Eagles

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Jets preseason finale: 10 players to watch

Ahh, the fourth preseason game. I know you're excited. 

It's a game that means nothing to most but everything to a select few. Those few will have one last shot to battle it out for a roster spot Thursday night when the Eagles play the Jets in North Jersey. 

The starters won't play, which means Carson Wentz and his group will watch. 

If Nick Foles actually plays in this game, he's worth watching. He has practiced minimally throughout the summer and hasn't played in any of the preseason games. He finally returned to practice Monday but missed Tuesday because he was sick. Head coach Doug Pederson as of Tuesday hadn't made up his mind about whether or not Foles would play, but the team doesn't seem to be worried about forcing him into action. 

With that said, here are 10 other Eagles to watch on Thursday night: 

Dexter McDougle 
The Eagles traded for McDougle on Sunday and he'll face his former team Thursday night. Not a ton of time to prepare for the young cornerback. But as Jalen Mills said earlier this week, "Man is man, zone is zone," no matter what defense a corner is playing in. McDougle is a late-arriver but keep an eye on him in the slot. That might be a position that fits him in Philly. 

Beau Allen
Allen returned from the non-football injury list this week after completely healing from his torn pec. He's entering a contract season and is probably still the Eagles' top backup defensive tackle, although Destiny Vaeao was impressive in Allen's absence. Don't expect Allen to play a ton Thursday, but he should get a few snaps and we'll see where he is. 

Rick Lovato 
It's the fourth preseason game and I'm telling you to watch a long snapper. I apologize. But let's be honest, you were going to watch Jon Dorenbos' replacement anyway, weren't you? The Eagles were impressed enough with Lovato at the end of last year and this offseason to move on from their longest-tenured player. If Lovato has a bad snap Thursday … 

Billy Brown 
When asked recently about which position battles he's watching in these final days, Pederson surprisingly mentioned the tight ends. That's surprising because the top three guys — Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Brent Celek — haven't changed. What has changed is Brown, a young receiver-turned-tight end from Shepherd. Brown has been impressive all summer and might have the Eagles thinking about keeping four tight ends.

Corey Clement 
Clement has done everything right this summer. The running back from Glassboro, New Jersey, has run the ball well, pass protected and even shown his growing ability as a pass-catcher. But will it be enough? It seems unlikely the Eagles would keep five running backs, so in the group of LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey, who would go? The easy answer might be Pumphrey, but he's a fourth-round pick and it would be very rare to give up on him this early. Clement has one more chance to prove his worth. 

Greg Ward
After a really strong start to training camp, Ward has kind of been forgotten in recent weeks. The former University of Houston quarterback made a pretty seamless transition to NFL receiver and turned heads early in camp. He still has a chance to make the roster. After the first four receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins — Marcus Johnson is probably the next guy up. If the Eagles keep six, Ward is battling with Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs for that last spot. 

Taylor Hart 
It's crazy to think, but it wouldn't be that big of a surprise if Hart makes the Eagles' roster as an offensive tackle. He switched positions in the spring, flipping from defensive to offensive tackle and hasn't looked completely out of place. Now, he very likely wouldn't be ready to take snaps this year, but the Eagles might think they have something in him. 

Alex McCalister
Expect McCalister and Steven Means to play a ton in this last game. We listed McCalister instead of Means because, based on performance and the latter's extension Wednesday (see story), McCalister is the one playing catch-up. Now, he was a late-round draft pick a year ago, so maybe that gives him one advantage. But in terms of on-field play to go with a new deal, it will be tough to keep Means off the roster. A big game from McCalister can't hurt, though.

Justin Hamilton 
Allen's return from the NFI list was bad news for Hamilton, who has been having a very quiet but good summer. With Allen back, there's one less roster spot up for grabs. That means Hamilton is fighting with draft pick Elijah Qualls for a spot. Qualls has come on strong lately and has a lot of untapped potential. 

Aaron Grymes
The former CFL cornerback might have made the 2016 team but he injured his shoulder in this game a year ago. With Ron Brooks gone, it appears that either Patrick Robinson or McDougle will take the slot role, but don't sleep on Grymes just yet. He got some run with the first-team defense in the nickel corner spot and is a natural fit there. 

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

ap-trey-burton-eagles.jpg
AP Images

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 — 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.