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.

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres will join Colin Kaepernick, won't stand for national anthem

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres will join Colin Kaepernick, won't stand for national anthem

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines last week when he refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game, and an Eagles linebacker fighting for a roster spot says he'll do the same in their final preseason contest.

Kaepernick decided not to stand because of the divisive and violent racial issues that have been building in America. Tavarres has taken a similar stance, telling ESPN.com's Tim McManus on Monday that he nearly followed Kaepernick's lead by sitting out the anthem in Indianapolis.

"Oh, I thought about it. Believe me, I definitely thought about it," Tavarres told ESPN. "And usually I'm front and center on the line with the rest of the guys, and that's since pre-K all the way up. Saturday's game, I stepped back, I was in the background, and it didn't feel right to me at all, and so I will be taking a stand — or sitting down — for the fourth game.

"We've got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up. We've got that right. There's just a lot going on that people don't want to talk about, and I feel like us as athletes, we're looked at as role models. And I feel like with Colin Kaepernick, he's doing a great job for standing up in what he believes in, and most people may not like that, but that's his opinion, he's entitled to it, and I respect him for doing it."

Tavarres is not a lock to make the Eagles' final 53-man roster, but their lack of depth at backup linebacker has created an opportunity for him. Dave Zangaro had Tavarres on the practice squad in his roster projection Monday. 

According to the report, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had players express their feelings about the topic during a meeting Monday and Tavarres was one of the players who spoke, along with team leader Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

"In this situation, I've really got nothing to lose," Tavarres told McManus. "I'm a rookie free agent, haven't signed any major contract, so there's not a lot of money on the line, I don't have any big endorsement deals on the line. Really what's at stake is my pride and what kind of man would I be and what kind of African-American would I be if I didn't stand my ground on this issue we have today?

"[It] needs to be done. Will there be backlash? Probably. I don't think anyone has bought my jersey yet, so I don't know if it's going to be burned, but it's a major issue and I'm definitely going to stand my ground for this one."

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after rehabbing all summer

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after rehabbing all summer

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The last time Sean Couturier played a meaningful game, he got drilled into the side boards by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
 
Couturier suffered an A/C sprain in his left shoulder during the second period of Game 1 against the Capitals and missed the remainder of the playoffs.
 
“Most of the summer was a lot of rehab, trying to strengthen that shoulder,” said the Flyers center, who is practicing at Skate Zone. “Now I feel good. I’m not gonna lie, it took me longer than I thought.”
 
The 23-year-old reported early. He’ll travel to Montreal on Sept. 4 for Team North America’s training camp and the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament next month.
 
“I’m trying to skate as much as I can to get back in the rhythm,” Couturier said. “I think it’s going to be tough to get in the rhythm right away. We’re not used to playing that high level hockey in September, but every guy on every team is going to be like that.
 
“Once we get out there, the level is going to be pretty high right off the bat. I think it can help me personally be ready for the season and step right into game action.”

Eight Flyers will participate in the eight-team competition. The others: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Mark Streit, Radko Gudas, Jakub Voracek and Michal Neuvirth.
 
Team North America is comprised of age 23-and-under players.
 
“I don’t really listen too much to the hype and stuff in the summer, but we can definitely surprise some people,” Couturier predicted. “I don’t think there’s much attention for our team. Really no one knows what we’re gonna look like.
 
“We’re gonna try and surprise the world, basically and try to win the tournament. We’re not going there as tourists. We feel we have a good group and a lot of skill and speed and we’ll surprise some teams for sure.”
 
Couturier is a perfect North American because he has dual citizenship – U.S. and Canada. Though born in Phoenix, he spent nearly his entire childhood in Canada.
 
“For me, I’m dual citizenship, so that’s the way I see it,” Couturier said of playing favorites. “It’s a little different, but at the same time the mindset is more about trying to win the tournament. Once you’re out there and on a team you’re just trying to win and I think that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
 
This tournament offers Couturier a chance to test his shoulder competitively before pre-season NHL games start.
 
Obviously, the Flyers will open camp here without some of their best players.
 
“Everyone’s had a long summer, so I think everyone’s kind of looking forward to getting back into action,” Couturier said. “We’re lucky. We’re fortunate to get back into action earlier than we usually do. I’m just happy to be part of it and live the experience.
 
“I know a little what to expect international-wise – I went to the Worlds two years ago. This is going to be high level. No easy games.”
 
Loose pucks
Ten players, including Gostisbehere and free agent Russian forward Roman Lyubimov, who was signed in July, are also working out at Skate Zone, which is under major reconstruction. … Because of construction, the Phantoms dressing room no longer exists. The Flyers have a logistics problem of where the majority of their players are going to dress during camp. ... Construction won’t be completed until sometime this fall. … As part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Flyers have decorated walls throughout their dressing room area with steel plates from old newspaper pages, and other media, commemorating their two Stanley Cups plus other historic moments from the past. … Brayden Schenn, who will miss the first three games of the regular season on a suspension, will play in preseason.

Flyers' farm system ranked 6th in NHL by ESPN

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Flyers' farm system ranked 6th in NHL by ESPN

There's a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the future of Philly sports, although between the Phillies, Eagles and Sixers, the Flyers tend to go a little overlooked this time of year.

Maybe that shouldn't be the case. Not only are the Flyers coming off of a playoff season, unlike the other local teams, but their future might be as bright as any of the other three. Just look at their farm system, which is ranked sixth in the NHL by Corey Pronman for ESPN.com (Insider), up from number 10 last year.

It's hard to criticize the Flyers' system. Talented all-around centers? Check. Dynamic big defensemen? Check. Ridiculous goaltender depth? Check. Depth through their amateur and professional ranks? Check. Players with star upside? Check. They don't have an Auston Matthews-caliber player in the pipeline, but that player doesn't stay in your system longer than three months anyhow. Ron Hextall emphasizes patience in developing players, so I do expect this system to remain at a high level for another two seasons as the build continues.

The Flyers may not have an Auston Matthews-type, who happened to be first-overall pick in this year's NHL draft. Among the prospects they do have however are forward Travis Konecny, defensemen Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanehim and goaltender Anthony Stolarz, several of whom are already knocking on the door. This comes on the heels of what was considered another strong draft for the franchise in June as well.

And let's not forget, one of the Flyers' top prospects joined the club last season. Shayne Ghostisbehere isn't accounted for in these rankings for obvious reasons, but the fact of the matter is the dynamic blue-liner is only 23 and should be wearing orange and black for a long time.

Of course, Flyers fans already know the future is bright. Then again, seeing how their farm system is viewed relative to other teams around the league goes to show just what an outstanding job general manager Ron Hextall has done rebuilding the prospect pipeline.