Lane Johnson

NFC East Notes: Dak, Gregory, WFT, Eagles

The Cowboys went through three offseasons of Dak Prescott negotiations, finally bringing an end to the saga with a monster four-year, $160MM extension for the Pro Bowl quarterback. This drawn-out process ended benefiting Prescott considerably, given his value when the first round of negotiations began in 2019. Dak is now one of the league’s two $40MM-per-year players, joining Patrick Mahomes, and the sixth-year Dallas quarterback cannot be franchise-tagged after this extension expires. When addressing his top regret during his time as the team’s executive vice president, Stephen Jones said he “probably would have signed Dak the first time around; it would have been better for everybody,” via Pat Doney of NBC 5. The negotiations, which began in April 2019, led to a 2020 franchise tag and the QB’s price rising to the point he inked one of the most player-friendly deals in NFL history this past March. The Cowboys still have their fourth-round find locked up long-term, however. They just took a more difficult route to get here.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Randy Gregory has moved into position to be a full-time starter for the first time, being set to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence on a regular basis this season. The Cowboys’ oft-suspended pass rusher alluded to then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan preferring Aldon Smith due to “favoritism.” “I felt there was a little bit of favoritism going on … refusing to let me outshine their favorite,” Gregory said in a lengthy story by The Athletic’s Dan Pompei (subscription required). “They knew I could do it, so they did what they could to keep me at bay. I had my times when I was angry. … I truly felt I got robbed of a year last year.” The NFL reinstated Gregory in late October last year. Smith, who started 16 games after making his own comeback from suspension, is now a Seahawk. New DC Dan Quinn said, via Pompei, he was surprised Gregory (27.1 defensive snaps per game in 2020) did not play more in 2020 and added that the embattled defensive end will indeed see more time this season.
  • The Washington Football Team will unveil its next nickname in 2022. That new identity will not be the Warriors, according to team president Jason Wright, who notes discussions the team held revealed “deep-seated discomfort” with that potential moniker. Regardless of what the new name ends up being, the franchise will still use its burgundy-and-gold color scheme.
  • Lane Johnson and Derek Barnett‘s restructures created a sizable chunk of cap space for the Eagles. They now have an additional $14MM in cap space, according to Yates (via Twitter). They are up past $16MM, per OverTheCap. Following the Saints’ lead, the Eagles spread out Barnett’s 2021 fifth-year option salary onto future caps by using void years. Barnett’s base salary is now $990K, with the void years stretching through 2025. The Eagles also used void years in Johnson’s restructure, spreading out the right tackle’s cap hit through 2028. He is on Philly’s books for just a $1.1MM base salary this season.

Eagles Restructure OL Lane Johnson, DE Derek Barnett Contracts

Derek Barnett and Lane Johnson have reworked their contracts. ESPN’s Tim McManus reports (via Twitter) that the two Eagles players have agreed to restructure their contracts.

While details of the moves are unknown, McManus notes that the move will free up 2021 money and push current cash down the road. The reporter suspects that the front office also added voidable years (presumably) to Johnson’s contract, a common mechanism that teams use to clear space.

Johnson has earned three Pro Bowl appearances and a first-team All-Pro nod during his eight years in Philadelphia. The veteran signed a four-year, $72MM deal with the organization in 2019, a contract that included just under $55MM in guaranteed money. At the time, the move made the offensive tackle the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. The veteran has been willing to work with the organization throughout his career, so it’s not a surprise that the sides agreed to restructure.

Barnett, a 2017 first-round pick, is also an Eagles lifer, and he’s started 24 games for the team over the past two seasons. The defensive end will be playing the 2021 season on his fifth-year option, which will pay him around $9MM this upcoming season. With only a year remaining on his contract, it will be interesting to see what kind of “restructuring” the two sides agreed upon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lane Johnson Receives Full Medical Clearance

Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson — who had ankle surgery in December — has received full medical clearance, as Johnson himself recently told reporters, including Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link). A report last month indicated that this was to be expected, but it will still come as welcome news to Eagles fans.

Indeed, Johnson battled his painful ankle injury through seven games of the 2020 season before finally succumbing and landing on IR in late November. That was seven more games than right guard Brandon Brooks played, as Brooks sustained a torn Achilles tendon last June. Presumptive left tackle Andre Dillard was lost to a season-ending biceps injury in August, and left guard Isaac Seumalo was limited to nine games. Meanwhile, longtime LT Jason Peters, who was originally re-signed to replace Brooks, had to be shifted back to left tackle in the wake of Dillard’s injury, though Peters only ended up playing eight games due to a toe ailment.

It was a horrible run of misfortune for the Eagles, but the club is banking on a return to health from its MASH unit in 2021. Philadelphia selected Alabama center Landon Dickerson in the second round of this year’s draft and recently signed veteran OT Le’Raven Clark, but both players suffered major injuries of their own in December (an ACL tear for Dickerson and an Achilles tear for Clark). Otherwise, there were no notable offseason additions to the O-line.

Johnson’s shortened 2020 campaign ended a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl berths. He has restructured his market-topping $18MM/year contract multiple times, and he has a number of void years tacked onto the end of the deal. Although he is eligible for free agency after the 2025 season, he will count against the Eagles’ books for three more years after that. So Philly has plenty of on-field and financial reasons to celebrate Johnson’s clean bill of health.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Joseph, Eagles, Bengals

Karl Joseph is back with the Raiders. The safety agreed to a deal earlier this week to return to the team that drafted him in the first-round back in 2016, and as he tells it, he never wanted to leave. “I never wanted to leave,” Joseph said, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review Journal. “This is my home. I was drafted here. I feel like I was born to be a Raider.” Joseph would’ve still been a Raider in 2020 if the team hadn’t declined his fifth-year option.

Instead, he ended up signing a one-year contract with the Browns. Clearly there were no hard feelings about the option getting declined, because he’s back with Jon Gruden now. “It felt like the right decision was to come back and help finish what I started here and be a part of that,” he explained. “All the pieces are there,” Joseph raved. “I think we’re ready to win. So whatever I’m going to need to do to help us win, that’s what I am going to do.” We still haven’t gotten the financial terms on Joseph’s new Raiders deal, so those will be interesting to see.

Here’s more from around the league on a quiet Sunday night:

  • Two members of the Eagles’ offensive line seem to be progressing well from major injuries. Tackle Lane Johnson had ankle surgery in December, and is apparently almost back to full strength. “Going good. Still in rehab,” Johnson said, via John McMullen of SI.com. “I’m running, moving around well so probably a month out from being cleared fully.” Johnson made three straight Pro Bowls from 2017-19, and his absence was sorely felt last year. Guard Brandon Brooks, also a Pro Bowler from 17-19, missed all of 2020 with a torn Achilles, and Johnson said he’s making good progress as well. “I know he’s excited coming off that injury last year,” Johnson explained of his line-mate. “As far as being cooped up and ready to go, man, he’s a ball of energy.” Whether it’s Jalen Hurts or someone else under center, the Eagles’ pass protection should be a lot better than it was in 2020.
  • The Bengals are bringing back a familiar face, but not a player. The team is hiring Louie Cioffi as a defensive quality control coach, via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com. That’s significant since Cioffi was in the building as a defensive assistant and defensive backs coach from 1997-2010. His tenure with the team preceded that of even Marvin Lewis, and continued through much of Lewis’ time there. He’s been a DBs coach for numerous teams around the NFL since leaving the Bengals, and is one of few people who can say they spent time in both the recent ill-fated spring leagues, the AAF and XFL.

Eagles To Restructure Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson Contracts

The Eagles recently created some much-needed cap space by handing a new deal to center Jason Kelce and restructuring the contract of cornerback Darius Slay. Of course, the club still has plenty of work to do to get under the reduced 2021 salary cap, so the expectation is that right tackle Lane Johnson and defensive end Brandon Graham will soon see their deals reworked as well.

In fact, Geoff Mosher of InsideTheBirds.com says that Johnson has already agreed to a restructure, though if that’s true, we don’t yet have any details. Mosher confirms that the Eagles will address Graham’s contract situation, and speculatively, that could mean an extension as opposed to a restructure.

As Mosher observes, these contractual machinations are nothing new for the Eagles, but the difference this year is that executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has been forced to rework the deals of players who are on the wrong side of 30 as opposed to younger talent. So if those players should experience a sudden decline or suffer a major injury, it will be more difficult for Philadelphia to get out from under their contracts (see, e.g., Alshon Jeffery). But most expect the salary cap to spike in 2022, and Roseman, like many execs around the league, is banking on that becoming a reality as they navigate this year’s cap crunch.

Johnson, who will turn 31 in May, just agreed to a restructure at the start of the 2020 campaign, and his cap number for 2021 sits just shy of $18MM. He played in just seven games last year due to a painful ankle injury, but he earned Pro Bowl bids in each of the prior three seasons. Graham, meanwhile, has played in at least 15 games in each of the past nine seasons, and he is coming off his first career Pro Bowl nomination. The soon-to-be 33-year-old edge defender also has a 2021 cap number just under $18MM.

Kelce’s new deal does indeed include dummy years, according to Mosher. That allows the Eagles to spread out his $9MM in guarantees, but player and team would need to agree to yet another restructure if Kelce — who has previously flirted with retirement — wants to return to the field in 2022.

In other Eagles news, the club is moving defensive end Genard Avery to linebacker, as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk passes along. Philadelphia acquired Avery in a trade with the Browns in October 2019, but the 2018 fifth-rounder has seen limited defensive reps over the past several seasons. At just 250 pounds, Avery may have been miscast as a DE, and he will have a chance to remake himself as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

He compiled 40 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a first-year pro in Cleveland in 2018 but totaled just 18 tackles and two sacks over the following two years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles’ Lane Johnson Done For Year

Lane Johnson is done for the year. The Eagles tackle has been playing through a painful ankle injury all year long, but his condition has only gotten worse with time. 

The inside of my ankle has collapsed,” Johnson said (Twitter link via Les Bowen of The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Johnson underwent “tightrope surgery” in August and managed to play seven games, starting in Week 2. He’s now looking at four or five months of recovery before he can resume football activities.

Johnson is in the midst of the four-year, $72MM extension he signed back in November of 2019. The eighth-year pro is coming off of his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod, a rare feat for often underappreciated right tackles. Without Johnson, the Eagles’ banged up offensive line will likely turn to Matt Pryor as the new starting right tackle.

The Eagles — who find themselves in the NFC East hunt with a record of 3-6-1 — will face the Seahawks on Monday night without Johnson in the lineup. The Seahawks’ D has been iffy all year, but they managed to keep a lid on the Cardinals last week en route to a 28-21 win.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Place LB Nathan Gerry On IR

Although the Eagles are nearly double-digit favorites against the Cowboys on Sunday night, they continue to absorb injury-related setbacks. Philly will be without its top tackler for at least three games.

The Eagles placed linebacker Nathan Gerry on IR Friday, while also moving rotational defensive end Genard Avery to the injured list.

An Achilles injury will sideline Gerry, who has a 12-tackle lead among Eagles this season. Gerry has 57 stops (four for loss) and one sack this season — his second as an Eagles starting linebacker. The former safety has dealt with this Achilles problem for a bit now, and the Eagles are hoping a three-week rest will have him fresher for the stretch run, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Eagles released Nigel Bradham this offseason and did not make notable linebacker investments. Among linebackers, Duke Riley‘s 28 tackles rank second on Philadelphia’s roster.

Philly will also be without Miles Sanders for a second straight week, while Alshon Jeffery‘s 2020 debut will not happen this week. Lane Johnson, however, will not miss any time with his knee injury. He is good to go, giving the Eagles two first-string offensive linemen against the Cowboys.

Eagles’ Jalen Reagor To Return In Week 8

The Eagles will receive some good injury news for a change. Instead of being held out until after Philadelphia’s Week 9 bye, Jalen Reagor is slated to play Sunday against the Cowboys, InsidetheBirds.com’s Geoff Mosher tweets.

Reagor has suffered multiple injuries since being drafted in this year’s first round. The latest malady — a torn thumb UCL — has resulted in a lengthy IR stay. The first-year wideout has not played since Week 2.

Being classified as an IR-DTR player in advance of Philly’s Week 8 game, Reagor being on track to play represents a change of pace for an Eagles team that has endured a brutal run of injury luck on offense. At receiver, the Eagles have barely had their top three receivers play together since DeSean Jackson‘s return to the team last season. Jackson is back on IR, while Alshon Jeffery has not played since December 2019.

The veterans’ injuries prompted the Eagles to draft Reagor in Round 1, but the TCU product suffered a torn labrum in training camp. Reagor beat that recovery timetable as well, playing in Week 1.

While Reagor is on track to be back in Philly’s starting lineup, the Eagles will still have mostly second-stringers on offense. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert remain on IR, with the latter battling a high ankle sprain and a tibia fracture. Jeffery has run into a new injury problem (calf), after spending months rehabbing a Lisfranc malady, while Miles Sanders has not practiced this week. Lane Johnson got in a limited practice Thursday, however, as he attempts to join Jason Kelce as first-unit offensive linemen in uniform Sunday. Johnson is battling an MCL issue.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles To Place DeSean Jackson On IR

DeSean Jackson‘s Friday morning MRI confirmed the Eagles’ fears. The wide receiver’s ankle injury will rule him out indefinitely, leaving the Eagles no choice but to put him on injured reserve (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). 

The league’s modified rules for injured reserve allow players to return in as little as three weeks. Jackson is expected to miss more time than that, though he still has a chance to return before the season is through.

The Eagles were already keeping a watchful eye on Jackson’s condition as he was returning from a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, his leg twisted on an ill-fated punt return late in last night’s win over the Giants. It’s just the latest blow to an Eagles team that has had awful injury luck throughout the year – top targets Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, and Alshon Jeffery are also among those sidelined.

On the plus side, the Eagles got some good news on offensive tackle Lane Johnson. The veteran has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, meaning that he’ll be able to return sooner rather than later. The time off will also allow him to recover from his previous ankle injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles’ Lane Johnson Suffers Injury

The Eagles narrowly escaped with a victory on Thursday night, but they might have lost two of their biggest offensive stars. While they await word on DeSean Jackson‘s ankle, they’ll also hope for good news on Lane Johnson‘s MRI for a suspected MCL sprain (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). 

[RELATED: DeSean Jackson To Miss Time?]

Johnson returned on Thursday night after missing last week’s game against the Ravens with an ankle injury. Now, it sounds like the right tackle will miss more time with his knee injury. Ordinarily, they’d turn to Jack Driscoll, but his status is also in doubt thanks to an ankle injury that kept him off the field against the Giants. Matt Pryor, who typically plays on the interior, may be the next man up at RT.

Johnson is in the midst of the four-year, $72MM extension he signed back in November of 2019. The eighth-year pro is coming off of his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod, a rare feat for often underappreciated right tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.