For Lane Johnson, familiarity is paying off

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For Lane Johnson, familiarity is paying off

He’s not the new guy anymore, and for Lane Johnson, that’s perfectly fine.

A year after he entered OTAs as the Eagles' first-round pick (and fourth overall selection of the draft) and quickly found himself thrown into the starting lineup, Johnson feels much more relaxed this time around.

“This year is a lot different,” Johnson said. “I know the schedule, the plays and the offense, so I’m more familiar with things. I feel a lot more comfortable than as a rookie.”

While the Eagles have spent this year’s OTAs bringing their top draft picks along slowly and keeping them away from the first team, last year was much different. The team needed a new right tackle and Johnson was expected to contribute right away.

Despite starting all 16 games his rookie year, there is plenty of room for Johnson to improve as he enters his sophomore campaign. While he excelled as a run-blocker, the 6-foot-6, 317-pound tackle struggled at times in pass protection, giving up 11 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

According to Johnson, the biggest key to his development has been the stability of playing in one spot on the line.

If Johnson remains at right tackle as expected, it will be the first time he has played the same position in two consecutive years since high school.

A high school quarterback who arrived at Oklahoma as a tight end, Johnson was starting at right tackle by his junior year before moving to the left side as a senior. Switched back to the right side last year by the Eagles, he is looking forward to staying put for once.

“This is the first year I’ve been able to play the same position for consecutive years, so playing back-to-back [years] at right tackle will be good for me,” Johnson said. “In the pass set, I feel a lot more comfortable on the right side than I did last year.”

Having a year of experience under his belt has also helped Johnson become more vocal and assertive with his decision-making.

As part of a unit with three players (Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis and Jason Peters) over 30, Johnson kept mostly quiet last season and let his veteran teammates make the calls. He relied especially heavily on Herremans, who lined up next to him at right guard.

“He’s not a first-year player now and he’s not relying on Todd Herremans to make the calls for him,” Chip Kelly said before Tuesday’s OTA. “Last year, Lane made decisions by saying, ‘Todd, tell me what to do,’ and then executing it. Now he knows what to do and is communicating a little better with those guys.”

Barring injury, the Eagles will return the same starting offensive line in 2014 that helped them finish second in the NFL in points per game (27.6) last season and helped LeSean McCoy lead the league in rushing.

Having given up the most sacks and having committed the most penalties (eight) out the team’s starting linemen, Johnson will look to be more consistent in Year 2 and prove that he was worth being a top-four pick.

“There was a lot of guessing and being unsure of myself last year,” Johnson said. “I want to come out playing fast right away and be confident and I think when I do that good things will happen.”

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

Eagles sign former third-round guard Dallas Thomas

The Eagles have signed former Dolphins offensive guard Dallas Thomas to a reserve/futures contract. 

Thomas, 27, was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round (No. 77) out of Tennessee in 2013 and was with them until this past season.  

In his four-year career, Thomas has played in 37 games with 26 starts. He started nine games in 2014 and started all 16 games at left guard in 2015. 

Thomas (6-5, 315 pounds) and 2014 third-rounder Billy Turner were both released in October after a poor showing against the Titans. While Thomas was the team's starter at left guard in 2015, rookie Laremy Tunsil took over that position with the Dolphins in 2016. 

In 2015, when Thomas started all 16 games at left guard, he was ranked as the worst guard in football by ProFootballFocus. He gave up 10 sacks, 10 QB hits and 36 QB hurries. 

Eagles to receive just under $8 million in salary cap carryover for 2017

Eagles to receive just under $8 million in salary cap carryover for 2017

The Eagles are getting salary cap help. Just not quite as much as they expected.  

The NFL Players Association announced the official 2017 salary-cap carryover figures on Wednesday, and the Eagles will receive $7,933,869 in extra cap space this coming year on top of the unadjusted salary cap figure that every team begins the offseason with.

The NFL’s official 2017 salary cap figure hasn’t yet been announced, but it’s expected to be somewhere in the $166 to $170 million range, up from a record-$155.3 million in 2016.

Under terms of the CBA, teams can receive credit in each year’s salary cap for cap space that went unused the previous season. This creates an adjusted cap figure that can vary by tens of millions of dollars per team.

The Eagles under former team president Joe Banner were the first to use this once-obscure technique in the late 1990s. Today, every team uses it to some extent.

The more carryover money a team gets, the more it has to spend relative to the combined cap figures of players under contract the coming year.

The NFLPA originally estimated in the fall that the Eagles would receive $8.25 million in carryover money, so the new figure is about $316,000 less than originally expected.

It’s also the ninth-highest of the 32 teams, although below the average of $9.18 million. That’s because the top few carryover figures are so much ridiculously higher than the average (Browns $50.1 million, 49ers $38.7 million, Titans $24.0 million).

According to salary cap data tracker Spotrac, the Eagles have 52 players under contract for 2017 with a total combined cap figure of $158,040,710.

With an $168 million unadjusted cap, the Eagles would have an adjusted cap figure of $175,933,869.

They have $7,055,933 in dead money, mainly from trading Sam Bradford ($5.5 million) and Eric Rowe ($904,496) but also from departed players such as Andrew Gardner ($250,000), Josh Huff ($138,986) and Blake Countess ($98,678).

Subtract the 2017 contract obligations – the $158,040,710 figure – along with the dead money – the $7,055,033 figure – and that leaves the Eagles with roughly $10.84 million in cap space.

That figure may not include some 2016 bonuses that have not yet been made public. And it doesn’t include, for example, a $500,000 pay raise Peters got by triggering a contract escalator.

So that reduces the $10.84 million figure to $10.34 million.

From there, about $4 ½ million or so will go to the 2017 rookie pool.

So that leaves the Eagles currently with somewhere in the ballpark of $6 million in cap space.

Now, the Eagles will obviously be able to increase that number by releasing players.

They would more than double their cap space just by releasing Connor Barwin, who has a $8.35 million cap number but would cost only $600,000 in dead money for a cap savings of $7.75 million.

Jason Peters ($9.2 million), Jason Kelce ($3.8 million), Ryan Mathews ($4 million), Leodis McKelvin ($3.2 million) and Mychal Kendricks ($1.8 million) would also clear large amounts of cap space.

So for example by releasing Barwin, Kelce, McKelvin and Mathews, they would increase their cap space by a whopping $18.75 million. 

Of course, then the Eagles have to think about replacing those players with cheaper versions while still trying to build a playoff roster.

Whatever happens, the Eagles are in a unique position as they enter the 2017 offseason, with far less cap flexibility than other years.

“Yeah, it's unusual, certainly since I've been here, to have a more challenging situation,” vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said earlier this month.

“But part of our job in the front office is to look at this over a long period of time. So as we sit here today, it isn't like the first time that we are looking at that situation, and we'll do whatever's best for the football team.”