OTA Observations: Eagles kick into higher gear

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OTA Observations: Eagles kick into higher gear

Offensively, the Eagles were the NFL’s fastest team to snap the ball last year in Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach.

It appears that Kelly has a new race car to unveil for Year 2.

To the naked eye, Monday’s OTA seemed to run at its fastest pace of all the open practices, especially in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. From the first string down to the reserves, the Eagles moved at a pace well ahead of last year’s spring camps.

Kelly has said his offense could go faster this year. Nick Foles agreed.

“We always want to go faster,” he said. “We always want to be more efficient and and get plays going. Sometimes, situationally in a game you don’t want to do that. Sometimes there’s a different blitz look or thing we have to recognize … I think the big thing is not necessarily the speed, but we want to be efficient. The speed is part of it, but let’s be under control.”

Last year, Kelly had to tone down the pace of his practices when he realized that his roster, going through his system for the first year, needed some catch-up time. Rookies and veterans were in the same boat, learning a new playbook in the fly.

With so many starters returning from last year’s 10-win NFC East championship team, including the entire offensive line, the offense is much more familiar with Kelly’s system and more able to run the offense without interruption.

“I know we’re going fast right now because there was a lot more learning going on on the field (last year), whereas our offense right now we were able to carry on from last season,” Foles said. “We definitely installed a lot of new stuff, so there’s definitely a learning curve and we do have younger guys, but I feel like guys understood how we need to practice and just the culture change. The young guys are doing a really good job following the guys that are here, and the guys that were here last year are doing a really good job stepping it up.”

Other observations:

• Kelly is really making his rookies climb the ladder, as opposed to last year, when first-round pick Lane Johnson was promoted to first-team right tackle early in OTAs and when fifth-round safety Earl Wolff logged some first-defense reps in place of Nate Allen.

First-round outside linebacker Marcus Smith is still running with the third team, as is third-round wideout Josh Huff. Free-agent outside linebacker Bryan Braman is still running with the second team with Brandon Graham and veterans Brad Smith and Arrelious Benn are still higher on the totem pole right now than Huff.

• In the same vein, Kelly did a lot more personnel mix-ups last season as he opened competition at every spot. It wasn’t uncommon to see the first-team front seven come out with the third-team secondary. He’s still subbing here and there but there haven’t been any odd personnel packages or crazy tinkerings that really stand out when the teams come onto the field.

• The defensive line looks different depending on the playcall and package. Joe Kruger, a 2012 seventh-round pick who spent his first season on IR, is logging snaps all over the place, including some first-team reps at defensive end. Rookie fifth-round pick Taylor Hart and last year’s practice squadder, Brandon Bair, are also swapping in and out on the second team.

• Wide receiver Jeff Maehl practiced for the first time after missing the other open sessions with an undisclosed injury. He ran mainly on the second string. Dennis Kelly, who missed an OTA last week, also practiced.

• Mark Sanchez, who continues to be the second string quarterback, threw a bad pick in 11-on-11s. Nolan Carroll came up with the interception. ... The practice’s best pass came from fourth-string quarterback G.J. Kinne, who tossed a touchdown bomb to James Casey down the left sideline past linebacker Jake Knott. The pass hit Casey in stride to his outside shoulder. … Foles looked extremely sharp, although one of his red-zone passes was intercepted by DeMeco Ryans at the goal line. But Foles also threw red-zone TDs to Brent Celek and Damaris Johnson.

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.”