Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Eagles

We’ve seen some teams shake things up in the offseason, but few teams have undergone the kind of overhaul that the Eagles have. Coach Chip Kelly secured complete control in the front office and we’re all waiting to see whether he’s crazy, a genius, or some mixture of both.

Notable signings:

Byron Maxwell was widely viewed as the best FA corner available and ranked as the No. 9 overall free agent on PFR’s Top 50 list. The 27-year-old enjoyed his first season as full-time starter for the Seahawks in 2014, starting 12 games as Seattle made it second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles were long seen as the favorites to land Maxwell and they were able to go wire-to-wire to land him as the Jets, another possible suitor, were zeroed in on a reunion with Darrelle Revis. At $63MM over six years with $25MM fully guaranteed, it’s very possible that Maxwell was an overpay. However, the Eagles believe that he will be a significant upgrade over Cary Williams, who was cut loose. Interesting note on that front, however: Pro Football Focus (subscription required) didn’t see a big difference between Maxwell and Williams in 2014. Maxwell finished the year with a -0.2 overall grade, good for 45th amongst corners. Williams, meanwhile, finished with a -1.0 score, putting him 49th amongst all corners. In short, both players were painted as average corners by the advanced metrics. He’ll be joined in the secondary by Walter Thurmond, who apparently was not thrilled with the Giants’ medical care. Thurmond will be making the switch to safety, a transition he says he can make comfortably.

DeMarco Murray (vertical)

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Did DeMarco Murray put too many miles on his odometer during his brilliant 2014 campaign? Kelly certainly doesn’t think so. There were many teams who were linked to the former Cowboys star throughout the year, but no one expected the Eagles to get heavily into the mix and come away signing him. Murray, who has struggled with injuries in years past, put it all together in 2014 for his best campaign yet. The 27-year-old ran for 1,845 yards and 13 scores with 2,261 all-purpose yards. After a season in which he showed that he can stay healthy, produce (4.7 YPC), and work at a nearly unprecedented rate, Murray hit the open market as the top RB available. The advanced numbers also showed that Murray was also at the top of the heap last season. Pro Football Focus‘ numbers (subscription required) resulted in an overall score of 15.2, placing him fifth amongst all tailbacks in 2014. His lack of meaningful production in the passing game, fumbles, and below average blocking were his only real demerits. Can Murray repeat his ’14 performance? Or, at the very least, can he do better than the guy he’s replacing? (More on that later.)

Before the Murray signing, the Eagles added Ryan Mathews and, at the time, it appeared that he would be the new No. 1 back in Philadelphia. Once Murray was inked, many wonders if Mathews would wind up elsewhere or, at the very least, reworking the performance-based incentives in his contract. At the end of the day, Mathews stayed and he’s now slated to work in tandem with Murray and Darren Sproles. Considered an injury-prone player for the first three seasons of his career, Mathews finally stayed healthy and put it all together for the Chargers in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,255 yards. He was unable to keep that run of good health going in 2014 though, playing just eight games for San Diego due to injuries. The former 12th overall pick can be one of the league’s best backs when he’s at 100% and he could help form a lethal three-headed backfield if he stays healthy.

Now, the question is, who will be handing the ball off to those backs? Well, one possibility is Mark Sanchez, who was re-signed to a two-year contract worth $9MM with $5.5MM guaranteed. Sanchez played nine games for the Eagles in 2014, with mixed results. He completed over 64% of his passes, averaging 268 yards per game with a 14 to 11 touchdown to interception ratio. Sanchez, a former No. 5 overall pick, will duke it out with a former No. 1 overall pick to be the team’s starting signal caller. Tim Tebow is also on the depth chart, though he is considered to be the fourth quarterback at this time.

If Murray ever finds himself homesick, he turn to Miles Austin for some familiarity. Austin, of course, isn’t the same sort of impact player Murray is at this stage of his career, but he had a decent bounce-back season in Cleveland last year. In 2014, Austin caught 47 balls for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. The 30-year-old has racked up 348 catches for more than 5,000 yards during his nine-year NFL career, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods during his time with the Cowboys. Of course, he has also missed a ton of time due to injuries in recent years.

After some offseason deliberations between offers from the Eagles and Giants, linebacker Brandon Graham ultimately opted to remain in Philly. In February, Graham was said to be seeking a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $30MM, with $20MM in guaranteed money. Ultimately, he settled for less, but still got $14MM guaranteed on a $26MM pact. The 21-year-old recorded 5.5 sacks and 46 total tackles in 2014. The former first-round choice has moved around a bit in the front seven over the years, having seen time at defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker. Last season, he played the bulk of his snaps at outside linebacker and enjoyed his best season to date. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) placed him as the third best OLB in a 3-4 set last season. PFF was also high on Graham in 2013, ranking him as the 15th best outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Notable losses:

The Eagles and Evan Mathis were wrestling over a contract dispute all offseason long until the situation reached a rather surprising conclusion. Many expected that Mathis and the Eagles would eventually reach a compromise or that the guard would find a suitable trade after he was given permission to seek one out. Instead, the Eagles simply decided to cut Mathis loose in June. Mathis, of course, is considered one of the league’s best guards. In 2014, despite playing just 608 offensive snaps, the former third-round pick ranked as the league’s best left guard, performing particularly well as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required). PFF had previously graded Mathis as the NFL’s No. 1 guard in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The veteran continues to look for his next NFL home.

We may never know the real inner workings of the negotiations between Jeremy Maclin and the Eagles, but it didn’t seem like Philly put up much of a fight to retain him in March. Maclin, coming off a breakout season in which he caught 85 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns, was quickly scooped up by the Chiefs, who gave him a five-year, $55MM deal with $22.5MM fully guaranteed.

Despite initially engaging in discussions to keep him around on a reworked contract, the Eagles opted to part ways with Trent Cole in early March. Cole, 32, was a fixture on the Eagles’ defense since being selected by the club in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. During his 10 years in Philadelphia, Cole played 155 games (145 starts), racking up 85.5 sacks, 569 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles. However, after posting six consecutive seasons with eight or more sacks from 2006 to 2011, Cole’s production fell off — he has recorded just 17.5 sacks since 2012. Cole eventually wound up hooking on with the Colts on a two-year, $16MM deal with $8MM guaranteed. Graham will now be counted on to supply the production in Cole’s absence.

Byron Maxwell came east to join the Eagles and Cary Williams switched places with him, joining the Legion of Boom in Seattle. The 30-year-old Williams started all 16 games in each of the past three seasons but he was probably miscast as a No. 1 corner with the Eagles. Williams can earn $18MM over three seasons on his new deal with the Seahawks and he won’t have to pay state income tax either.

Nate Allen started 15 games for the Eagles last season at safety, racking up 62 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries, five pass deflections, and a sack. Allen had a pretty solid year in 2014, finishing out with a 3.9 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), good for 28th out of 87 qualified safeties. Still, as expected, the Eagles let him go in free agency.

Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Bradley Fletcher as the 92nd best cornerback last season out of 108 qualified players at the position. That doesn’t make Fletcher sound like much of a corner, but was much better in 2013 when he ranked 44th out of 110 players at the position. The Eagles didn’t have the patience to find out of he could get back to his old form, but the Pats decided to roll the dice.

Long before Mathis was shown the door, the Eagles did the same with fellow offensive lineman Todd Herremans. Over the course of the last decade, the 10-year veteran has appeared in 127 games for the Eagles, starting 124 of them at every spot besides center on the offensive line. In recent years, Herremans had served as Philadelphia’s right guard or right tackle, though his 2014 campaign came to an early end due to a biceps injury.

Extensions and restructures:

DeMeco Ryans’ 2014 season came to an early end when he suffered a torn Achilles and landed on the injured reserve list. In the eight games he played for the Eagles, he logged 45 tackles, recovered a fumble, and grabbed an interception. Ryans saw his deal extended by one season, even though the Eagles didn’t seem to necessarily need him in the wake of one of their biggest offseason moves. Ryans’ 2014 season came to an early end when he suffered a torn Achilles and landed on the injured reserve list. In the eight games he played for the Eagles, he logged 45 tackles, recovered a fumble, and grabbed an interception.

Trades:

  • Acquired LB Kiko Alonso from the Bills in exchange for RB LeSean McCoy.
  • Acquired QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick from the Rams in exchange for QB Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick. Eagles will acquire a 2016 fourth-round pick if Bradford plays less than 50% of Philadelphia’s snaps in 2015, or a 2016 third-round pick if Bradford doesn’t play at all in 2015 due to injury.
  • Acquired a 2015 second-round pick (No. 47; DB Eric Rowe) and a 2015 sixth-round pick (No. 191; CB JaCorey Shepherd) from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 52; DT Jordan Phillips), a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 145; CB Bobby McCain), and a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 156; CB Tony Lippett).
  • Acquired a 2016 third-round pick from the Lions in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 113; DT Gabe Wright).

The trade of star running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso will go down as one of the most surprising moves of the 2015 offseason and also as the trade that nearly broke PFR. There were rumblings of discord between Kelly and McCoy, but few saw a deal like this coming.

McCoy was not the electrifying playmaker in 2014 that he was in 2013 but he still had a very productive season in terms of traditional stats, with 1,319 rushing yards and a 4.2 YPC average. The advanced metrics, meanwhile, show a much sharper contrast between the two campaigns. In 2013, McCoy was rated as the very best tailback in football according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), racking up a 27.3 overall rating which was more than 8 points higher than the runner-up, Jamaal Charles. In 2014, however, McCoy was near the bottom of all qualified tailbacks with a fairly terrible -9.3 grade thanks in large part to his poor showing in the passing game.

Alonso, 25 in August, didn’t see the field in 2014 after tearing his ACL in July of 2014. After being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, Alonso finished second in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year after totaling 87 tackles, four interceptions, and two sacks. PFF (subscription required) rated Alonso as the ninth-best inside linebacker in the NFL in his rookie season. Because Alonso spent the year on the NFI (non-football injury) list, he’ll only be a restricted free agent after 2016. He’s also significantly cheaper than McCoy, which gave Kelly some additional breathing room this spring.

Right around the start of free agency, the Eagles shipped Nick Foles to the Rams in exchange for former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Surprisingly, it was the Eagles who gave up more in draft compensation to make the swap happen. Foles had his 2014 season ended prematurely by a collar bone injury, but he’s not that far removed from his impressive 2013 run. Bradford, of course, has battled injuries over the past two seasons, including an ACL injury that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. In his last full season, the former first-overall pick threw for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. During that 2012 campaign, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Bradford 21st among 38 quarterback candidates. Soon after, it was rumored that the Eagles were dangling Bradford in an effort trade up to the No. 2 pick to grab Oregon star Marcus Mariota. Ultimately, the Titans stood pat and the Eagles are now set to roll with either Sanchez or Bradford as their No. 1 QB. The Eagles are reportedly considering an extension with Bradford as well.

Draft picks:

  • 1-20: Nelson Agholor, WR (USC): Signed
  • 2-47: Eric Rowe, CB (Utah): Signed
  • 3-84: Jordan Hicks, ILB (Texas): Signed
  • 6-191: JaCorey Shepherd, CB (Kansas): Signed
  • 6-196: Randall Evans, CB (Kansas State): Signed
  • 7-237: Brian Mihalik, DE (Boston College): Signed

Nelson Agholor was a fast riser in the draft and he found his way up to No. 20 where the Eagles were selecting. The 6’0″ USC product has drawn comparisons to Jeremy Maclin for his sharp route running and also has pretty advanced hands. Agholor could prove to be a major weapon for whomever is under center for the Eagles in 2015 and also figures to make an impact in the return game.

Other:

  • Announced new front office roles for Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, with Kelly taking over the club’s personnel department.
  • Promoted Ed Marynowitz to vice president of player personnel.
  • Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for DE Fletcher Cox ($7.799MM).
  • Rescinded RFA tender to RB Chris Polk.
  • Signed nine players to reserve/futures contracts.
  • Signed 16 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.

In January it was announced that Howie Roseman would be elevated to the role of executive vice president of football operations with Kelly now officially overseeing the player personnel department. Of course, the term “elevated” isn’t 100% accurate with Kelly having final say over everything regarding the roster. Ed Marynowitz was promoted from assistant director of player personnel to the team’s vice president of player personnel. For what it’s worth, he says that everyone’s roles are well defined.

Top 10 cap hits for 2015:

  1. Sam Bradford, QB: $12,985,000
  2. Jason Peters, LT: $9,050,000
  3. Byron Maxwell, CB: $8,700,000
  4. Connor Barwin, OLB: $7,000,000
  5. Brandon Graham, OLB: $6,000,000
  6. Malcolm Jenkins, S: $5,666,666
  7. Lane Johnson, RT: $5,225,974
  8. DeMarco Murray, RB: $5,000,000
  9. Brent Celek, TE: $4,800,000
  10. Riley Cooper, WR: $4,800,000

Crazy? Genius? Both? We can’t wait to find out.

Contract information from Over the Cap and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.

Packers Don’t Plan To Release Quarless

Packers don’t plan to release tight end Andrew Quarless despite his weekend arrest, sources tell Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Quarless is in the second year of a two-year, $3MM contract and is expected to compete for the starting job with second-year tight end Richard Rodgers.

The 26-year-old reportedly fired a pair of rounds following an argument with two women at a South Beach parking garage. When police pursued the vehicle he was riding in, Quarless tried to hide outside a restaurant and conceal his weapon in a potted plant. The gun, a source tells Demovsky, was legally registered to Quarless.

The league’s new Personal Conduct Policy could result in paid leave (“pending the resolution of these charges and the imposition of league discipline”) and a subsequent unpaid suspension for Quarless, but the Packers apparently won’t bail on him. The Penn State alum was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. In four seasons (he missed the 2012 season with a knee injury), Quarless has compiled 85 receptions for 909 yards few six touchdowns. In 2014, he set career highs in yards (323), touchdowns (three), and first downs (20).

The Packers haven’t had the easiest offseason, with Datone Jones getting a one-game suspension and Letroy Guion potentially facing discipline for an arrest earlier this year.

West Notes: Okung, Wilson, Broncos

Las Vegas has the Chargers as a longshot to win the Super Bowl and one popular gambling site has the Bolts at 50-1. Nick Canepa of The San Diego Union-Tribune says he isn’t a gambling man, but if he were, that’s a wager he would take. Canepa doesn’t expect the possibility of a relocation to affect the locker room and he also notes that the Chargers have won without the services of Antonio Gates, who will be suspended for the first month of the season. Here’s more from the AFC and NFC West..

  • Seahawks fans are intensely focused on Russell Wilson‘s contract situation, but the future of tackle Russell Okung is also uncertain at this time, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes in his latest mailbag. Okung, a first-round choice in 2010, is entering the final season of his original six-year, $48.5MM pact. So far, there has been no indication that the Seahawks are working on a new deal, meaning that it will probably wait until after the 2015 season. Okung, 28 in October, has struggled to stay healthy over the course of his career, missing 21 games in total. Last year, Pro Football Focus (sub. req’d) was less than enamored with Okung’s play, giving him a slightly below average grade of -1.5.
  • Earlier today, Wilson conducted a Q&A at The Rock Church in California (YouTube link) and fielded a wide range of questions, including one pertaining to the possibility of playing baseball. When asked which sport he prefers, the Seahawks quarterback simply replied, “Both.” When asked if he will ever play both, Wilson responded: “I have no idea..I believe if anybody could do it, I could. And I believe God’s put me…gave me the ability to do it. I’ve done it my whole life.”
  • Six Broncos players who have started games for the team are poised for unrestricted free agency at season’s end, as Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes. That list includes Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller, who was John Elway’s first selection on the job when he was taken No. 2 overall in the 2011 draft. 2013 was a struggle for Miller, beginning with a six-game suspension for attempting to cheat a drug test and ending with a torn ACL that ended his year early. However, advanced metrics suggested that Miller was far and away the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league, even in that down year. In 2014, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Miller as the No. 2 4-3 OLB in the league, right behind Oakland standout Khalil Mack. Back in November, PFR’s Luke Adams evaluated Miller as an extension candidate.

Latest On Giants, JPP

6:05pm: It’s a virtual guarantee that the Giants will put JPP on the non-football injury list to open training camp, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. The Giants are currently checking in on the details of the process.

5:10pm: There’s concern that Pierre-Paul could miss training camp and the start of regular season, a team source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). For now, the Giants are still awaiting more medical information.

4:48pm: Reports indicating that the Giants have rescinded their offer to Jason Pierre-Paul are “100% false,” a source very much in the know tells Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post (on Twitter). Earlier today, it was reported that the Giants withdrew their long-term contract offer to the star defensive end, a proposal that was said to be worth $60MM.

According to that same report from earlier, JPP was not planning on accepting the $60MM offer before next Wednesday’s deadline. Still, if he has a change of heart, it sounds like the proposal will still be there.

Earlier today, Luke Adams of PFR examined a few possibilities for how the situation between Pierre-Paul and the Giants could play out, noting that any scenario involving JPP becoming an unrestricted free agent seems unlikely. If the veteran pass rusher signs his one-year franchise tender, the club could ultimately elect to place him on the non-football injury list until he’s recovered. In that event, New York wouldn’t necessarily have to pay JPP his full salary.

Pierre-Paul had a strong 2014 campaign with 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles and was the league’s seventh-best 4-3 defensive end according to Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required). However, he wasn’t all that consistent throughout the year as nine of those sacks came in the season’s last five games.

In a May poll, 58% of PFR readers said that Pierre-Paul would not ink a long-term pact prior to July 15th. Earlier today, a team spokesman told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that the club’s first concern is for JPP’s well-being.

 

Community Tailgate: 7/6/2015

We’re still more than two months away from the start of battles on the NFL gridiron, but there’s no offseason when it comes to debate amongst fans. Earlier this summer, we launched a new series here at PFR that will be known as the Community Tailgate. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. Every weekday, we’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

Of course, while the debate may get spirited, we ask that it all stays respectful. If you need a reminder of our rules, please check out our commenting policy. Basically, we ask that you refrain from inappropriate language, personal insults, and attacks. Speaking of commenting: we’ve made it much easier to leave a comment here at Pro Football Rumors. You are no longer required to be a registered user – simply put in your name, email address, and comment and submit.

The topic of the day in the NFL world has been the fallout from Jason Pierre-Paul‘s fireworks accident over the weekend, which resulted in a hand injury for the star defensive end. The severity of that injury isn’t yet known, though various reports have revealed a few details — JPP reportedly burned the flesh off his hand and fingertips, and has been in the hospital for two days. However, his injuries aren’t believed to be career-threatening, and he isn’t expected to lose any fingers.

The Giants know enough about the incident to have pulled a $60MM contract offer for Pierre-Paul off the table, according to a report today from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. While the injury clearly plays a significant part in that decision, the poor judgment Pierre-Paul showed in putting himself in such a position probably factored into the move as well.

With a long-term offer for JPP not currently on the table, it looks increasingly likely that he’ll have to accept his one-year franchise tender and play out the 2015 season on that deal. The 26-year-old may also forfeit some pay if he has to spend time on the non-football injury list. Earlier this afternoon, I laid out a few potential scenarios for Pierre-Paul and the Giants, with the July 15 deadline for a multiyear contract looming large.

Since we don’t have many definitive details on Pierre-Paul’s injury yet, it’s hard to definitively say one way or the other how the Giants should handle the situation. Still, let’s say what we’ve heard so far is accurate, and the injury isn’t career-threatening, but could force the pass rusher to miss some time this season.

How should the Giants handle Pierre-Paul’s contract situation? Do you think this is an opportunity for the team to buy low and pursue a multiyear extension at a reduced rate? Should they simply play it safe and let JPP sign his one-year tender? Or would you remove his $14.813MM franchise tag altogether, trying to re-sign him at a lesser rate while risking the possibility of losing him to another team?

Weigh in below with your thoughts and opinions in the comment section. We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Extra Points: Rice, Mariota, McQuillan

The July 4th holiday weekend is behind us, which means we’re inching slightly closer to the start of NFL training camps. As we continue to count down the days until the 2015 preseason gets underway, let’s round up a few odds and ends from around the league….

  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk checks in on Ray Rice, noting that the running back still hasn’t drawn interest from NFL teams, eight months after his indefinite suspension was overturned.
  • As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk observes, it’s odd that offsets are the holdup between the Titans and unsigned first-rounder Marcus Mariota, since the chances of offsets becoming relevant before the end of Mariota’s rookie contract are extremely slim.
  • Most players who enter the supplemental draft don’t get picked, but former UConn tight end Sean McQuillan – one of seven prospects eligible for this Thursday’s draft – isn’t lacking for confidence, writes Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant. “First of all, I’m going to make it, and second of all, there isn’t a backup plan,” McQuillan said. “I’m confident I’m going to be able to do this thing. I’m prepared for this. I’m going to show them I’m athletic, I’m versatile, I can do a bunch of different things. I’m confident and I’m ready for this next step, so I haven’t thought about anything else.”
  • In his list of the three most team-friendly veteran wide receiver contracts in the NFL, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap lists all AFC players: Julian Edelman of the Patriots, Emmanuel Sanders of the Broncos, and Antonio Brown of the Steelers.
  • Former Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb started his career with the Bengals as a cornerback, but the team is trying him at wide receiver this summer, as Mark Inabinett of AL.com details.

Giants Withdraw $60MM Offer For JPP

1:46pm: Despite withdrawing their long-term contract offer, the Giants aren’t currently considering rescinding the franchise tag from JPP, a source tells Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Vacchiano acknowledges that stance could change within the next few days as more details of Pierre-Paul’s injury become known, but I’d be surprised if the team withdrew that tag, since it would allow the defensive end to sign anywhere.

Vacchiano also hears from a Giants source that there’s “no chance” the two sides will get a long-term deal done by the July 15 deadline.

1:00pm: According to Kimberly Jones of NFL.com (via Twitter), about $30MM of the Giants’ offer would’ve been guaranteed. It’s not clear if that entire amount would’ve been fully guaranteed, or if a chunk of it would’ve been guaranteed for injury only.

12:28pm: In the wake of the hand injury suffered by Jason Pierre-Paul over the weekend, the Giants have withdrawn their long-term contract offer to the star defensive end, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, citing three sources informed of the situation. According to Rapoport, the proposal was worth $60MM.

Rapoport doesn’t specify how many years the Giants’ offer was for, but five years and $60MM sounds about right to me — I doubt the team would’ve gone as high as $60MM over four years with the deadline still weeks away. Six years is a possibility, but considering the franchise tag would’ve paid JPP nearly $15MM for one year, $10MM annually seems a little low. Of course, regardless of how many years the proposal was for, it’s possible it didn’t feature much guaranteed money or a player-friendly structure.

In any case, that $60MM offer is no longer on the table, according to Rapoport, who says that the Giants don’t believe a long-term offer is “in the best interest of those involved at this point,” given the timing of the incident and the apparent judgment displayed. Per Rapoport, the 26-year-old hadn’t been planning to accept the team’s offer prior to next Wednesday’s deadline anyway, so it appears likely that he’ll end up signing the club’s one-year, $14.813MM offer, unless it’s withdrawn as well.

Earlier today, I examined a few possibilities for how the situation between Pierre-Paul and the Giants could play out, noting that any scenario involving JPP becoming an unrestricted free agent seems unlikely. If the veteran pass rusher signs his one-year franchise tender, the club could ultimately elect to place him on the non-football injury list until he’s recovered. In that event, New York wouldn’t necessarily have to pay JPP his full salary.

The Giants are still looking into Pierre-Paul’s hand injury to determine the specifics and the possible short- and long-term effects. If the injury is determined to not be as serious as initially feared, it could change New York’s stance on a contract offer by July 15. One team spokesman tells Rapoport that the club’s first concern is for JPP’s well-being.

Pierre-Paul is one of four franchised players whose contract situations we’ll be watching over the next nine days. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas, and Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston also remain unsigned.

Scenarios For Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants

The Giants have yet to release an official statement on the injuries sustained by Jason Pierre-Paul over the weekend due to a fireworks mishap. Reports so far have indicated that Pierre-Paul’s career shouldn’t be in jeopardy, and he may still play this season. However, as Jordan Raanan of NJ.com writes, the hand injury is serious enough that JPP still remains in the hospital about 36 hours or so after the accident occurred.

Raanan notes in his piece that Pierre-Paul’s long-term health trumps the football aspect of the injury at this point, and the Giants are concentrating on their player’s health and mental well-being for now. Still, considering Pierre-Paul isn’t technically under contract at this point, the injury has the potential to have a significant impact on his upcoming deal, so the situation is worth a closer look. If the injury is determined not to be as serious as initially feared, it shouldn’t hugely reduce JPP’s potential earnings, but he certainly has less leverage today than he did last week.

Here’s where the contract situation currently stands: Pierre-Paul received the franchise tag from the Giants earlier this offseason, meaning the team automatically offered him a one-year, $14.813MM contract for 2015. Because the standout defensive end didn’t immediately sign that tender, he remains a free agent, and could sign an offer sheet with another team at any time. However, any interested club would have to part with two first-round picks to land him, so that possibility is minuscule. The most likely scenarios for Pierre-Paul, prior to the injury, were either playing out the 2015 season on his one-year franchise tag or reaching a multiyear contract agreement with the Giants by the July 15 deadline.

Before word of Pierre-Paul’s injury broke, I expected the two sides to ramp up negotiations in the next week or so before ultimately agreeing to terms on a long-term extension by next Wednesday. That could still happen, but the hand injury clouds the situation a little. Here are the various scenarios that we could see play out in the coming weeks:

  1. Pierre-Paul, Giants reach long-term contract agreement: As noted above, this remains a possible outcome. Perhaps JPP would have to accept a minor discount, but if his recovery timetable ends up being measured in weeks or months rather than years, his overall value shouldn’t be too diminished.
  2. Pierre-Paul signs franchise tender: As long as the franchise tender remains on the table, Pierre-Paul can sign it and assure himself a $14MM+ salary for 2015, perhaps electing to revisit discussions on a longer-team deal after the season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes that, because of the injury, a clause in the CBA would allow the Giants to terminate JPP’s contract and avoid paying him any of that $14MM+ salary, but that would mean making him an unrestricted free agent, which the Giants likely won’t be eager to do.
  3. Giants withdraw franchise tender: If the Giants were to withdraw JPP’s franchise tender before he signed it, they could attempt to negotiate a new deal with him at a lesser rate. But withdrawing that franchise tag would also allow the 26-year-old the freedom to sign anywhere, so the Giants would be taking a huge risk. There are still plenty of teams with a healthy amount of cap room who would be very interested in pursuing this sort of player if he were an unrestricted free agent.
  4. Giants place Pierre-Paul on non-football injury list: Another scenario detailed by Florio, this looks to me like the most probable outcome, whether or not the veteran pass rusher and the team reach a multiyear agreement. Because JPP sustained the injury while he was away from the Giants, the club would have the option to place him on the non-football injury list and not pay him until he recovers. Pierre-Paul and the NFLPA could try to fight the move, but their case would require medical evidence to show that the former first-rounder is healthy, and based on what we’ve heard over the last couple days, it doesn’t sound like that hand will fully heal anytime soon.

We’ll have to wait for official word on Pierre-Paul’s injury to know exactly how important a factor it will be in contract negotiations between the Giants and their franchise-tagged player. But for now, it’s hard to imagine the team committing a huge chunk of guaranteed money to JPP.

East Notes: Bradford, Dez, Hunter, Moffitt

Nearly four months after the Eagles acquired Sam Bradford from the Rams, some executives are still shaking their heads about the move, according to Mark Eckel of NJ.com. Eckel spoke to one top personnel exec who acknowledged that perhaps the former first overall pick would have more success under Chip Kelly, but isn’t totally sold.

“I understand they gave up on [Nick] Foles,” the executive said. “But I don’t know why they’re building up Bradford so much. I’m still confused about that whole deal. You can only talk about him being the first pick of the draft for so long. What has he done since then?”

As we wait to see how Bradford looks on a new team under a new head coach, let’s check in on a few more Monday morning items from around the league’s two East divisions….

  • In a Q&A with Mike Ramczyk of MyRacineCounty.com, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked about Dez Bryant‘s contract situation and replied, “I think it will work out with Dez.” The star wideout and the Cowboys have until next Wednesday to strike a long-term deal — if that doesn’t happen, Bryant can only play the 2015 season on his one-year franchise-tag tender.
  • Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter links) passes along the details on a pair of contracts signed recently by offensive linemen, reporting that Wayne Hunter‘s deal with the Bills and John Moffitt‘s pact with the Eagles are both for one year at the minimum salary, with no guaranteed money.
  • Earlier this morning, our Rob DiRe provided a recap and analysis of the Dolphins‘ 2015 offseason, which included the league’s biggest free agent signing.

Offseason In Review: Miami Dolphins

After being a staple in the playoffs for roughly the entire history of the franchise, the Dolphins have only one playoff appearance since 2001, including six consecutive seasons without a winning record. It finally feels like the Dolphins have the quarterback in place to make a run at the division – and it doesn’t hurt that their biggest competition might be missing theirs – and their offseason centered around winning the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes. However, Miami did much more than just that to put itself in a position to make a run at the playoffs, and the team might not be finished just yet.

Notable signings:

The numbers speak for themselves: Six years, $114.375MM. $59.955MM guaranteed. LeBron James makes it hard to say that Suh is hand down the biggest free agent South Beach ever drew, and Giancarlo Stanton’s contract overshadows Suh’s, but the Dolphins made a very large move for a very large man. No matter which direction this team goes, Suh will get the lion’s share of the credit (or blame), at least on the defensive side of the ball. His detractors will note that he isn’t as good as J.J. Watt, but you could argue Suh is the best player to hit free agency in the prime of his career since Reggie White, and he got paid like it.

It’s a big gamble to devote that many precious cap dollars to one player, but Suh is a true difference maker on the defensive line. He’s a stout run defender, and he’s among the best in the league at rushing the passer from the interior — he has the talent to live up to that massive contract.

Suh wasn’t the only defensive tackle the Dolphins added. They also signed his former Lions’ teammate C.J. Mosley, who was thought by many to be a lock to return to Detroit in an increased role. Instead, Mosley should provide cheap insurance for the Dolphins in case Suh misses time, and he should also fit nicely in a rotation that can’t afford to be that deep with all the resources devoted to Suh. The team also spent a second-round pick on one of the top college nose tackles, but we’ll get to that later.

The Dolphins traded Mike Wallace and replaced him with veteran Greg Jennings. Charles Clay signed an offer sheet with the Bills and the Dolphins declined to match the offer, instead signing Jordan Cameron as a replacement. The club also took a flier on LaMichael James to complement Lamar Miller, in the role Knowshon Moreno was supposed to fill before going down with injury last year.

In addition to the holes they made sure to fill, the Dolphins also added J.D. Walton and Jason Fox along the offensive line. Both players are likely to provide depth, each bringing six years of NFL experience that could prove extremely helpful considering the recent struggles along the offensive line. Louis Delmas, Brice McCain, and Zackary Bowman should all provide similar depth along a thin defensive backfield, and if all goes right they should see the field plenty with a chance to have an impact.

One more notable name Miami brought in was Josh Freeman, who may have a chance to stick on the roster if he has a strong preseason and flashes the upside that made him a first-round pick to begin with. However, keeping Matt Moore in the fold was much more important, as he’s considered to be a high-end backup capable of steering the ship in the event of an unfortunate injury to Ryan Tannehill.

Notable losses:

A number of the Dolphins’ offseason losses were either expected or at least left the team indifferent, such as Philip Wheeler, Daniel Thomas, Shelley Smith, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Nate Garner, Cortland Finnegan, and Daryn Colledge, all of whom had struggled. Miami appeared happy to move on from them, and that’s a good thing, considering an 8-8 team that spent so much in free agency usually would have to part with much better players to stay under the cap.

Still, the team was forced to let go of a number of players who were still making an impact, and chief among them is Jared Odrick. Odrick was still playing at a high level, and was rewarded with a big contract of his own with the Jaguars. Suh is definitely an upgrade, but Odrick had played well in Miami for years and the decision not to re-sign him is the cost of doing business. Randy Starks is another defensive tackle who has been a staple of the Dolphins defense, but the team decided to go younger at the position behind Suh.

After that, Jimmy Wilson, R.J. Stanford, Jason Trusnik, and Jonathan Freeny are all usable players, but since they’re more or less replacement level, the Dolphins could afford to let them leave during the offseason in order to throw their resources elsewhere on the roster.

Extensions and restructures:

Tannehill is the spiritual brother to Suh on the Dolphins, in that the team’s success will be directly linked to how he plays as far as the public is concerned. He could complete 65% of his passes with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but if the Dolphins don’t make the postseason, Tannehill won’t get the respect as one of the rising stars in the league. Considering the blowback when he signed his deal, coming off a season where he completed 66% of his passes for 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, Dolphins’ fans are ready for a postseason berth.

Luckily for Tannehill, he should have the best offensive line in front of him he has had yet in his career, starting with the newly-extended Mike Pouncey, who signed a deal to keep him with the team through 2020. Pouncey will look to lead an offensive line that returns last year’s big free agent signing Branden Albert and last year’s first-round pick Ja’Wuan James, along with a pair of young guards, to keep Tannehill upright and run the ball effectively again.

Trades:

  • Acquired WR Kenny Stills from the Saints in exchange for LB Dannell Ellerbe and a 2015 third-round pick.
  • Acquired a 2015 fifth-round pick from the Vikings in exchange for WR Mike Wallace.
  • Acquired a 2015 second-round pick (No. 52; DT Jordan Phillips), a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 145; CB Bobby McCain), and a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 156; CB Tony Lippett) from the Eagles in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 47; DB Eric Rowe) and a 2015 sixth-round pick (No. 191; CB JaCorey Shepherd).

Trading Wallace isn’t going to hurt too much, as he was scapegoated for many of Tannehill’s struggles with the deep ball, and the team hedged against it by trading for Kenny Stills, who was one of the best in the league at hauling in deep passes during his time with Drew Brees. Getting rid of Ellerbe in the deal justifies the high price paid for Stills, and is the closest thing seen in the NFL to the NBA version of using draft picks to sweeten a salary dump.

Moving down five spots in the draft doesn’t seem like as big a move, but the two cornerbacks chosen with the fifth-round picks could go a long way to rebuilding a defensive backfield the team could have trouble filling out with all the money devoted to the defensive line and pass rushers.

Draft picks:

  • 1-14: DeVante Parker, WR (Louisville): Signed
  • 2-52: Jordan Phillips, DT (Oklahoma): Signed
  • 4-114: Jamil Douglas, G (Arizona State): Signed
  • 5-145: Bobby McCain, CB (Memphis): Signed
  • 5-149: Jay Ajayi, RB (Boise State): Signed
  • 5-150: Ced Thompson, S (Minnesota): Signed
  • 5-156: Tony Lippett, CB (Michigan State): Signed

DeVante Parker should quickly rise in the pecking order on offense, and if Stills comes through as a major deep threat but not much more, it shouldn’t be long before Parker emerges as the No. 1 wideout in Miami. Jennings may play that role early on, but he’s in the twilight of his career, and while he adds veteran value, it seems awfully optimistic to expect an 80-catch season at this stage of his career.

The more interesting selection came in round two, where the 6’5″, 329-pound Jordan Phillips comes in with an NFL-ready body who could plug in at nose tackle from day one and eat up blocks on the inside. He gives the Dolphins some flexibility with where to play Suh along the defensive line, allowing him to bump out in certain situations.

Jamil Douglas, a fourth-round pick, could be the starter at guard as a rookie, slotting in between Pro Bowlers Pouncey and Albert to ease his transition into the NFL. After that, the team was smart to take three depth pieces for the defensive backfield and an NFL-ready running back in Jay Ajayi, who was lauded for his abilities to run, catch, and block, even if his knees were red flag enough to drop him to the fifth round with the stigma that he may not survive until his second contract.

Other:

  • Hired Mike Tannenbaum as executive VP of football operations.
  • Learned DE Dion Jordan would be suspended for the entire 2015 season.
  • Claimed OL Donald Hawkins off waivers from the Cowboys.
  • Signed six players to reserve/futures contracts
  • Signed 16 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.

The most disappointing part of the offseason was learning that Dion Jordan would be suspended for the entire year. The Dolphins may have already given up on Jordan before last season, as they’ve reportedly tried to trade him multiple times and have either come up with no suitors or asked for too high a return. The former third overall pick missed six games due to a suspension last year, and continues to disappoint the organization and fan base that invested so much in him.

The biggest indictment on Jordan is that with Chip Kelly making personnel decisions in Philadelphia, even he wouldn’t pony up a little something for the former Oregon Duck, when it seems like the Dolphins would have given him away at a bargain rate. Even off the field, Jordan continues to be a headache for the team, and it’s not as if he was producing at a high level the few times he was playing.

Top 10 cap hits for 2015:

  1. Branden Albert, LT: $10,725,000
  2. Cameron Wake, DE: $10,450,000
  3. Brent Grimes, CB: $10,000,000
  4. Reshad Jones, S: $7,712,942
  5. Mike Pouncey, C: $7,000,000
  6. Mike Wallace, WR: $6,600,000 (dead money)
  7. Dannell Ellerbe, LB: $6,400,000 (dead money)
  8. Ndamukong Suh, DT: $6,100,000
  9. Ryan Tannehill, QB: $4,873,364
  10. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB: $4,682,276

The running theme of the offseason ran through the two big contracts, one for Suh and one for Tannehill. With the commitments made to those two this offseason, the Dolphins have made them the faces of the defense and offense, respectively.

Around the two stars, the team’s plan has for the most part been throwing a lot of things at the wall and hoping they stick. They should be commended for recognizing weaknesses at offensive line and defensive back, and throwing a lot of assets at those spots. However, the dangers of giving big contracts to two players can be seen in that strategy. While the team added and added to both position groups, they did so mostly with middling free agents and low-round draft picks. Hoping that one or two of these players turns into something more than a replacement-level player is a gamble, especially if the coaching staff struggles with player development.

Miami added some high-upside players early in the draft, but even those guys will grab minimal headlines early in their career. Come December, the Dolphins will either be in the playoff hunt or they won’t, and whether they are or not will likely fall on the shoulders of their two big stars.

Contract information from Over the Cap and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.

NFL News & NFL Rumors