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?"

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.