Can Eagles afford to keep 3rd-string stud Trey Burton?

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Can Eagles afford to keep 3rd-string stud Trey Burton?

He doesn't get that many chances. When they come, he never fails to produce.

Welcome to the world of Trey Burton, who is essentially the Eagles' third tight end but is talented enough that he could probably start for a lot of teams out there.

With Zach Ertz out with a concussion, Burton had a career day Sunday, with five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Burton's previous high was 65 yards against the Redskins last year, but Sunday's game came on the heels of a 4-for-42 performance a week earlier in Seattle. Two weeks before that, he was 2-for-41 with a touchdown against the Broncos.

Here's a list of previous Eagles tight ends with 70 yards and two TDs in a game in the last 50 years: Charle Young vs. the Saints in 1973, John Spagnola vs. the Saints in 1985, Chad Lewis vs. the Giants in 2000 and Ertz vs. the Cowboys the last day of last season.

"I just did whatever needed to be done," Burton said. "Zach was out, which we don’t like, we love having Zach in there, he makes so many plays. But somebody needed to step up and Brent and I both did what we needed to do."

Brent Celek caught a touchdown pass and Burton caught two, making this the first game in four years in which Eagles' tight ends caught three TDs. In early December 2013, Ertz had two TDs and Celek had one against the Cardinals.

Burton is a remarkable story.

Undrafted out of Florida. Didn't catch a pass until his 26th NFL game. Didn't have a touchdown until his 32nd NFL game. Didn't surpass 50 receiving yards until his 38th NFL game.

But in 20 games since Week 8 of last year, Burton has 42 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns.

That's awfully good production for a third tight end. And he still plays fewer snaps than Celek.

"We're probably the only team in the league that can have one of the best tight ends go down and not play in a game and feel the degree of confidence that we have in the guy that's stepping up for him as far as a route runner with Trey and then with the things Brent can do," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

"Trey deserves a lot of credit. He's got a great skill-set and is a great playmaker."

Despite averaging only 20 snaps per game on offense (along with 20 more on special teams), Burton is 12th in the NFL among all tight ends with four touchdown catches.

Nobody on the roster has better hands than Burton, who in recent weeks has made challenging catches seem routine.

“Celek and I are just good players," Burton shrugged. "I think Zach would do the same thing if he (played vs. the Rams)."

Burton could start for a lot of teams. But he said he doesn't get frustrated at his lack of playing time or targets.

“Can’t control it," he said. "I can’t pout, I can’t be angry. I’m sitting behind one of the best in the NFL right now. Love that dude to death, extremely happy for him and Celek, all the opportunities that they get. Couldn’t be happier for them."

Then there's his contract.

Burton is playing on a one-year, $2.746 million deal he got this past offseason.

It's a deal that really reflects his value on special teams as well as a situational tight end. And it's an unusual amount of money for a backup tight end.

But the way he's played so far this year, Burton would be in line for a long-term deal worth much more this coming offseason.

Will it be here? Will it be elsewhere? Will the Eagles cut ties with Celek — who's been here since 2007 — in order to free up money to keep Burton? Releasing Celek would clear $4 million in cap space the Eagles desperately need. Or can Howie Roseman squeeze all three tight ends under the Eagles' 2018 salary cap?

Celek turns 33 next month and is still a capable blocker and receiver, but Burton just turned 26 and keeps getting better.

It would be tough to let Burton go.

Whatever is going to happen, Burton says he isn't even thinking about it.

“No, not at all," he said. "I can’t control that right now.”

The Eagles have a few months before they have to make these decisions.

And there's a first-round bye and home-field advantage to clinch at the moment.

"Trey’s a tremendous athlete," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He works extremely hard. He’s a core special teams player for us. Really, Trey hasn’t probably gotten a lot of offensive plays this year, but when he has … he’s made the most of his opportunity.

"He did that (against the Rams). Real proud of the way Trey played."

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t understate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload – even when he had no carries against the Chiefs – was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley – You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

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Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

We all know just how good Carson Wentz is. Heck, the entire NFL knows just how good Wentz is after the Eagles' QB put together a remarkable season with 3,296 passing yards and 33 TD tosses … in just 13 games.

But we and the entire league also know what that means: Wentz is going to get a lot more zeros added to his paycheck soon.

Wideout Torrey Smith, recently traded by the Eagles to the Panthers, knows full well what Wentz's worth is and isn't shy to talk about it, as he did at his charity basketball event in Maryland Saturday evening.

"When Carson's time comes, they're going to need a Brinks truck the size of this arena," Smith, who caught 33 balls for 692 yards and two TDs from Wentz last season, told ESPN's Jamison Hensley while noting the Eagles are taking full advantage of Wentz's discounted rookie deal right now.

Wentz is in the middle of a four-year, $26.6 million deal signed after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. The deal expires after the 2019 season, but obviously, Howie Roseman and crew know this all is looming. And they also know recent QB contract numbers have continued to skyrocket.

San Francisco recently made Jimmy Garrapollo, he of seven career starts but also of five straight wins to end last season after his trade from New England, the richest QB in league history with a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Detroit gave Matthew Stafford a five-year, $135 million deal prior to last season, a few months after Oakland gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension. Those three are the top-paid QBs in the league.

Long story short: With the way Wentz has performed with 7,049 passing yards and 49 TDs in 29 career starts, he's going to get paid.

And Roseman's acts of salary cap magic are going to have to continue because Wentz is going to get paid sooner than later, and the whole league knows it.