- NFL.com’s Gil Brandt observes (on Twitter) that there were 32 undrafted rookies to make bonuses of $15K or more. The top earners were Eagles running back Josh Adams, Giants cornerback Grant Haley, and Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro, with the trio each making $25K. Generally, it’s assumed that the highest-paid undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the regular season roster.
- The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
- Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
- Speaking of Bausby, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is also impressed with the 25-year-old’s work this spring, which may be enough to allow the Eagles to trade Ronald Darby.
- Doug Pederson said this week (via Kalyn Kahler of SI.com) he’s considering splitting first-team reps evenly between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles during training camp. Although the Eagles‘ franchise centerpiece has not been cleared for 11-on-11 work, he continues to progress and is expected to be ready by September. But an even split — similar to how Pederson handled matters in 2016, when Sam Bradford was still on the team — puts Foles in better position to lead the offense if Wentz endures a setback.
The emergence of cornerback De’Vante Bausby could create an interesting scenario for the Eagles, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com writes. Last week, Bausby was spotted running with the first-team defense as the nickel cornerback over Sidney Jones. Jones’ spot on the roster is secure, but Bausby’s play could force the Eagles to either carry six cornerbacks or trade one of the CBs ahead of him on the depth chart.
Speculatively, Shorr-Parks wonders if Ronald Darby could be displaced. The Eagles wouldn’t cut him outright, but he would make some sense as a trade candidate since he is entering his contract year.
David Johnson has only played extensively in one of his first three seasons in the NFL. After backing up Chris Johnson as a rookie in 2015, Johnson had a record-setting sophomore season in which he rushed for 1,293 yards and racked up another 879 through the air with 20 total touchdowns. Last year, he was lost for the season after just one game. Despite the relatively small sample size, the Cardinals are committed to Johnson as the center of their offense, and appear ready to lock him up longterm.
Johnson and the Cardinals are likely to get an extension done before the season, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). While Garafolo cautioned there’s “work to be done to get there”, he does believe it’ll get done before the season. The Cardinals clearly saw during his one season as their starter just how special of a player he can be, and want to extend him before he hits the open market at the end of this season.
Johnson reportedly has been sitting out some of the Cardinals’ OTAs with an injury, but a source told Kent Somers of the AZcentral.com that the injury is not serious. Somers added that Johnson is expected to participate in the three-day minicamp the Cardinals will hold next week.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
- Former Packers and Saints fullback John Kuhn wants to play in 2018 and has received interest from several teams, Kuhn told Sirius XM NFL Radio (Twitter link). The longtime Packer fan-favorite said “I’m ready to give it another run, and I’ve been fielding some calls, so I’m just waiting for the right one to give this one more go.”
- After Duke Johnson signed his new contract yesterday, Josh Gordon is the next Browns player likely to be extended, opines Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. While Grossi says he’ll have to first prove to GM John Dorsey that he can stay on the field, he “can see the Browns rewarding him with a multi-year deal to head off a possible huge payday in unrestricted free agency in 2020.”
- There’s a four-way battle for two spots among Eagles wide receivers, but Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson are the favorites to emerge, thinks Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Gibson writes that Bryce Treggs and Greg Ward Jr. have impressed at OTAs, but that “it is tough to see Treggs or Ward Jr. passing either Wheaton or Gibson for a roster spot.”
Back in February, Eagles linebacker/defensive end Brandon Graham said he was pushing for an extension on his contract. Now on the cusp of his walk year, Graham says he is willing to play out the final year of his deal (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer).
In 2017, Graham racked up a career high 9.5 sacks to go along with 47 total tackles. He also graded out as the eighth-best edge defender in the NFL with a 91.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, nearly matching his 93.9 grade from 2016. Presumably, Graham is looking for a contract that will reflect his performance as one of the league’s top defensive ends.
Last year, the Eagles rewarded Graham with an extra $1.5MM in incentives for the final two years of his deal as a showing of good faith. His next deal will probably require a more substantial bump. Graham’s $8MM cap number for 2018, which ranks just 15th amongst 4-3 DEs in the NFL.
After dealing with a serious cap crunch this offseason, the Eagles will be wary of overextending themselves on a new deal for Graham. At the same time, they’ll run the risk of Graham pricing himself out of their range if he turns in another excellent season. In March, the Eagles watched defensive end Vinny Curry sign a three-year, $23MM free agent deal with the Bucs. Though Curry is a solid player in his own right, Graham stands to command considerably higher offers if he reaches the open market.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
All offseason long, the Eagles have been hoping that Wentz would be ready for Week 1. Of course, after his late-season ACL and LCL tears, the team is taking a cautious approach to his recovery. So far, Wentz has looked sharp in OTAs, so he should be ready to retake his spot as the team’s starting QB in September.
- Elliot Shorr-Parks of NJ Advanced Media points out that due to the Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks with a post-June 1 designation, they earned an additional amount of cap space. They currently stand at $6.1MM in available cap space, which will roll over into 2019. The Eagles had previously had just $94,000 in cap space, which ranked as the lowest in the NFL. Kendricks officially signed with the Browns on Monday.
This past offseason, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was often talked about as a potential target for teams with head coaching vacancies. He was floated as a candidate for several head coaching jobs, but didn’t get any of them.
Schwartz has seen his coaching career revitalized after a resurgent Eagles defense that he oversaw ended up winning the Super Bowl this past year. Schwartz was the head coach of the Lions from 2009 to 2013, and most people seem to think the recent success of the Eagles’ defense will land him another head coaching gig at some point.
In a recent article, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer wonders how long the Eagles will be able to keep Schwartz, and opines that he’ll likely be gone sooner rather than later. McLane notes that Schwartz doesn’t seem particularly attached to the Eagles when he speaks to the press, and that he isn’t likely to be the type of coordinator that sticks around for many years. Schwartz isn’t really keeping it a secret that he wants to be a head coach again, and he’ll likely be moving on from the Eagles whenever the first opportunity presents itself.
- Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is a “long-shot” to make the 53-man roster, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Smallwood played a big role as a rookie in 2016, carrying the ball 77 times for 312 yards, but saw his role greatly diminished last season. Now Shorr-Parks thinks the Eagles’ suddenly crowded running backs room will end up pushing Smallwood off the team altogether, saying “At this point Smallwood is facing a steep uphill battle to make the roster.”
- Shorr-Parks also thinks cornerback Ronald Darby may not be on the team much longer. He writes that the Eagles have been impressed with fourth-year undrafted cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who’s been running with the first-team during OTAs. Shorr-Parks says “The Eagles won’t cut Darby, but a strong training camp from Bausby could put Darby on the trade block.”