Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles to face major 2015 salary cap decisions

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Eagles to face major 2015 salary cap decisions

Whether or not DeSean Jackson returns to the Eagles, one thing is certain.

The Eagles are going to have to make several difficult and most likely unpopular decisions in the next year to get under the 2015 salary cap.

Forget this year for a minute.

The Eagles are already in cap trouble next year.

The good news is that the cap is expected to increase by $7 million to $10 million next year, thanks to revenue from the new TV deal.

Although the actual figure won’t be announced until next winter, people who track this stuff believe the unadjusted cap will increase from $133 million in 2014 to about $142 million in 2015.

The Eagles currently have 51 players under contract in 2015, and their combined cap figure is $144,766,514.

Several members of that 2012 draft class will be eligible for contract extensions after the season, and there is no way the Eagles would risk losing Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox through free agency after the 2015 season, so re-signing those four after 2014 will be imperative for the Eagles next winter.

Foles, if he comes anywhere close to his 2013 performance, will demand a massive contract. Boykin, if he repeats his six-interception breakout 2013 season, will also be due a commanding deal. Cox and Kendricks are fundamental building blocks of the Eagles’ young defense, and they will be due sizable, long-term, multi-million dollar deals as well.

So you see the predicament the Eagles are in. They’re already over the projected cap figure, they still have to re-sign at least four key players, and they’ll certainly need money available to go after some free agents a year from now and sign their 2015 draft picks.

Something has to give.

A look at the Eagles’ 2015 contracts shows that 13 players make up nearly half of that $144.77 million figure.

Those 13 players have a combined 2015 cap hit of $68,025,140, or 47 percent of the Eagles’ current 2015 total cap figure.

They are:

• $10.25 million … LeSean McCoy
• $10.025 million … Trent Cole
• $10 million … DeSean Jackson
• $7.55 million … Jason Peters
• $6.9 million … DeMeco Ryans
• $6.5 million … Cary Williams
• $5.5 million … Connor Barwin
• $4.8 million … Brent Celek
• $4 million … James Casey
• $4 million … Riley Cooper
• $4 million … Todd Herremans
• $4 million … Malcolm Jenkins

Safe to say that anybody on that list, other than McCoy and Peters, could become a cap casualty after this upcoming season.

The Eagles still have plenty of room under the 2014 cap, and they’ll probably carry over $10 million to $12 million in unused cap space to 2015, which would increase their adjusted cap figure to somewhere in the $155 million range.

But they’ll still have some decisions to make about the veterans listed above to get under the cap.

No team in the NFL currently has the 2015 salary cap commitments the Eagles do. In fact, no team is within $10 million of the Eagles.

Here are the top five current 2015 cap responsibilities in the NFL:

• $144,766,514 … Eagles
• $131,941,818 … Cardinals
• $129,786,728 … Dolphins
• $125,454,961 … Chiefs
• $123,585,579 … Saints

Any player the Eagles release or trade after the 2014 season would give the Eagles dead money in the cap if he got a signing bonus that is still being pro-rated. To determine the amount of dead money, you simply add the remaining pro-rated amounts. The longer the player is still under contract and the larger his initial signing bonus, the higher that number will be.

How much dead money would the Eagles incur releasing some of their higher-priced veterans after the upcoming season? Remember, the cap savings is a player’s projected cap number minus dead money:

• $4 million … DeSean Jackson
• $3.2 million … Riley Cooper
• $2.6125 million … DeMeco Ryans
• $2 million … Evan Mathis
• $1.8 million … Connor Barwin
• $1.7075 million … Brandon Graham
• $1.666668 million … Cary Williams
• $1.6 million … Trent Cole
• $2.4 million … Todd Herremans
• $0 … Brent Celek
• $0 … James Casey

So you see whose jobs are in jeopardy. But it’s always risky unloading a player with a high cap figure because now you have to replace him.

If the Eagles cut ties with, say, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, Cary Williams, Brent Celek, Todd Herremans and James Casey in January, they would have a net gain of $37,970,832 in cap space, which is a lot.

But that raises a whole new set of challenges.

Casey didn’t contribute last year, but Cole has been the Eagles’ best pass rusher for the past decade, Ryans was the Eagles’ defensive MVP a year ago, Williams is one of the team’s emotional leaders and a physical corner, Celek has been one of the NFC’s most consistent receiving tight ends since 2007, and Herremans has been a steady starter since late in 2005.

Which leads us to why it’s so critical that the Eagles put together a third consecutive outstanding draft.

It’s easy to get rid of expensive players. It’s a lot harder to replace them with younger, cheaper versions who are just as talented.

Roob's 25 Random Points: Eagles' secondary, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Eagles' secondary, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead and more

Alex Chilton, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead’s harmonies, Market East train station, Eli Manning, NFL RedZone and Wendell Smallwood.
 
There is only one place you can read about all those things at the same time. Welcome to Roob's 25 Random Points! 
 
1. Doug Pederson has been the subject of a lot of criticism this week, some of it from me. When you have a 56-13 pass-run ratio, you're going to get criticized. When you stand at the podium 18 games into your head-coaching career and say you're still learning, you're going to get criticized. When you don't give your de facto lead running back a single carry in a tough road game, yeah, you're going to get criticized. But it's important to recognize one thing — guys play hard for Doug Pederson. Every week. Since Pederson became the head coach, there's really only one game where the Eagles weren't competitive, and that was at Cincinnati last year, a game that just got away from the Eagles. Every other game they have really battled. They lost 27-13 to the Packers, but that was a four-point game in the fourth quarter. Seattle last year they were down 26-7 but scored late to make it an 11-point game. Plus, Seattle does that to a lot of people in their own building. Sunday's game in Kansas City demonstrated that no-quit mentality. The Eagles were down 27-13 late but drove 75 yards for a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and had a chance to tie in the game's final seconds. Pederson is a former player who understands what his players are going through, is able to connect with them, relate to them and listen to them, which is just as important as X's and O's. You can be a brilliant tactician but if your players don't like you and don't respect you, you're going to have no chance. (Hmmm. Who does that sound like?) Those three consecutive games last year — Seattle, Green Bay, Cincinnati — are the only games the Eagles have lost by more than eight points under Pederson. Since opening day last year, only five teams have had fewer lopsided losses — the Cowboys, Lions, Patriots, Falcons and Chiefs (who were all playoff teams last year and are a combined 67-23 during that span). Not that losing close games is a positive, but the fact the Eagles are in every game certainly is. Pederson has his weaknesses, and we can all see what they are. It is important to remember that he has some very notable strengths as well.
 
2. We spent so much time this past week talking about the run-pass ratio, it was easy to forget how encouraging the debuts of rookie draft picks Douglas and Hollins were. Hollins did play five snaps on offense against the Redskins, but Douglas was inactive so the Kansas City game was really a coming-out party for both of them. It's no secret the Eagles haven't drafted well for most of the past 15 years, but Derek Barnett seems to be on the right track, and Douglas and Hollins both looked much more polished and comfortable than you would expect from two guys getting their first real NFL playing time. Douglas played every defensive snap after Jaylen Watkins went out with a hamstring injury and was sound in coverage, physical tackling and mentally sharp. For a team that has had as many cornerback issues as the Eagles, it was definitely a promising debut. Hollins simply did what he did all summer: looked smooth and confident. He was targeted three times and caught all three passes — for 11, 13 and 8 yards — all in the second half. The Eagles desperately need elite young players. These two are off to an auspicious start. They looked like they belong.
 
3. My Zach Ertz note of the week: Ertz leads the NFL with 10 catches of 10 yards or more. Last year, Ertz didn't record his 10th catch of at least 10 yards until Week 9 — in his sixth game of the year.
 
4. One thing I don't think Carson Wentz has gotten credit for is his toughness. He's missed, what, six snaps in his career? Out of 1,277? The kid takes a beating. In fact, hopefully, he learns over time to avoid contact a little more. Get rid of the ball instead of taking a sack. But his eyes are always down the field trying to make a play, which you have to love. To put his first 18 games in context, did you know the last Eagles quarterback to start all 16 games one year and the first two games of the next season was Donovan McNabb in 2000 and 2001? Before that? Randall in 1989 and 1990 (and 1988 and 1989). Before that? How about Jaws in 1980 and 1981.
 
5. I didn't know much about Chris Long before this year. Knew his dad is Howie Long, the Hall of Famer who played at Villanova. Knew he had a few very good years on some very bad Rams teams a few years back. Knew he spent last year with the Patriots and got a Super Bowl ring. But getting to know him these last few months has been eye-opening. This is one of the most impressive, genuine, good-hearted guys I've met. Whether it's his symbolic gesture of resting his arm around Malcolm Jenkins' shoulder during the national anthem as a show of support for his teammate, his outspoken comments about bigotry, racism and hatred, or his recent decision to donate six game-day checks to fund two scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, ravaged recently by racial violence, Long has been impressive since he got here. Long is a lot like Connor Barwin. He doesn't just talk about it, he rolls up his sleeve and does it. That's rare.
 
6. We're always talking about how running backs need carries to get into a rhythm and show what they can do. Wendell Smallwood is proof of that. Smallwood last year got 10 carries three times — against the Seahawks, Steelers and Falcons, three very good teams. Playoff teams. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in those three games. In his other career games? He’s averaged 3.0 yards per carry. This year, he only has seven rushing attempts in two games and if you're writing him off based on seven carries you're making a big mistake. I still think Smallwood is a solid back. But there's only been one quarter where he's had more than one carry — the fourth quarter in Washington, and by then, the 'Skins were stacking the box as the Eagles tried to run out the clock. Just remember, last year Smallwood ran 17 times for 79 yards against the Falcons, 13 for 70 against the Steelers and 13 for 48 against the Seahawks. Would like to see him get some serious carries Sunday against the Giants.
 
7. I will never call Market East "Jefferson Station."
 
8. My official prediction for Sunday is Eagles 20, Giants 0, and it's interesting to me the only Eagles defensive coordinator in the last 20 years to pitch a shutout was Bill Davis. The Eagles' only shutout the last two decades was a 27-0 win on a Sunday night over the Giants in October 2014 at the Linc. The Eagles held the Giants to 254 total yards and only 12 first downs. Barwin had three sacks, Vinny Curry two and Trent Cole, Brandon Bair and Brandon Graham had one each. I think this game will be a lot like that one. Before 2014, the Eagles' last shutout came in 1996 — also at home against the Giants. Their last shutout that wasn't against the Giants was a 30-0 win over John Elway and the Broncos at the Vet in 1992. The Eagles' last road shutouts were against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium — in 1989 and 1991.
 
9. Every time I tweet something about Carson Wentz (or anybody) not missing a game, I get all these tweets just flat-out blasting me for "jinxing" him. Guess what! Jinxes aren't real and sometimes a sportswriter's tweets actually doesn't affect what happens on the field. No, really!

10. Something to keep in mind Sunday: The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 14 of their last 15 games, the only exception being the meaningless home game against the Cowboys the last day of last season, when they had three against a defense largely comprised of Cowboys reserves.  
 
11. The Eagles have gone an NFL-high 30 straight games without three passing TDs in a game. That's only three shy of the franchise record of 33, set twice — from 1975 through 1978 and 1997 through 1999. The last time the Eagles had three passing TDs in a game was Oct. 4, 2015, when Sam Bradford threw three against the Redskins at FedEx Field. They've also gone 22 straight home games without a three-TD game. That goes back to Nick Foles' three touchdown passes against the Redskins on Sept. 21, 2014. That's the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind a 31-game streak from 1975 through 1979. League-wide, there have been 190 performances with three TD passes since the Eagles' last one.
 
12. I can't watch NFL RedZone. It's too much. I can't follow eight games at once. Maybe I'm stupid. But I'd much rather just watch one game for three hours and sort it all out later.
 
13. Let's talk about exactly how wretched the Giants' rushing attack is and has been for years. Through two games, the Giants have just 97 rushing yards and a 3.2 average with no touchdowns. They're only the 23rd team in NFL history with fewer than 100 yards and no rushing touchdowns after two games. They don't have a back with more than 31 yards, and the last time the Giants didn't have anybody with at least 35 rushing yards after two games was … well, never. At least not since 1940. Pro Football Reference's game-by-game database doesn't go back any further than that. The Giants have eight rushing touchdowns in their last 27 games. Last time they had a rushing TD longer than two yards was 20 games ago, a 38-yarder by Rashad Jennings. Last time they had a rushing TD longer than two yards on the road was Week 15 of 2015 when Orleans Darkwa had a 12-yarder at St. Louis, which doesn't even have a team anymore. The Giants have just four rushing TDs in their last 14 games against the Eagles, none of them longer than five yards, and their last rushing TD at the Linc was Ahmad Bradshaw's one-yarder in 2009. The Giants haven't had a rushing TD at the Linc longer than three yards in 13 years — since Tiki Barber's 72-yarder in the final minutes of a game in 2004 with the Eagles up 21 points. Going back to 1987, the Giants have just three rushing TDs longer than five yards in their last 30 games in Philadelphia — Barber's 31-yarder in 2000, Ron Dayne's 16-yarder in 2001 and Barber's 72-yarder in 2004. And finally this: In their last 47 road games, the Giants have one rushing TD of 20 yards or more — a 50-yarder by Andre Williams at Tennessee in 2014. And you thought the Eagles had problems running the ball?
 
14. Adam Abrashoff from the band SIMO is one of the best drummers I've ever seen.
 
15. Eli Manning's TD-INT ratio in 16 games against the Eagles from 2005 through 2012 was 34-16. In eight games since, it's 11-11. Eli's passer rating against the Eagles from 2005 through 2012 was 91.7. Since 2013, it's 74.2.
 
16. Ever notice there's just never an urgent care place around when you need one?
 
17. Darren Sproles has the highest career rushing average ever against the Giants by a running back with at least 40 carries at 6.3 yards a pop (48 for 301).
 
18. I was really surprised Doug Pederson benched left guard Isaac Seumalo after he struggled so badly in Kansas City. It was Pederson who preached patience Monday: "I don't want to push any panic buttons at this time." Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was even stronger Tuesday when he explained why the Eagles were sticking with Seumalo: "If that happens over five, six, seven games and it becomes a problem, then you evaluate it. When it happens in one game, you say, ‘OK, we take note of it, but we've got a lot of confidence (in him)." But nonetheless, it sure appears Chance Warmack will start at left guard Sunday against the Giants, a decision that did not go over well in the locker room: "It's just unfortunate, man, seeing a young guy like that after having a bad game," right guard Brandon Brooks told CSNPhilly's Dave Zangaro. "He's a young player, you don't want to kill his confidence this early in his career. A bad game, for that to happen, I wish he could work through it. I just wish he had a chance to bounce back." I think the right move would have been to get Seumalo out of there Sunday at halftime and — with Warmack inactive — use veteran Stefen Wisniewski to get through the game. Wiz is solid and played well at left guard in place of injured Allen Barbre last year for six games. Then go back to Seumalo on Sunday against the Giants. Whether it's Winston Justice or Halapoulivaati Vaitai, we've seen offensive linemen struggle early and bounce back. First priority Sunday was winning the game. In the big picture, Seumalo is a rookie third-round pick that needs to get back out there and try to do better.
 
19. The fascinating thing about the Grateful Dead: None of those guys were great singers. Let's face it: Bob Weir might be the worst pop vocalist ever from a major band. Phil Lesh isn't much better. I love Jerry Garcia’s voice but he wasn't exactly a classically trained vocalist. But when they harmonized? It was angelic. Those shaky voices somehow came together like a symphony. Listen to a 1970 or 1971 Cumberland Blues or Uncle John's Band and they absolutely nailed some really difficult, complex three-part harmonies. Just keep Donna away from the mic!
 
20. Somebody drove an SUV so far into the Starbucks in Birmingham Township in the Dilworthtown Shopping Center in Delaware County early one recent morning that the entire vehicle was actually inside the coffee shop. Yes, they drove over a concrete barrier and through an outer wall until their car rested fully inside. The car plowed through an area where people are usually sitting at 7 a.m. but miraculously all the tables that are normally occupied at that hour were empty. I was going to make a bad joke about how that Starbucks needed a drive-through anyway, but really I just can't believe that actually happened.
 
21. It blows my mind when I go into a restaurant in the middle of the day and everybody in there is like in their 80s, and the place is blasting the worst imaginable dance pop. Like, dude. Your restaurant is 90 percent empty, and the only people in there are senior citizens looking for the Early Bird pork chop special, and you're flat-out blasting Flo Rida, Shawn Mendes and freaking Meghan Trainor. Why?
 
22. Carson Wentz really struggled vs. the Giants last year, completing 40 of 71 passes for 516 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His 66.4 passer rating against the Giants is 27th-best of 28 active quarterbacks, ahead of only Case Keenum's 50.1. Highest Eagles career passer ratings ever against the Giants (minimum 50 attempts): Rodney Peete (101.1), Nick Foles (94.2), Donovan McNabb (90.4), Sam Bradford (85.4) and Mike Boryla (83.2).
 
23. Kind of funny how so many people complained that Jordan Matthews "is always hurt," and he's missed two games in four seasons. Ronald Darby comes here in a trade for Matthews and in his first game suffers an injury that will shelve him for at least a month, but I'm still waiting for the first person to complain that Darby is "always hurt." Similarly, if Matthews ever had two drops as bad as Torrey Smith's in Kansas City, he would have been destroyed by fans. Yet I haven't heard a word from anybody criticizing Smith for those two drops. Guess it's just as simple as Jordan Matthews is a guy that fans were just never going to like. Period.
 
24. Six carries. Would love to see what Corey Clement can do Sunday with six carries.
 
25. If you're a fan of the legendary, influential band Big Star, you'll appreciate this. If not … sorry. You should be. Anyway, last Saturday during breakfast at Legal Seafood in the Philly Airport, I heard a cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash recorded by Big Star singer Alex Chilton in 1969, when he was still a reluctant member of the Box Tops. That night, 12 hours later at dinner out by the airport in Kansas City, I heard an actual Big Star song at the restaurant — Back of a Car. And this past Friday at Joe coffee shop in West Philly, I heard the entire "I Am the Cosmos" record, the only solo album release by Big Star guitarist Chris Bell. I found the guy who put the music on and told him that 30 years earlier I had actually seen Chilton perform on the "High Priest" tour literally three blocks away at the old Chestnut Cabaret. I don't know what any of this means. I'm not sure how Alex Chilton, who died in 2010, has gone from obscurity to being played at coffee shops and restaurants across the country. But I'm not complaining.

Rookie WR Mack Hollins seizing opportunity with Eagles

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Rookie WR Mack Hollins seizing opportunity with Eagles

Turns out that Mack Hollins is much more than a deep threat.

Hollins, the Eagles' rookie fourth-round pick from North Carolina, recorded the first three receptions of his brief NFL career Sunday in Kansas City, with second-half catches of 11, 8 and 13 yards from Carson Wentz in the Eagles' loss to the Chiefs.

Hollins, who got just five offensive snaps in the opener in Washington, earned 17 snaps against the Chiefs and made the best of his chances. Will be interesting to see what this leads to against the Giants Sunday at the Linc and moving forward.

“I think it went well for my opportunities, but as a player your goal is always to win," Hollins said.

"I’d rather have zero catches in a win than a bunch in a loss, but it’s a start. It’s a situation that (receivers coach Mike) Groh has been preparing me for since I got here. Prepare like you’re going to be in the game, so if you do go in, there’s no dropoff. 

"That was my plan when I got my opportunity. Just try to execute as well as I can."

All of Hollins' snaps so far have come in two- or three-wide sets filling in for Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor or Torrey Smith. He said he doesn't know if the increase in reps will continue.

“Really, whatever coach wants," he said. "If it goes to zero snaps this week and we win the game, then I played my role in what our goal as a team is to do, and that’s to win games. I’m ready for whatever coach (Dave) Fipp, coach (Pederson) and coach Groh throw at me. I’m ready to go."

At North Carolina, Hollins was known mainly as a deep threat. He led the NCAA with 24.8 yards per catch as a junior. From 2014 through 2016, his 20.6 yards-per-catch average was fourth-highest in Division I (just behind Shelton Gibson).

But he's shown since he got here he's much more than that.

“That’s something people have assumed since I was at Carolina," he said. "But I’ve been working at routes since I was at Carolina and I’ve been able to run routes since I was at Carolina. Obviously, I’m not the best route runner because you can only get better, so I’m always working on my routes. 

"But I think people assume I’m only a deep threat since that's  primarily what I was at Carolina, but I can do more than that. I’m more than just a one-trick pony."

At UNC last year, Hollins was overshadowed by Ryan Switzer, who caught 96 passes for 1,112 yards, and Bug Howard, who caught 53 for 827.

The Cowboys drafted Switzer in the fourth round, but he doesn't have any catches the first two weeks. Howard was in training camp with the Colts but didn't make the team.

“We had one of the best receiving corps in the country with me Bug and Switz and we were able to have Switz underneath and me take the top off," Hollins said. "If it works, do it, and it worked."

The most impressive thing about Hollins has been his comfort level. He really carries himself like a veteran, and on Sunday at Arrowhead, he played like a veteran.

“Had a little butterflies but once I get a snap on special teams or offense, they go away," he said. "It’s football. We’re all here for a reason. They’re good players, we’re good players. So just be confident in your skill set, and I am."