Zach Ertz

Eagles Restructure TE Zach Ertz’s Contract

Zach Ertz has helped the Eagles clear up some cap space. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that the Eagles have restructured the tight end’s contract.

Specifically, the team converted $7.195MM of Ertz’s contract into a bonus, opening up $5.76MM in cap room. The move increases the Eagles’ cap space from around $21.7MM to around $27.5MM. It’s seemingly a win-win for both sides; Ertz wasn’t required to take a pay cut, and the Eagles received some financial flexibility. We’ve actually seen the organization do a similar maneuver with the tight end’s contract back in 2017 and 2018.

The 28-year-old Ertz had his most productive NFL season in 2018, hauling in 116 receptions for 1163 yards and eight touchdowns. The former second-rounder has spent his entire six-year career with Philly.

There are a variety of reasons why the Eagles could be looking to clear up cap space. The front office may be looking to add free agents after May 7th, when several notable veteran players are no longer tied to compensatory draft picks. The team could also be looking to sign some of their current players to extensions, including quarterback Carson Wentz. Most likely, the team is just looking for some extra financial flexibility in case the offseason takes an unexpected turn.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Notable 2019 Pro Bowl Incentives/Escalators

The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier on Wednesday, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.

Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were netted last evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):

Bonuses

  • Ravens S Eric Weddle$1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): For the second consecutive season, Weddle’s bonus will ride on the ability of the Ravens to earn a postseason berth. Baltimore is one of several teams in the mix for the AFC’s No. 6 seed, but FiveThirtyEight gives the club only a 41% chance of actually making the playoffs. Weddle, who will be entering his age-34 campaign in 2019, could potentially retire or be released before next season starts.
  • Chargers C Mike Pouncey, $500K (link): Pouncey somewhat surprisingly earned a Pro Bowl nod alongside his brother, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Mike Pouncey hasn’t been a terrible player by any means, but Raiders center Rodney Hudson has undoubtedly been better. Signed to a two-year contract this offeason, Pouncey is due a $6MM base salary and a $1.5MM roster bonus in 2019.
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen, $500K (link): Thielen, notably, signed arguably the most team-friendly contract in the NFL in March 2017, a three-year deal that’s worth less than $20MM. By picking up a half-million dollar Pro Bowl bonus, Thielen will collect a bit more cash, but he’s still vastly underpaid. Second in the league in receptions, Thielen will count just $11.5MM total on the Vikings’ salary cap over the next two years.
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $100K (link): Ertz will also see his base salaries increase by $250K in each of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 campaigns. He’s already surpassed career-highs in both receptions and yardage, and could top his career-high of eight touchdowns with a strong showing down the stretch.

Escalators

  • Chiefs T Eric Fisher, $500K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While Fisher hasn’t necessarily lived up to his status as a former No. 1 overall pick, he has played nearly every offensive snap for the Chiefs over the past six years while offering respectable play. He’s signed through 2021 as part of a four-year, $48MM extension he inked in 2016. Kansas City’s best tackle — Mitchell Schwartz, who mans the right side — has somehow been named second-team All-Pro for three consecutive years without ever being given a Pro Bowl nod.
  • Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2019 (link): Slay needed to reach two of three thresholds in order to earn his escalator. While he hasn’t yet met a five interception requirement, he was named to the Pro Bowl and has played on at least 80% of the Lions’ defensive snaps.
  • Packers WR Davante Adams, $250K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While he’s not quite at Thielen-level in terms of selling himself short, Adams arguably signed his extension with the Packers well before he needed to. Adams took a four-year, $58MM deal in December 2017, just months before he was scheduled to hit the open market. He’s vaunted to true No. 1 wideout status this year, but he’s just the NFL’s ninth-highest-paid wideout in terms of annual average.
  • Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase in 2019-2020 (link): Brooks, 29, is quietly one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, and Pro Football Focus currently grades him as the No. 5 guard in the league. He’s signed through the 2020 season, although his contract does contain two void years in 2021-22 that are in place only for salary cap purposes.

NFL Contract Restructures: 3/15/18

With the 2018 league year officially underway, a number of teams have reworked player contracts in order to create additional cap space. Here’s what moves clubs have made today:

  • Broncos: Created $12.375MM in 2018 cap space by converting $16MM of LB Von Miller‘s $18.5MM base salary into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).
  • Cardinals: G Mike Iupati accepted $3MM pay cut. 2018 base salary reduced from $7.75MM to $5MM. $250K roster bonus eliminated. 2019 contract season is now voidable (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).
  • Cowboys: Created ~$7.5MM in 2018 cap space by restructuring C Travis Frederick‘s contract (Twitter link via Jane Slater of NFL.com).
  • Eagles: Created $5.407MM in 2018 cap space by converting $7.21MM of TE Zach Ertz‘s $8MM base salary into a fully guaranteed roster bonus (Twitter link via Yates).
  • Ravens: Created $5.625MM in 2018 cap space by converting $7.5MM of DT Brandon Williams‘ $8.5MM base salary into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Yates).

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Notable 2018 Pro Bowl Incentives/Escalators

The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier tonight, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned tonight, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.

Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were preliminarily netted this evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):

Bonuses

  • Ravens S Eric Weddle, $1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): Still playing like one of the league’s best coverage safeties at the age of 32, Weddle needs the Ravens to land one of the AFC Wild Card slots in order to earn his incentive. Baltimore appears to on course to do just that, as FiveThirtyEight gives the club an 87% of earning a postseason berth. That playoff appearance will be largely due to the Ravens’ defense, which ranks second only to Jacksonville in DVOA.
  • Bills S Micah Hyde, $400K (link): Sean McDermott can coach defensive backs. After spending years finding gems at safety for the Eagles and Panthers, the Bills head coach has helped Hyde transform into a top-notch DB. Hyde, who inked a five-year, $30.5MM contract with Buffalo in the spring, ranked a respectable 53rd in Pro Football Focus‘ safety grades a year ago. This season? He’s ninth.
  • Raiders G Kelechi Osemele, $300K (link): Under general manager Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders have employed what is often referred to as an “all cash” salary cap management system, wherein prorated signing bonuses are rarely used while base salary guarantees, roster bonuses, and — as evidenced by the number of Oakland players on this list — incentive clauses are heavily employed. Osemele, the league’s highest-paid interior offensive lineman, is signed through 2020 with cap charges north of $10MM in each season.
  • Rams K Greg Zuerlein, $250K (link): While the Los Angeles offense garners the most headlines, the club’s special teams unit has maintained its dominance under coordinator John Fassel, who briefly took over as the Rams’ interim head coach in 2016. Fassel, Zuerlein, & Co. have managed a No. 2 ranking in special teams DVOA, while Zuerlein himself has been worth 15.1 points of field position (second in the NFL).
  • Raiders T Donald Penn, $200K (link): Penn’s summer holdout lead to extra guarantees in the future, but didn’t end with a change to his 2017 salary, meaning this bonus part of his original deal. The 34-year-old Penn is currently on injured reserve, and will miss his first game since 2007 on Sunday. Still, his renegotiated contract now contains a $3MM guarantee for 2018, meaning he’s likely part of the Raiders’ plans.
  • Patriots ST Matthew Slater, $150K (link): Slater has now earned a Pro Bowl berth in every season since 2011. At some point, it’s fair to wonder if Slater is skating by on reputation, as he played only a quarter of the Patriots’ special teams snaps this year. Slater missed more special teams tackles than he made prior to his 2016 berth, tweets Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus.
  • Raiders C Rodney Hudson, $100K (link): For all of Oakland’s problems this season, the Raiders have continued to boast some of the NFL’s best pass-blocking offensive lineman. Hudson is the best pass-blocking center in the league by a wide margin, meaning he’s eminently affordable at $8.9MM annually.

Escalators

  • Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2018 (link): As Corry reports, Slay had three ways to earn this heft escalator — post five or more interceptions (he sits at seven), play on 80% or more of Detroit’s defensive snaps (he’s at 97.6%), or earn a Pro Bowl berth. Slay managed all three in what has become the best season of an increasingly impressive five-year career.
  • Eagles T Lane Johnson, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-21 (link): Depending on Jason Peters‘ health and the Eagles’ plans, Johnson could very well be playing left tackle as soon as 2018. Even with his base salary set to increase, Johnson won’t have a cap charge north of $13.5MM over the life of his contract.
  • Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-20 (link): General manager Howie Roseman zeroed in on Brooks at the outset of the 2016 free agent period, and the 28-year-old has quickly proved to be one of the best free agent signings in recent memory. Brooks will earn an $8.5MM base salary — the largest during his five-year deal — in 2018.
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $250K base salary increase from 2019-21 (link): Per Corry, Ertz also picked up a $100K bonus for 2017. Ertz has already set a career-high in touchdowns (eight) and has a shot to set new marks in receptions and yards even though he missed two games with injury. A former second-round pick, Ertz ranks among the top-five tight ends in catches, yards, and scores.

NFC Notes: Burton, Foles, Saints, Floyd

Trey Burton has been a quality under-the-radar performer for the Eagles this season and he could find himself with a very robust market entering free agency this offseason, opines Mike Garafolo of NFL.com in a video on Twitter.

Burton, 26, has produced solid numbers as the backup to one of the best tight ends in the game in Zach Ertz. However, the former undrafted free agent has stepped up when Ertz has been banged up. Garafolo notes that Burton has caught three touchdown passes in the last two games, when Ertz has not been 100%.

Coming from the University of Florida, Burton didn’t really have a position entering the draft, but has seemingly found a role as a versatile tight end/receiver in the Philadelphia offensive scheme. The tight end market is not very deep either, with their being a noticeable dip after the likes of Jimmy Graham and Tyler Eifert. Given his recent play, you can expect Burton could be a name that gets more money than you may expect given his relative lack of a track record.

Let’s take a look at more notes throughout the NFC:

  • Nick Foles led the Eagles to victory over the Giants in his first start since Carson Wentz was lost for the season. It was an encouraging performance for the former third round pick, who pondered retirement just two years ago, reports Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. It was after the 2015 season when the quarterback really gave some thought to hanging it up. “Yes, I sat there and talked with my wife,” Foles said. “You go through a lot of emotions. Changing teams, being traded, going there, going through that year, and once I was a free agent, we just sort of sat there and said, ‘Hey what do we want to do?'” Nick Foles eventually decided to stay in the league and was a backup for a season in Kansas City before making his way to the Eagles this past offseason. Foles has a bit of a track record in the league and is looking to continue to build on his rebound story in the playoffs.
  • The Saints lost a few players to injury during their win over the Jets on Sunday afternoon. Guard Larry Warford and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui both were forced to leave the game with concussions, according to Joel Erickson of The New Orleans Advocate. Erickson adds that guard Andrus Peat was also active to start the contest, but was held out because of a groin injury. He was available in an emergency role, with backup guards Senio Kelemete and Josh LeRibeus taken the starting sports when both starting offensive lineman were unable to play. Hopefully all three players will recover fully for the team’s critical Week 16 affair against the Falcons. The game will have major implications to who ultimately will win the ultra-competitive NFC South.
  • Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd expressed that he is more at peace and hopes to be back in Minnesota next year, in a deep diving piece from Chris Tomasson of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “I would like to stay here, for sure,” Floyd said. “I love this place.” While the former Cardinals and Pats wideout has seemingly got his life together, it’s an uphill battle considering the quality depth of the position on the team, which includes Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright.

Eagles Restructure Zach Ertz’s Contract

The Eagles signed Zach Ertz to an extension last year and watched him turn in a second straight season with 800-plus receiving yards. However, the team used Ertz’s contract to create some cap space today via restructure, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Philadelphia converted $3.225MM of Ertz’s 2017 base salary into a guaranteed roster bonus, creating $2.58MM in cap space, Yates reports. Despite signing Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery and Nick Foles, Philly has not operated with much wiggle room in free agency, holding less than $6MM in cap space (only the Ravens have less at this juncture).

Connected to numerous potential trades and roster cuts — involving players like Jason Kelce, Mychal Kendricks, Chase Daniel and Jason Peters — the Eagles have been busy financially this month. Last year, the Eagles authorized numerous extensions to help push them up against the 2017 cap ceiling. A Daniel release, one that’s likely coming, will create $6MM in additional space, though.

Ertz will now make just $775K in base salary in his fifth season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Cook, Dolphins, Browns, Eagles

Jared Cook appears to have avoided a season-ending injury, but the rare Packers free agent looks to be out for at least a game and possibly more following Green Bay’s Week 4 bye, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. It’s being determined whether Cook will be out through Week 5, or if the former Titans and Rams target will be forced to miss multiple full games.

Cook left Lambeau Field Sunday on crutches and remains in a walking boot. The Packers are off in Week 4 and host the Giants in Week 5, but they will likely do so without their starting tight end’s services. Richard Rodgers will be the next man up for Green Bay.

Here are some more injury-related notes from around the league.

  • Continuing the string of trouble at the tight end position this season, Jordan Cameron suffered a concussion against the Browns and won’t play on Thursday against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports. This makes four concussions in the past four years for Cameron, who is in his second season with the Dolphins.
  • Gase also labeled Arian Foster as unlikely to return this week, per Beasley. He remains out with a groin injury. Foster sustained a groin tear during his final Texans training camp last summer and underwent surgery for it at the time. Foster missed three games last season due to that malady before going down with the Achilles tear that ended his time in Houston.
  • Browns linebacker Nate Orchard has a high-ankle sprain, which he sustained on the final play of Cleveland’s overtime loss in Miami, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). Orchard is expected to be out “a while.” Additionally, Tramon Williams suffered an AC joint sprain during the loss, Hue Jackson said Monday. It’s unclear how long the veteran corner will be out.
  • As long as Ryan Mathews is healthy, he will remain the Eagles‘ top running back, per Doug Pederson (via Zach Berman of Philly.com). The problem, as it’s been for much of the running back’s career, stems from the fact the second-year Eagle again might not be healthy. Mathews left Sunday’s game against the Steelers after playing just eight snaps due to a left ankle injury. Mathews struggled with left ankle trouble in training camp as well.
  • The Eagles expect Zach Ertz and Leodis McKelvin to return after the team’s Week 4 bye, Berman reports. Philadelphia’s starting tight end has missed the past two games with a displaced rib, and McKelvin has missed the same amount of time due to a hamstring ailment.
  • Safety Darian Thompson‘s foot injury is not serious and not “the end of the world,” a source tells Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter). Thompson will probably be out another week or two before suiting up for the Giants.

Eagles’ Ertz, McKelvin Suffer Injuries

We’re one game into the season and the Eagles are already a little bit banged up. Today, coach Doug Pederson told reporters that tight end Zach Ertz and cornerback Leodis McKelvin are both week-to-week after suffering injuries (Twitter link via Eagles’ team account). Ertz suffered an especially painful-sounding injury as one of his ribs has displaced itself under his collarbone. McKelvin, meanwhile, has a hamstring strain that could sideline him for multiple games. "<strong

[RELATED: Eagles Notes: Johnson, Wentz, Fullbacks]

Ertz, the 35th overall pick in the 2013 draft, is coming off a career year in which he caught 75 passes for 853 yards in 2015. This offseason, he was rewarded with a lucrative extension that should keep him in Philly through the 2021 season. On Sunday against the Browns, Ertz caught six of his seven targets for 58 yards. The Eagles have Brent Celek and Trey Burton on the depth chart behind the 6’5″, 249 pound tight end.

In the case of McKelvin, the Eagles could simply promote from within by calling up C.J. Smith from the practice squad. Pederson acknowledge that as a possibility while also adding that the team will explore its options at cornerback if McKelvin has to miss significant time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Notes: Ertz, Celek, Bradford

It’s been a busy week so far for the Eagles, who signed a pair of tight ends to new contracts and are still looking to hire a key personnel executive for their front office. Let’s check out the latest out of Philadelphia….

  • Using the contracts signed last winter by Julius Thomas and Charles Clay as points of comparison, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap breaks down Zach Ertz‘s new deal with the Eagles. Fitzgerald also explains why Brent Celek‘s extension has plenty of value for Philadelphia, assuming the team had already decided to carry the veteran tight end on its roster for 2016.
  • The new deals for Ertz and Celek show that – after ceding power to Chip Kelly for a year – Howie Roseman is re-committing to building an atmosphere in which players drafted by the Eagles feel valued by the organization, and stick with the team for the long term, writes Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s an important message to your team, that if you play really well and you do the right things and you’re drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, you’ve got a chance to stay for a long time,” Roseman said. “I think it’s important for the organization.”
  • Josh Paunil of PhillyMag.com spoke to former agent Joel Corry about the likely value of potential extensions for players like Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, and Vinny Curry. Corry also explained why he thinks Sam Bradford may ultimately sign a one-year contract this offseason rather than a long-term deal.
  • If the Eagles know whether they plan re-sign Bradford or let him walk, they’re not tipping their hand yet, as Bowen details in a Daily News piece.
  • Bowen and Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter links) are both hearing rumblings that the personnel executive ultimately hired by the Eagles to work with Roseman will be a retread, rather than an up-and-comer.
  • The Eagles have hired Missouri’s Chris Wilson as their defensive line coach, Doug Pederson said today, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).