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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).