2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, TEs: Paying a hefty sum for leadership

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, TEs: Paying a hefty sum for leadership

About this time last year, it seemed a large cap hit might lead to the end of Brent Celek's tenure with the Eagles. Instead, the organization doubled down by extending Celek's contract. The three-year extension significantly reduced his salary for 2016, while the $6 million in guarantees committed the club for 2017.

In the grand scheme of things, Celek's cap number for next season currently ranks 17th among NFL tight ends, which isn't horrific. In terms of performance, however, it's difficult to argue he's worth that money.

Celek posted his lowest totals in his entire 10-year career with 14 catches for 155 yards and zero touchdowns. While still an adequate blocking tight end, he no longer grades as one of the best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus' measures. Even looking at pure playing time, Celek was on the field for just 38.7 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps, only beating out third-string tight end Trey Burton 439 to 331.

At this point, the club is paying Celek more for his veteran leadership and presence in the locker room than anything else, which there's certainly value to that. Whethere it's enough to justify his place on the roster at the current roster is probably in the eye of beholder.

It's also irrelevant. Even if the Eagles are having buyer's remorse, all but $1 million of Celek's deal is guaranteed, much of which would be put toward replacing him anyway. An additional $2 million can be pocketed in the event of a trade, but that's hard to fathom for obvious reasons.

Which means Celek will remain with the Eagles for at least one more season, although he could wind up being further phased out of the offense in favor of more Burton in 2017. Perhaps he would agree to a pay cut if asked, as his desire to win a championship before retiring seems genuine, although the organization has no leverage, and his $4 million base salary isn't exactly high to begin with.

Truthfully, this is a rare situation where it probably isn't and shouldn't be all about the money, because it's not crippling anyway. Celek and his trademark No. 87 serve a purpose that can't be measured, and the Eagles no doubt realized that when they made the deal.

TIGHT ENDS UNDER CONTRACT

Zach Ertz
Age: 27*
Cap Number: $5,600,000

Mr. December had another outrageous finish to a season, and wound up leading all Eagles players in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches as a result. While another slow start might leave people wondering if he can rack up numbers when it actually matters, this was the second straight year Ertz finished with at least 70 catches and 800 yards. Keep in mind, he missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a displaced rib and didn't spend much time working with quarterback Carson Wentz in OTAs and training camp, so it's not surprising Ertz would fare better in the second half. Quite simply, if the fifth-year veteran continues producing at this rate, he'll be well worth the money in 2017. The splits are wild though: 3.1 catches and 35.7 yards per game with four touchdowns in September, October and November compared to 6.0 catches, 70.5 yards and nine touchdowns in December and January.

Brent Celek
Age: 32*
Cap Number: $5,000,000

Even when Ertz was out with an injury, Celek's results were mixed. He failed to record a single catch against the Bears in Week 2, but came back with three catches for 61 yards in the following game versus the Steelers. If another team lost their tight end in OTAs or training camp, you could almost envision a scenario where Celek becomes an intriguing replacement, only a trade would come too late to help the Eagles with the cap. Not sure he'd be thrilled to leave, except maybe to join a true contender. It's farfetched anyway, and probably not worth seriously considering. 

Anthony Denham
Age: 26*

Denham initially joined the Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2014, but appeared in only four games over two years. After failing to make the team out of training camp, he caught on with the Eagles practice squad in October, then signed a futures contract at the end of the season. Denham has enticing speed for the position, timing just under 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but it has yet to manifest itself as a threat to defenses.

EXPIRING CONTRACTS

Trey Burton
Age: 26*
2016 Cap Number: $602,500

Not only did Burton emerge as a viable target in the passing game this season, finishing with 47 receptions for 327 yards and a touchdown. He's also an outstanding contributor on special teams, making seven tackles. Burton is the kind of versatile athlete every team wants on its roster, which is why the Eagles will likely make full use of the "restricted" aspect of his status as a restricted free agent. That could mean placing a second-round tender on Burton, which paid $2.553 million in 2016. That's a little steep for a third tight end, although he's already working his way up the depth chart. Still, the Eagles could also make a long-term offer that pays Burton less in '17, but reflects his growing role and future with the franchise. Either way, it's hard to envision them letting him get away.

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

So far, 2017 has been a pretty big year for Wayne Simmonds.
 
In addition to being named to his first All-Star team this year, Simmonds clearly had big plans on how to spend his bye week away from hockey, before returning to play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. He popped the question to his girlfriend, Crystal Corey, and she said yes.
 
Simmonds announced the engagement on his Instagram.

11,700 feet and she said YES! I Love you @cryscorey 💛#SimmondsandSimmonds

A photo posted by Wayne Simmonds (@wayne17simmonds) on

It could be good news for the Flyers, too. Simmonds is the second Flyer to get engaged this season after Claude Giroux popped the question in December after winning three in a row. The Flyers made the winning streak an even 10 after. Congratulations, Wayne!

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

Time to talk everybody's favorite Eagles whipping boy, or one of them in Jason Kelce, who's viewed very differently by fans than he is his peers. Case in point, it might surprise some readers to learn Kelce was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl for 2016, which means a lot of NFL players and coaches must've been voting for him.

We know Eagles fans weren't coming out in droves. Yet if we were to go off of only the respect people around the league have for Kelce, he's considered one of the top eight centers in football. That ranking also happens to be roughly commensurate with his salary cap hit for 2017, which is currently 10th at the position, according to OverTheCap.

That's still going to be high for many critics that say Kelce is too undersized and has become too frequently penalized in recent years. It's especially high when you tell some of those same people the Eagles could save nearly $4 million by going in a different direction.

The trade or release of Kelce would free up $3.8 million to be exact, although once again, that's before we consider the cost of replacing him. And unlike other areas of the Eagles roster, there really isn't a young prospect waiting in the wings to take over, even somebody who is maybe only a year away from being ready to take over.

So if the Eagles were to get rid of Kelce, they would have to pay somebody to replace him. Granted, only 14 centers carry a higher cap number, and many starters make half of the six-year veteran's money, so there are cheaper options available — although, what kind of quality is the offense getting for that price?

Kelce is a perfect example of when the grass isn't always greener. There are some big, mauling centers around the NFL, like the Pouncey brothers, and who doesn't love that? But while Kelce isn't necessarily going to rip anybody's spine out at the point of attack, there probably isn't a better center in the league at pulling or blocking at the second and third levels. He's a unique player from that perspective, something people tend to forget.

The Eagles are not going to upgrade the position by going significantly cheaper. Kelce can hold his own in pass protection, and he's elite when the play design allows him to get into space. There's also something to be said for his knowledge of the offense, in addition to the rapport he's building with Carson Wentz.

Best case scenario, the Eagles are probably replacing him with Stefan Wisniewski, who the club paid $2.76 million in 2016. Figuring a raise, that's most of their cap savings right there, and Wisniewski is not nearly as decorated or so widely respected by his peers. There must be a reason for that.

Kelce is pretty good.

CENTERS UNDER CONTRACT

Jason Kelce
Age: 30*
Cap Number: $6,200,000

The bigger issue with Kelce is he's approaching his 30th birthday this year, although many centers enjoy lengthy careers, especially the guys who play more of a finesse game. And if the Eagles do want to start thinking about the future, it might help if they begin developing his replacement now. Kelce will be much easier to move on from in 2018 in terms of the salary cap, so if the Eagles draft somebody this year, theoretically they could move on next season. Keep in mind, Kelce was a sixth-round pick, and the club got a lot of mileage out of him, so it doesn't have to be a major investment. Plus, if that doesn't work out, renegotiation could be on the table, with Kelce's cap hit reaching $7.2 million in '18, but only $1.2 million of prorated signing bonus left on a contract that runs through 2020. The Eagles will be looking to reduce their costs, while Kelce will want some financial security.

Josh Andrews
Age: 26*
Cap Number: $615,000

Andrews joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2014, and after a few years of clinging to the practice squad and on the 53-man roster as a reserve, finally saw his first action on offense this season. He played one snap at center against the Ravens in Week 15. Andrews can also line up at guard and has played special teams, though spent most of '16 inactive. He seems like a bit of a Chip Kelly outcast at this point, although it's difficult to put him in a box with so little actual experience. Is Andrews somebody who simply hasn't been given an opportunity and could fill in capably for Kelce, or will the Eagles feel the need to find competition for his roster spot?

Aaron Neary
Age: 25*

Neary originally joined the Broncos roster as an undrafted rookie, but found his way to the Eagles practice squad following his release. The Eastern Washington prospect was a two-time All-American at the Division I-AA level. At 6-foor-1, 305 pounds, Neary is considered undersized, like Kelce, which suggests this organization wants nimble centers like that. While he's probably a ways away from having any impact, the Eagles signed Neary to a futures contract at the conclusion of the season.

* Age as of 12/31/2017