New Eagles should mask defensive weak spot

USA Today Images

New Eagles should mask defensive weak spot

The Eagles are building a wall that would make President Trump proud.

With the additions of Haloti Ngata (6-4/345) and Michael Bennett up front to an already stacked defensive line, the Birds are going to be a nightmare for opposing teams to try to run and pass against.

Even if you exclude Vinny Curry, who may be cut or traded at some point, the Eagles' front four is deep and talented. Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, along with Chris Long, Haloti Ngata and Destiny Vaeao represents as good a defensive line as there is in the league.

The Ngata deal is yet to become official but the guess here is at his age and coming off a season when he played only five games because of a biceps injury, he will come on the cheap. And he'll fill the void left by the younger Beau Allen, who will get paid well elsewhere. As Dave  Zangaro pointed out, Ngata's impact when playing for Detroit last season versus when he wasn't was stark.

A Howie Roseman offseason is always filled with surprises so neither the Bennett deal or Ngata signing should come as a shock. Unexpected? Perhaps. But we could be seeing a pattern here. Back to that in a moment.

Staying on the eyebrow-raising theme, there are multiple reports that the Eagles want to re-sign cornerback Patrick Robinson. With Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, you would have thought Robinson would be a cap casualty. If they bring back Robinson, that could mean someone is going via a trade. But if they all return, along with a strong safety corps, the defensive backfield, much like the defensive line, would have great depth.

Are Howie and Joe Douglas loading up on the front and back ends knowing the middle could be a little soft?

Nigel Bradham appears to be headed out the door. If he does walk, the Eagles' linebacking corps could be very suspect. Jordan Hicks has missed 17 games in his three NFL seasons. As good as he is, he is difficult to count on. Mychal Kendricks had a major comeback season in 2017 but is the organization convinced it will see the same player in 2018? Could he be on the trading block? You get past those three and you have Joe Walker and Najee Goode. The Eagles did add a linebacker, reportedly agreeing to a deal with former Denver Bronco Corey Nelson, but he's primarily a special teams player. So not much. 

Jim Schwartz played a great deal of nickel after Hicks' season-ending injury in Week 7. You could see much of the same in 2018. Even if that's the case, the Eagles will need to draft well and/or bring in an impactful linebacker for cheap. Not an easy task. Let's make the linebackers great again.

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

USA Today Images

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

AP Images

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.