2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, WR: Is Jordan Matthews due for a contract extension?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, WR: Is Jordan Matthews due for a contract extension?

Was there a worse collection of wide receivers in the NFL in 2016 than the Eagles' group? Hard to say, but as bad as the unit was, at least they had two things going for them — they were young and cheap. Jordan Matthews was the oldest at 24 years old (once Josh Huff was released, anyway), while Nelson Agholor had the biggest cap hit at a little over $2 million.

That means there might be room for improvement with the players who are already here, and if nothing else, at least the Eagles didn't pay through the nose for such a lousy overall performance.

No doubt, the Eagles will look to upgrade the talent level at the position in the offseason, although it will be interesting to see what they do about Matthews as well. The club's leading receiver is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and happens to be the only wideout on the roster who's established himself as a viable target in the NFL, much less a weapon.

And make no mistake, Matthews is a weapon. While '16 was his worst season yet in terms of production with 73 receptions for 804 and three touchdowns, his first three years in the NFL put him in rare company. He's one of only seven players in history to post at least 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns during that span. The others: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss.

Matthews is clearly a step down from that who's who of Pro Bowlers. Regardless, he's still incredibly underrated, and as things stand right now, the Eagles probably can't afford to let Matthews go. 

While the front office has another year to make that decision, waiting for Matthews to post a career year and then hit the open market ala Jeremy Maclin wouldn't be wise. The Eagles should be proactive this time, even though the result is costs go up for 2017.

Looking at some of the contracts signed by wide receivers in comparable situations last offseason, Matthews' deal won't be cheap. Doug Baldwin, Keenan Allen, Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns all re-upped with their respective clubs for four years at an average over $10 million and going as high as $11.5, with guarantees ranging between $12 and $20 million.

A new deal for Matthews can be structured in such a way that the first season will carry a reduced cap figure, although his number couldn't possibly get any lower than it is now. If the Eagles do this, it will increase spending for '17 — and they should go ahead and do it anyway.

WIDE RECEIVERS UNDER CONTRACT

Nelson Agholor
Age: 24*
Age: $2,557,465

Like it or not, Agholor is a near lock to make the Eagles' roster in 2016, and it boils down to dollars and cents. Should the 2015 first-round draft pick be released, his cap hit nearly doubles to over $4.94 million due to the remaining prorated bonuses from his rookie contract. If that sounds familiar, it's because the front office ran into essentially the same problem with Marcus Smith this past offseason. It's not like anybody is trading for him, either. Now, if Agholor doesn't show some improvement in training camp or at least carve out a role on special teams, the Eagles could decide the roster spot is more important than money. He wasn't THAT useless though, finishing with 36 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns — not so invisible as to eat twice his salary.

Jordan Matthews
Age: 25*
Cap Number: $1,574,768

Keep in mind, Matthews also missed two games due to injury this season and was hindered in others. Otherwise, he almost certainly finishes with more yards than his rookie season, and would've had an outside shot to beat out his career high for receptions and yards set last season. The complaints about dropped passes are warranted. The knock that Matthews hasn't recorded a 1,000-yard season is not, when just last year he racked up 85 catches, 997 yards and eight scores. Think what he could do with Carson Wentz entering his second season and another quality receiver on the outside to draw some of the attention away. Matthews may have a couple of Pro Bowls in him yet.

Dorial Green-Beckham
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $944,418

At least Green-Beckham had somewhat of an excuse for his last of production. The second-year pro only joined the Eagles by way of trade with the Titans in August, and by all accounts, he's not the type who's going to pick up a brand new offense in record time. Regardless, DGB's struggles went beyond numbers. It's amazing that somebody with his size and speed can't seem to threaten defenses perfectly or make the occasional acrobatic catch. Even the routine grabs were troublesome, as evidence by his 48.6 percent catch rate. That being said, he still managed to finish with almost identical numbers to Agholor (36 rec., 392 yds., 2 TD). Green-Beckham is young, gifted athletically, and there's no risk in bringing him to camp — his entire salary can be recovered in the event of his release.

Bryce Treggs
Age: 23*
Cap Number: $540,000

For a brief period in the wake of Josh Huff's release, it appeared Treggs might actually have a shot to make an impact. In his first game active, the undrafted rookie out of Cal caught two passes for 69 yards against the Giants, including a 59-yard grab that turned out to be the longest play by an Eagles receiver all season. Treggs' success turned out to be short-lived, however, as he wound up catching just one more ball the rest of the way. He has tremendous speed, but little else going for him. The Eagles nabbed Treggs off waivers from the 49ers after cut-down day and stashed him on the 53-man roster, but he'll have to show more in '17 to make the team again.

Paul Turner
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $540,000

Turner was the official Eagles preseason darling and leading the NFL with 17 receptions and 165 yards over four exhibition games. That didn't manifest itself in an opportunity to come off the practice squad and play until Week 12, and even then, he didn't see the field much. Outside of six catches for 80 yards in a Week 13 beatdown at the hands of the Bengals, Turner appeared in only three more games and caught only three more passes. He's undersized at 5-foot-9 and doesn't provide much value on special teams, making for a difficult path to the roster. Best guess is Turner would have to outperform DGB to merit a spot on the roster, although that's before seeing any other moves the club might make.

David Watford
Age: 24*

One of three receivers to sign a futures contract at the conclusion of the season, Watford signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie out of Hampton, where he played quarterback. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has good size, although the Eagles probably view him as more as a good athlete to keep around on the scout team than a prospect at wideout.

Marcus Johnson
Age: 23*

Johnson was also brought in as an undrafted rookie out of Texas and initially made the Eagles' practice squad, but was released after Sam Bradford was traded to make room for emergency quarterback Aaron Murray. Johnson was eventually restored to the scout team in December, but obviously he's not a priority prospect.

Rasheed Bailey
Age: 24*

Does this name ring a bell? The Eagles originally signed Bailey was an undrafted rookie in 2015 out Division III Delaware Valley, where he absolutely crushed the competition, finishing his senior year with 80 catches, 1,707 yards and 19 touchdowns. He's since spent time on the practice squads of the Jaguars and Chargers, but just on Wednesday he returned to the Eagles on a futures deal. While a fan favorite, Bailey has been three places now and has yet to crack a 53-man roster, so don't count on his fortunes changing in his second stint with the Eagles. Then again, in this receiving corps, you can't exactly rule anything out, either.

* Ages as of 12/31/17

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