Eagles

Torrey Smith totally redeems himself

Torrey Smith totally redeems himself

After an all-too-familiar drop, Torrey Smith assured Nick Foles he would redeem himself. What followed was one of the most memorable catches in Eagles history: a 41-yard flea flicker in an NFC Championship Game.

Smith struggled with dropped passes all season long and never really materialized as the consistent deep threat the Eagles hoped for. But the seventh-year veteran knew they had the Vikings' number and pleaded with Foles to keep taking shots down the field.

Finally, Smith reeled in the long touchdown that felt like the dagger in the Eagles' 38-7 victory.

"We were talking about it all week, and we knew we were going to hit on one," Smith said postgame. "Just don't do anything differently, and I knew he was going to come back at some point."

Despite the trickery at the line of scrimmage, there was a high degree of difficulty involved with the catch. With All-Pro Vikings safety Harrison Smith in hot pursuit, Smith cradled the pass over his right shoulder as it came plummeting back to earth, got two feet inbounds and maintained control of the football while being tackled to the ground.

No matter. Smith wasn't about to let that one fall incomplete.

"I thought it I was inbounds, but I knew it was pretty close," Smith said. "Probably should've dragged my foot, but the ball kind of disappears a little bit when you catch it at that angle, and I wanted to catch it first."

Smith failed to haul in a potential 50-yard gain on the Eagles' first possession. The ball was slightly underthrown by Foles, allowing Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes to get back into the play and break up the pass.

Still, the ball was in Smith's hands, and he took full responsibility, going so far as to approach Foles on the sideline after the Eagles' drive ended in a punt.

"I had it," Smith said. "I should've caught it.

"I just told him, 'Don't do anything different.' I don't want him to think that it's his fault. That's my fault. That's a play I can make. I knew it was going to be contested when I slowed up a little bit, but that's a play I can make and I should make."

The opportunity for redemption came in the third quarter. Already leading the Vikings 24-7, Eagles coach Doug Pederson decided to go straight for the jugular after halftime, capping off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with the flea flicker.

Smith sold the call brilliantly, running at half speed to fool Waynes into thinking the ball was going elsewhere, only to take off and leave the defensive back in his dust.

"I knew that I had to get far enough down the field that he thinks I'm releasing like a pass, but then get my eyes back like lazy receivers do sometimes," Smith said. "We all do it, where you're like kind of looking to see where the ball is going.

"He looked, and I took off."

With the cornerback out of the play, the safety help was a little too late to break up a perfectly delivered pass from Foles.

"I don't know if I've ever run a flea flicker," Foles said. "It was my first time so I just tried not to smile. Any time you're a quarterback and you can have a play like that, it's pretty exciting."

Smith has taken his share of criticism throughout the season, finishing sixth in the NFL out of 94 qualifying receivers in drop rate, according to Pro Football Focus. Prior to Sunday, he caught just two passes of 40 yards or more all season long.

Yet neither Foles nor Pederson lost confidence in Smith and were comfortable going to the veteran wideout when it was time to drive the final nail in the Vikings' coffin.

"Nick did a great job of stepping up and sliding right, and then what a finish," Pederson said. "What a catch by Torrey, and right in the front corner of the end zone."

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

ap-trey-burton-eagles.jpg
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Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

Several hours after an NJ.com report surfaced that the Eagles were unlikely to re-sign Trey Burton, the tight end denied it on Twitter.

Replying to a tweet about the report from former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, Burton said he hasn't spoken to anyone.

NJ.com's Matt Lombardo reported Friday that the Eagles made Burton an offer that the soon-to-be-free-agent "didn't consider serious."

"We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere," the source said.

It wouldn't be surprising whatsoever if Burton leaves in free agency. A team will likely pay him starter's money and offer him a chance to start, which he doesn't have here with Zach Ertz firmly entrenched.

The Eagles are over the projected salary cap, and while they could create space in numerous ways, they also have to worry about re-signing key linebacker Nigel Bradham.

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Rework/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or rework his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one β€” we explore it more here. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.