Pederson expects Kelce back; how about other expensive vets?

Pederson expects Kelce back; how about other expensive vets?

INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Eagles are planning on cutting or trading long-time center Jason Kelce, no one has told head coach Doug Pederson.

Shortly after his podium session on Wednesday inside the convention center at the combine, Pederson was asked if he expects Kelce to be back on the team next season.

"I do," Pederson said without hesitation.

"Listen, he's a player that's under contract, a Pro Bowl player who has been a tremendous asset to the team, so yeah."

Kelce, 29, is coming off a Pro Bowl season but has been labeled as a possible salary cap casualty this offseason. In 2017, his cap number rises to $6.2 million and the Eagles would save $3.8 million if they cut or trade him.

Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman wouldn't commit to Kelce's return. But when he was asked about the center, Roseman praised him.

"Jason Kelce was a second-team Pro Bowler, has been a huge contributor to our football team," Roseman said. "I don't want to get into specifics of any player individually because that will open the door to every other player. But certainly appreciate the tremendous value that he's had and had for our young quarterback this season."

The Eagles have shown that they'll skip no expense to give Carson Wentz every tool he needs. They signed Chase Daniel to be a mentor, blocked quarterbacks coach John DeFillipo from leaving and it looks like they're going to keep a more expensive option at center to keep continuity. The Eagles are also keeping left tackle Jason Peters at his $10.7 million cap hit in 2017.

Back on Feb. 8, the Eagles cut cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Since then, things have been slow.

Kelce, of course, is among some of the tough decisions the club needs to make. Another is defensive end Connor Barwin, who shares the same agent. The Eagles, coming into the week, were expected to meet with their agent while in Indianapolis.

"You don't want to pay for a guy for what he's done," Roseman said. "You have to figure out what his value is going forward and what he's making."

So that brings up plenty of questions about Barwin, who is coming off a relative down season in his first year in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense. He had just five sacks in 2016.

Will Barwin be worth his $8.35 million cap hit in 2017, or does it make more sense to cut him and save $7.75 million in cap space?

"You talk about Connor and what he's meant to our football team on and off the field," Roseman said. "There were a lot of questions about his ability to play in a 4-3. And he did it and he did a really good job with it. Obviously, we're not going to get into whoever you guys ask me about. We're not going to get into specifics of who's going to be back and who's not. Certainly, when you talk about Connor, he's got all those traits we're talking about here, about guys who have done a good job and still have stuff left in the tank."

If Barwin still has "stuff left in the tank," the Eagles' decision to hold onto him this long might make sense. Instead of cutting him, perhaps the Eagles can trade him to another club and recoup at least some sort of asset. 

Another veteran player who would be a logical cut is veteran running back Ryan Mathews, who is set to have a $5 million cap hit and is coming off a significant neck injury.

"Ryan is doing great," Roseman said. "We fully expect him to be ready to play. He's under contract and I think it's as simple as that."

Only it's probably not as simple as that. The Eagles would save $4 million in cap space by cutting the oft-injured Mathews – a move that would seem to make a lot of sense -- but it's not that easy thanks to his injury.

When asked in general terms, Roseman said league rules prohibit teams from cutting an injured player.

So maybe the Eagles' hands are tied there until they can figure out some sort of injury settlement.

But for decisions about the other guys, the clock is ticking.

The legal-tampering window begins on March 7 and free agency begins two days after. So it would appear March 9 would be a deadline for when the Eagles want to make these decisions. Roseman isn't giving himself that deadline.

"There's no deadline on the decision-making," he said. "We don't have a drop-dead date. For us, again, it goes back to information gathering, getting as much as possible, seeing the potential options for us. We don't want to do something shortsighted and lose and opportunity. And it's easy to talk about all the players you want to get rid of, but do you have a plan to replace them?"

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Forever linked to Reggie White, Derek Barnett wants to create own identity

Derek Barnett was 4 years old when Reggie White played in his final NFL game.

Nonetheless, the two are inexorably linked. And probably always will be.

Barnett broke White's University of Tennessee career sack record this past winter, and on Thursday — 25 years after White played his final game in an Eagles uniform — Barnett joined the team White spent his first eight NFL seasons with.

Barnett said Friday he's actually been in contact with White's widow, Sara, who contacted him after he broke Reggie's Volunteers sack record in the Music City Bowl against Nebraska in Nashville this past Dec. 30.

"She gave me a phone call about a week after the bowl game after I broke the record," Barnett said. "She just congratulated me on everything I've accomplished.

"Even though I broke the record I told her, 'Reggie's still Reggie. I don't think I'm better than Reggie.' I told her thank you a lot and I really appreciated it.

"It meant a lot. She went out of her way. She didn't have to call me, but I'm glad she did."

Barnett recorded 33 sacks in his college career. White had 32.

Now, let's be realistic. Barnett is not White. Nobody is. White recorded 124 sacks in 121 games as an Eagle — more than one per game.

Add in his six years with the Packers and final season with the Panthers and White had 198 sacks in his career. That stood as the NFL record until Bruce Smith finished with 200. White still ranks second all-time.

White, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, his first year of eligibility, died the day after Christmas in 2004.

It was Sara White who spoke for White at his Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio, and Barnett said he can't wait to meet her in person.

"She lives in Nashville, so when I get the chance I will go over there and meet with them," Barnett said. "But Reggie White, in Knoxville, is a legend. He's all over the place in the state of Tennessee."

Since White left Philly for Green Bay, the Eagles have drafted exactly one defensive end who's ever had double-digit sacks in a season. That was Trent Cole, a fifth-round pick in 2005.

One guy in a quarter of a century.

Barnett said he actually watched old film of White while he was in college to try and learn from his arsenal of pass-rush moves.

"I watched tape of him at Tennessee because I was trying to put the hump move in my game," Barnett said. "As a pass rusher, I feel like everyone has their own moves and I think that move is for him, probably not for me."

None of this is really fair to Barnett, who found himself being compared to maybe the greatest defensive player in NFL history before his NFL career was 24 hours old.

In an open letter to NFL teams published in the Players' Tribune this week, Barnett said he's proud he broke White's record but ultimately wants to be known for more.

"You might know me as the kid who broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, but that’s not the only thing I’m going to be remembered for by the time I leave this game," he wrote.

"Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college."

NFL draft Day 2 updates: Another corner off the board

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NFL draft Day 2 updates: Another corner off the board

The Latest on the NFL draft (all times Eastern):

7:15 p.m.

The Green Bay Packers opened the second round of the NFL draft by selecting Washington cornerback Kevin King.

Green Bay traded out of the first round, so King, a 6-3 former safety, was its first addition in this draft. The Packers owned the 29th pick, which they sent to Cleveland on Thursday night.

Just before Friday's selection, Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski thanked Philadelphia and the fans. Folks in the theater even booed Goodell's tribute, but not when "Jaws" repeated it.

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6:45 p.m.

Cardinals first-round draft pick Haason Reddick arrived in Arizona Friday and gushed about his new NFL home.

He praised the welcoming fans and called the area "heaven on earth."

Apparently nobody warned him about practicing in 120-degree summer temperatures.

The versatile linebacker also said he's looking forward to learning behind veteran Karlos Dansby, who was signed to a one-year contract.

Reddick, the 13th pick overall, said he's already talked to Dansby and that he's "blessed and lucky" to be in a position to learn from him.

Round two of the draft begins at 7 p.m. with a pick by Green Bay.

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