- Although Jason Kelce said immediately after the Eagles‘ divisional-round loss he was considering retirement, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia gets the sense the All-Pro center is leaning toward returning for 2019. Kelce is only 31 and may have another contract to come. But for now, he’s attached to an Eagles-friendly deal that has him making $6.5MM salary. No guaranteed money remains on Kelce’s deal, which he signed in February 2014.
With free agency opening less than a month from now, the Eagles still have work to do to move under the cap. They remain $16MM-plus over the projected 2019 salary ceiling. And it does not look like Philadelphia will be making cap room to bring back its most experienced cornerback. Ronald Darby is expected to depart in free agency, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Darby spent two seasons in Philly but was only healthy for 1 1/2, tearing an ACL in mid-November. However, Darby will likely still draw extensive interest in free agency. It’s a thin corner class, with Robert Alford‘s $7MM-plus-per-year deal with the Cardinals illustrating that. Darby’s Eagles exit will leave Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox and 2018 waiver claim Cre’Von LeBlanc at corner.
Here’s the latest out of Philly:
- One name to monitor when it comes time for cap casualties could be Nelson Agholor. With Golden Tate likely on his way out, Agholor would seem to be a player the Eagles would need next season. But the trade for Tate showed the Eagles wanted more than what Agholor was providing, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap writes. While the former first-round pick nearly matched his 2017 receiving-yardage total, catching a career-high 64 passes for 736 yards, he comes at a $9.4MM cost via the fifth-year option. While the Eagles could work out an extension and lower that cap figure, cutting Agholor would save a big chunk of money.
- A place the Eagles should look in the early rounds of the draft is running back, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. After a 12-year stretch of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy leading the way, the Eagles have not featured the same punch in the backfield. While they did win a Super Bowl with a running back-by-committee approach, Zangaro expects the team to look at running backs with one of its two second-round picks. Of the Eagles’ most recent committee, Josh Adams, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood are under contract. Adams and Clement are ex-UDFAs, and Smallwood was a fifth-round pick.
- As for Philadelphia’s first-round choice: it will likely be a lineman, per Zangaro. Despite the Eagles having a lot of money tied up in their offensive line, Jason Peters is now 37. If he does come back, 2019 will likely be the stalwart left tackle’s final season with the Eagles. On defense, the team may well let UFA-to-be Brandon Graham walk. The Eagles still have Michael Bennett, if he is not a cap casualty, and Derek Barnett. Chris Long wants to play in 2019 but isn’t certain about returning for a 12th season. Howie Roseman called this year’s glut of defensive line prospects “historic”, and the Eagles have drafted five first-round linemen already this decade. Eighteen of the past 25 Eagles first-round picks have gone to address the lines.
Per Klis, Denver opted for Flacco over Foles for a variety of reasons. First, Flacco has played under center (as opposed to out of a shotgun formation) with regularity: in 2017, Baltimore ranked eighth in the NFL in total snap percentage under center (52%) and sixth in pass rate under center (37%), according to Warren Sharp. That’s critical given that new Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, a product of the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, figures to put Flacco under center quite frequently. (For reference, Shanahan’s 49ers in 2018 finished second in total snap percentage under center and third in pass rate under center.)
Second, the Broncos consider Flacco the better financial value, reports Klis. Flacco will collect an $18.5MM base salary in 2019, but neither that figure, nor any of his future base salaries, are guaranteed. Foles, meanwhile, is expected to be traded while on a franchise tag that will entitle him to a fully guaranteed, ~$25MM 2019 salary. A Foles extension, as Justis Mosqueda of Optimum Scouting recently detailed, will likely cost an acquiring team north of $40MM in total guarantees.
Additionally, the Eagles are reportedly seeking at least a third-round pick in exchange for Foles, while the Broncos were able to acquire Flacco for only a fourth-round choice.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- It does not appear that the Eagles will re-sign Golden Tate before free agency opens next month, Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk opines. Alper does not cite a source, but a recent tweet from Tate himself and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman‘s silence on the matter suggest that Tate will be looking for a new home soon. Tate has indicated he would like to be back in Philly, but given the Eagles’ tight salary cap situation, that could be a tall order, especially if Tate is still seeking a Jarvis Landry-type deal.
- The Giants made another addition to their coaching staff, hiring Mike Dawson to be their outside linebackers coach. Dawson spent most of his career, including the past three seasons, at the college level. He followed Scott Frost from Central Florida to Nebraska. His lone NFL coaching experience was a three-year stay on Chip Kelly‘s Eagles staffs earlier this decade.
- While the Eagles may use 2019 to draft a later-round quarterback and attempt to develop him behind Carson Wentz, the team still likes what it has in Nate Sudfeld, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. Sudfeld should be expected to be Wentz’s backup post-Nick Foles, Zangaro adds. The former Redskins draft choice served as Foles’ top backup after Wentz went down in 2017 and did so again this past season.
If the Eagles franchise tag Nick Foles and attempt to trade him, as is expected, they’ll be taking somewhat of a risk, writes former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry. “There is a school of thought that franchising Foles strictly for trade purposes violates the CBA. Language requiring a good-faith intention to negotiate with a tendered player or keep him for the upcoming season at his tender exists in the CBA”, Corry points out, although he notes it’s unlikely to be enforced.
The real issue is the cap ramifications of tagging and trading Foles, Corry writes. “With Philadelphia’s current contractual obligations, a Foles franchise tag would put the Eagles roughly $20 million over the projected salary cap. Several contracts would need to be restructured and/or players released just to be able to carry Foles’ cap number for as long as he remained with the Eagles even if he was dealt as soon as the 2019 league year started”, he observes. It’s an interesting point, and if the Eagles can’t agree in principle with another team on a good deal for Foles before the franchise tag period is over, they may not end up tagging him after all.
- Alabama running backs coach Joe Pannunzio will leave Tuscaloosa in order to take an undisclosed role with the Eagles, reports Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network (Twitter link). The 59-year-old Pannunzio, who previously served as the head coach at Murray State, worked in Philadelphia’s personnel department under former head coach Chip Kelly from 2015-16. The Eagles already have a running backs coach in place in Duce Staley (who also holds the title of assistant head coach), so it’s unclear if Pannunzio will join the club’s on-field staff or instead head to the front office.
Take this with a grain of salt, but there’s an ongoing theory that the Cowboys are eyeing Saints coach Sean Payton as the eventual replacement for Jason Garrett, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Of course, there are a number of complications and roadblocks involved in such a plan, including Payton’s contract with New Orleans, which runs through 2020.
Garrett is a lame duck heading into 2019 and the team does not plan to give him an extension between now and the fall. Of course, Garrett’s job has been in jeopardy before and he could easily turn things around with a big season in Dallas.
If the Cowboys are indeed interested in Payton, then this wouldn’t be the first time another team has tried to pry him away. The Colts and Rams reportedly explored the idea in January 2017, but Payton wound up staying put in New Orleans.
Here’s more from the NFC East:
- The Eagles may be hoping to “tag and trade” quarterback Nick Foles, but Foles’ representatives should be prepared to fight any attempt to block his path to the open market, Mike Florio of PFT writes. The QB’s camp could communicate that they won’t cooperate with the plan or they could fight it based on the rules of the CBA. Article 4 of the CBA reads: “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Tendering Foles strictly to trade him would potentially be in violation of that clause.
- The Giants are likely going to use Eli Manning as their starting quarterback in 2019, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY opines. The Giants, he writes, are more likely to seek his heir in the draft and potentially explore a negotiation to trim his $23.2MM cap hit.
- Former Eagles quarterback G.J. Kinne has agreed to become an offensive assistant with the Eagles, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets. Last year Kinne worked an analyst/assistant QB coach at Arkansas. Kinne, a Tulsa product, worked the practice squad circuit up until he was released by the Giants in May of 2016.
- The Eagles also promoted assistant wide receivers coach Carson Walch to full WRs coach, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He takes over after the team moved on from Gunter Brewer.
Well, that didn’t take long. We learned a few hours ago that the Eagles were planning on picking up Nick Foles‘ $20MM option for next season, and now ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting (via Twitter) that the veteran quarterback will void the option and buy his way back to free agency.
Of course, this isn’t a very surprising development, as it had been assumed Foles would pay the $2MM it’d take to become a free agent. However, as our own Sam Robinson detailed earlier, this is likely the start of an extensive ordeal for the two sides. The Eagles are expected to slap Foles with the franchise tag, which the quarterback is then expected to accept. Philly would subsequently shop the former Super Bowl MVP, with the team reportedly seeking a third-rounder in exchange.
Fortunately, we should have some clarity on at least the first step of this process relatively soon. ESPN’s Tim McManus points out (on Twitter) that the window for teams to use the franchise tag is between February 19th and March 5th. Of course, with the Eagles in a precarious cap situation ($13MM over the ceiling), they’d likely want to assure that they have a trade lined up before they make such a financial commitment.
Despite the quarterback’s postseason heroics, the Eagles turned back to Carson Wentz in 2018. However, when the former first-rounder was lost to injury, Foles has another shot at the starting gig. In five games, the 30-year-old completed 72.3-percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Rather than hitting free agency, Foles remains under Eagles control. However, this is likely the start of an extensive process.
Foles is expected to pay $2MM to free himself from this option and become a free agent, but the Eagles in turn are then rumored to be planning a rare tag-and-trade strategy. Philadelphia’s target is somewhat modest: a third-round pick. But that draft choice would likely come in the 2019 third round, rather than the 2020 draft in a compensatory scenario. Foles, 30, is expected to sign the franchise tender immediately. It would be worth approximately $23MM.
This is a complicated scenario for a player who almost certainly will not be part of the 2019 Eagles, but the franchise is likely going to take the chance another team will part with draft compensation to acquire Foles.
The Jaguars make sense, possessing a veteran-fueled defense held down by Blake Bortles. Former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is now the Jaguars’ OC. The Jags will have to perform considerable cap gymnastics to make this work, though. A new Foles contract will be expected to be authorized by whichever team trades for him.
To some degree, the Redskins fit the profile of a Foles buyer — although, they might be aiming lower in a veteran pursuit — and Pat Shurmur coached Foles in Philadelphia. Neither of these teams will be sought as a trade partner, however, with the Eagles not eager to trade another quarterback within the NFC East like they did when they shipped Donovan McNabb to Washington in 2010.
The Dolphins are also moving on from their longtime quarterback, but they are not likely to be big spenders in free agency and are eyeing a rebuild centered around a 2020 first-round passer. Denver is in need of a long-term answer, too, after receiving below-average 2018 work from Case Keenum. But the Broncos targeting a first-round quarterback adds up better than replacing Keenum with Foles. Despite Derek Carr‘s presence, the Raiders might be a long-shot possibility, Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP writes, adding Mike Mayock is a “big believer” in Foles.
They of the NFL’s worst cap situation ($13MM over the projected salary ceiling), the Eagles will need to know they have a bidder willing to part with appropriate compensation before tagging Foles. The early consensus is the Jaguars will be that team.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.