Eagles to players: if you ask for more money, we’ll try to trade you

Eagles to players: if you ask for more money, we’ll try to trade you

Is the Philadelphia Eagles’ motivation to trade DeSean Jackson based on his desire to renegotiate his contract after all?

Head coach Chip Kelly wouldn’t provide many answers beyond, “we’re always going to do what’s best for the organization,” at the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday. However, maybe there is a clue in the way the organization is handling another player who is suddenly asking for more money.

Ian Rapoport for the NFL Network broke the disappointing news that Evan Mathis has joined Jackson on the trade block. The common theme between the two stories: the All-Pro left guard is said to be seeking more money coming off of a breakout season.

Jackson’s drama-filled offseason all started with seemingly innocent comments about “deserving” a new deal.

The Eagles’ apparent reaction to both requests: no, but we’ll send you to a team that will renegotiate your deal.

To be fair, the front office has a point. Just like Jackson, Mathis is only entering the third of a five-year deal signed in 2012. Typically, contract renegotiations and extensions that include more money, more years and/or more guarantees occur when there is one year remaining on the pact, occasionally two.

Look no further than Mathis’ fellow offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, both of whom received large extensions from the Birds this offseason. Both also happened to be on the final year of their existing contracts as well.

But like Jackson, Mathis has no more guaranteed money coming his way. He’ll also be 35-years-old when the current deal expires, so the chances of breaking the bank down the line—with Philly or anywhere else—are slim.

The Eagles signed Mathis to a one-year deal almost as an afterthought during the freewheeling spending period of 2011. He wound up not only winning a job at left guard, but playing better than he ever had in his career.

When Mathis reached free agency the following year, there was some interest in the marketplace, but the body of work wasn’t strong enough to warrant an elite contract. He re-signed with the Eagles for five years, $25 million.

Now, Mathis is finally being recognized as one of the best linemen in football with his Pro Bowl invitation and All-Pro honors. Meanwhile, analytics site Pro Football Focus has been calling Mathis the best guard in football for years.

Mathis’ base salary currently makes him the seventh highest-paid guard in the NFL in each of the next three seasons.

It appears he’s not going to find a sympathetic partner in the Eagles though, who seem to be taking the hard-line position that players should honor their contracts.

Of course, that’s not exactly a new trick for this organization.

Where Mathis’ story again aligns with Jackson’s is what Philadelphia could expect in return for Mathis. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports the club is seeking a third-round pick, but might settle for a fourth.

That may sound like a low-ball offer for the consensus best left guard in pro football last season. The fact that Mathis is already 32 and asking for a new contract certainly hurts his value though.

Apparently, the Eagles would be happy just to add picks. As of now, they only have six heading into perhaps the deepest draft in a decade.

But is trading star players from a team that lost by two points in the first round of the playoffs last season really the right way to go about building for the future?

Probably not, but then would the Eagles even be looking to move either Jackson or Mathis had they just kept quiet about wanting more money?

In Jackson’s case, the answer is maybe, as he poses other potential distractions. In retrospect, regarding everything we’ve gone through with the diva wide receiver this offseason and in the past, it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

And while Chip belabored the fact that DeSean never actually approached the team about addressing his contract, that doesn't mean management isn't anticipating this becoming a battleground.

Mathis’ addition to the trade block came from way further out of left field. The loss would also hurt more. At least the Eagles have a deep set of weapons at the skill positions. If Mathis is out of the picture, management will be forced to embark on a search to find his direct replacement immediately.

Needless to say, the trade rumors are taking their toll on some of the goodwill the Eagles built up in 2013 and during the early portion of this offseason. The message being sent seems clear though: somebody might be willing to pay you more money, but not us.

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Starters typically don't play much if at all in the final preseason game, but what does that mean for the Eagles and Nelson Agholor?

Agholor may be a starter by default, but the second-year wideout has followed up a disappointing rookie campaign with an uninspired summer thus far. More reps might be of value for a young player in Agholor's position.

Doug Pederson apparently disagrees, telling reporters on Monday that Agholor "probably" won't make an appearance in the Eagles' preseason finale this Thursday against the Jets. When pressed for an explanation, the head coach gave a curious response.

"One, I don't want to risk an injury necessarily," Pederson said. "Two, he's right on track with where he needs to be, so I'm not concerned with Nelson."

Any assertion that Agholor is "on track" is debatable. The 2015 first-round pick has just two receptions for 30 yards in preseason action. To make matters worse, he's also dropped three passes, including a costly deflection that went for an interception against the Colts on Saturday.

Minimal production and lapses in concentration plagued Agholor throughout last season, and there's little evidence those issues are behind him. Regardless, Pederson sounds unconcerned.

"Every day he comes out here and puts in a quality day's work," Pederson said. "He works extremely hard, and I've seen what he can do in practice.

"Is there the occasional drop here or there? Yeah. What he did after the drop (against the Colts), you probably didn't notice the blocking downfield, the things he did away from the ball. More than being a receiver — obviously, catching the ball is number one — but we pride ourselves in being physical in the run game and blocks down the field, and the things he did in this football game put him in a really good position going into the regular season."

To his credit, Agholor has shown a willingness to contribute without the ball in his hands. The 23-year-old threw a key block on Josh Huff's eight-yard touchdown run on Saturday.

Of course, Agholor wasn't taken 20th overall for his ability to pancake defensive backs. The Eagles are hoping he can become a viable target in the passing attack.

Agholor has dealt with questions about his production and confidence going back to last year. He knows as well as anybody that he needs to improve, although he doesn't necessarily feel that growth needs to take place in an exhibition game.

"The most important thing to me right now is practice, and I got an opportunity to go out here and practice and progress from the game to today," Agholor said. "We went over some corrections from the game, so that was a step, and now when I go out here, I have to show signs of progression.

"(Coach Pederson's) decision is his decision. For my mind, I need to make sure I go out here today and get better as a football player."

But are Agholor's troubles holding on to the football correctable through practice? Drops are often attributed either to a receiver's hands or his concentration, both of which tend to be difficult flaws to overcome.

Concentration has been more to blame in Agholor's case. If there's a positive, he realizes that. Agholor looks at a drop like the one he had against the Colts that wound up going for an interception and tries to figure out exactly what broke his concentration on that play so that he won't make the same mistake again.

"As a wide receiver, when you watch that, the end result, the drop, isn't on my mind," Agholor said. "It's 'What was my route?' to go to that. Did I do too much to take my focus away from receiving that football? And I felt like I did.

"I felt like my pattern to get to the football — I made man moves and they were actually in a zone — and all those stairsteps made my eyes and my hands not be in the right place to receive the football at the right time."

Nobody is putting more pressure on Agholor to eliminate these mistakes than he is.

"That's what you have to do in this league, and that's what you have to do for a football team, especially when they count on you," Agholor said.

"My teammates count on me to be explosive with the football and without the football. I want to always do it with the football because that's my job. I'm a wide receiver. But as a player on the field, I have to make sure I'm explosive and I have to make sure I make plays without the ball in my hands too."

Perhaps that's why Pederson is showing so much faith in his young receiver. Work ethic has never been an issue for Agholor, and he's going to do whatever he can to become a reliable weapon for the Eagles. When he comes up short, it's not for lack of effort or preparation.

Fortunately, there's still time for Agholor to turn things around. If he can give the offense somewhat steady production in 2016, nobody will remember the preseason or even how he struggled as a rookie. Agholor realizes that too, so he's worried only about getting ready for opening day against the Browns on Sept. 11.

"I have a responsibility because I will be a guy that's out there," Agholor said. "In my mind, my number's going to be called multiple times and I need to answer the phone. That's how I look at it."

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres reportedly changes mind, will stand for national anthem

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres reportedly changes mind, will stand for national anthem

Several hours after telling ESPN that he would join Colin Kaepernick in not standing for the national anthem, Eagles rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres has apparently changed his mind. 

Tavarres' agent told FOX29's Chris O'Connell Monday afternoon that the linebacker will stand for the national anthem Thursday in the Eagles' preseason finale against the Jets.

All right then. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson released the following statement regarding Tavarres' decision(s):

For what it's worth, Crossing Broad found this picture from Tavarres a few weeks ago, when he certainly seemed to be pro-America.

Happy Independence Day!! 🇺🇸

A photo posted by Myke Tavarres (@myket14) on

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz was on the fields at the NovaCare Complex wearing a helmet and ready to practice on Monday for the first time since fracturing his ribs on Aug. 11 against the Bucs.

He’s getting better. Just not quickly enough.

Despite being back at practice Monday afternoon, Wentz will not play in the Eagles’ preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday night. The original hope was that the No. 2 overall pick would be ready for the fourth preseason game.

“That’s a no-go for this week, but I’ll be ready for Week 1,” Wentz said.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said a CT scan on Wentz’s ribs showed one was completely healed, while the other was just 60 percent healed (see story).

Wentz said he expects to be fully healed by Sept. 11, when the Eagles open the season against the Cleveland Browns. But by then, he will have missed three of his four opportunities to play in the preseason. And, as the third-stringer, he won’t even be active on game days.

“It’s tough,” Wentz said. “With all injuries, it’s tough not being on the field, especially as a competitor coming in here, these preseason games were going to be big for me. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but it just kind of is what it is.”

In his only game this preseason, Wentz went 12 for 24 for 89 yards and an interception. He also ran three times for 15 yards. During that game, he showed flashes of why the Eagles were so high on him, but it was just a taste.

After Thursday night, he will have spent the rest of the preseason as a spectator during games, taking mental reps instead of real ones.

Mental reps help, certainly. Wentz stands on the sideline and mentally inserts himself into the play. What would he do here? What would his read be there? What would he do with a certain protection?

“You’re really just trying to be locked in like you were the guy in the game,” he said.

Mental reps are great. But they don’t replace the real ones. Nothing does.

So while Wentz has been working to get better since going down with the ribs injury earlier this month, he’s lost valuable practice and game reps that he won’t get back. Pederson said once the season starts, the team can’t help him make them up because it will be too focused on getting the starters ready to play.

“You have to make the most of every opportunity you have in practice,” Wentz said. “I feel confident with where I am. Obviously, I missed the couple preseason games. I know when my number gets called, I’ll be ready.”

Pederson on Monday said he was less concerned about Wentz because Wentz is the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. That was the plan before Wentz’s injury. Then the injury cemented that plan.

Does Wentz have any hope that he’ll play during his rookie season?

“I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “It’s not up for me to decide. We’ve been talking about this forever now. I know I’ll be ready to go and I’m excited for when I’m back out there. Practicing today, I’m excited for that too.”