will make $635,000 this season in base salary and workout bonus. Next year, he’ll make $680,000 if he’s on the roster unless he and the team negotiate a long-term contract.

Kaepernick and Dalton each signed “pay as you go” deals, which are structured to dole out big money in the signing bonus and first year of the extension but give the team flexibility for the long term. They’re loaded with incentives that can reap even more money if the player performs at a high level and if the team makes deep postseason runs.

Dalton reportedly gets $17 million upon signing and $5 million more in March to go along with his $986,000 base salary in 2014. He has a $4 million roster bonus next year along with a $3 million base salary, both of which he’ll likely see even if he struggles this year. But the Bengals can move on from Dalton in 2016 without a crippling cap hit if Dalton fails to perform.

So that’s $29 million over the next two seasons for Dalton, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie but hasn’t since. He’s had just one 4,000-yard passing season and hasn’t won a game in three trips to the playoffs. In his three postseason games, Dalton has completed 57 percent of his passes and compiled a 56.2 passer rating.

Dalton has a career 60.9 completion percentage and 85.7 passer rating, which are both worse than Foles’ career averages, albeit Dalton has 1,630 career pass attempts to Foles’ 582. Foles has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and has a career passer rating of 101.

If Foles comes close to duplicating his 2013 season and wins a playoff game or two this year, he can expect to cash in with a contract that blows Dalton’s away and mirrors the haul Kaepernick got from San Francisco.

But it couldn’t be further from his mind.

“It's a blessing to play this game. I'm never worried about that,” he said. “I always know that if you just take care of business and take care of business each and every other day the rest will take care of itself and you'll be taken care of. I'm really happy for Andy and I'm happy for Colin, those guys have done a great job. As a player, I just need to continue to excel on the field, and that's it."

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans placed star defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve on Wednesday.

The move came one day after a person familiar with Watt's condition told The Associated Press he had re-injured his back and that the Texans expect him to be sidelined until at least December — and possibly the entire season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't discussed his injury.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

The Texans signed veteran defensive end Antonio Smith to take his spot on the roster.

The team was still exploring the injury and it's unclear if it will require surgery.

It's a major blow for Houston, which selected Watt with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Watt has played 83 consecutive games for the Texans despite various injuries, including torn core muscles and a broken hand last season.

This was a tough offseason for Watt, who had surgery in January to repair five torn core muscles before going under the knife again in July to repair his back.

Watt, who led the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks last season, has 1 1/2 sacks this season to give him 76 for his career.

The 27-year-old is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and a four-time Pro Bowler. He's been a force since entering the league not only because of his pass-rushing prowess, but also because of his uncanny ability to swat down passes. He has 45 passes defended in his six-year career. He has forced 15 fumbles and recovered 13.

Cowboys: Dez Bryant (knee) misses practice
FRISCO, Texas — Dallas receiver Dez Bryant won't practice Wednesday after injuring his right knee in last week's win over Chicago.

Bryant injured the knee on his first catch early in the game but came back in the first quarter. He caught his first touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter of the 31-17 win.

Coach Jason Garrett said the team didn't have results of an MRI, and Bryant tweeted, "We'll find out today," to a fan who asked about his status.

Bryant missed seven games last year after breaking his foot in the opener. He also dealt with ankle injuries last season.

The Cowboys visit San Francisco on Sunday.

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Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

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