Eagles

NFL Notes: Raiders' Derek Carr sets deadline for contract negotiations

NFL Notes: Raiders' Derek Carr sets deadline for contract negotiations

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr is confident he will have a new contract extension before the Raiders report for training camp at the end of July.

If for some reason that doesn't happen, Carr said he would play out the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 rather than negotiate a new contract once camp has started and his focus is entirely on the upcoming season.

"I wouldn't even answer my phone," Carr said Tuesday. "The money isn't the thing that drives me. If it was, then I shouldn't be standing here. What drives me is making sure I'm giving everything I have with my abilities and making sure that we win. I don't want anything distracting my thought process at all. It's not a jab or anything like that. That's just me saying, `I'm not going to deal with anything that's not helping me just focus on winning.'"

Carr is in the final season of his bargain rookie deal that is slated to pay him just under $1 million in his fourth season. Because he was drafted in the second round, not the first, in 2014, the Raiders are unable to use a fifth-year option to retain Carr like they did earlier this offseason with star pass rusher Khalil Mack.

So Oakland must give Carr a long-term deal that would likely make him one of the top-paid players in the game after a successful three-year start to his career or be forced to use the franchise tag in 2018 to retain him.

Carr said there have been no substantive talks as of yet but he expects things to heat up soon between the Raiders and his agent, Tim Younger.

"Hopefully it will get done," he said. "Both sides keep saying it's going to get done. I'm not worried about it to let you know about it. Once camp hits, I don't want to be a distraction. I've made it very clear that I want to be a Raider my entire career. I don't want to play for anybody else. They know that. They've told me how bad they want me. We'll see."

Carr said it bothered him to watch Mack have to answer questions about Carr's contract recently in a television interview and he wants to avoid putting his teammates in that situation in the future.

Panthers: Stewart focused on championships, not carries
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers veteran running back Jonathan Stewart isn't concerned about losing carries to Christian McCaffrey, the team's first round draft pick.

In Stewart's eyes, the more talent on the Carolina roster the better.

"Who cares? We want to win Super Bowls, right?" Stewart said following OTAs on Tuesday. "That's the bottom line on why we drafted him. It's not about people getting carries, or people getting touches, or getting touchdowns. It's about what you what can contribute" to the team.

Stewart has always approached things with a team-first mentality, having spent the majority of his nine-year career splitting reps with DeAngelo Williams.

The Panthers still envision Stewart having a huge role in the offense after a solid season in which he ran for 824 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games. That's why they signed him to a one-year $8 million extension that will keep him under contract through the 2018 season.

The 5-foot-10, 240-pound Stewart is an entirely differently runner than the smaller McCaffrey.

Stewart is a power back who excels at breaking tackles, while McCaffrey is expected to bring more speed, quickness and versatility to the backfield as a pass receiver.

"It doesn't change Jonathan's role," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the addition of McCaffrey. "We're going to do what we do. (McCaffrey) is a young man who can come in an supplant some of those reps. He's a dynamic player that can do some things Jonathan doesn't do."

Browns: Kirksey signs 4-year, $38 million extension
CLEVELAND -- When the Browns were sliding toward a winless 2016 season, Christian Kirksey stepped forward.

The linebacker boldly predicted a victory, which came a few weeks later.

On Tuesday, Cleveland locked up Kirksey for what the club hopes will be better seasons ahead.

Kirksey signed a four-year, $38 million extension with the Browns, who will have their leading tackler under contract through the 2021 season. The deal includes $20 million guaranteed.

"Christian Kirksey brings a lot to this football team," said Sashi Brown, the club's executive vice president of football operations. "He's another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long term. Chris reflects the hard work and commitment we want in our locker room. He has done everything asked of him since he was drafted and has developed into an impact starter. We look forward to watching him continue to emerge as a leader of our team and establish a culture of winning here in Cleveland."

The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder was one of the few positives last season when the Browns went 1-15. He led the team in tackles and finished third in the league with 148.

Kirksey, who made at least nine tackles in 10 games and played all but two defensive snaps last season, would have been eligible to be an unrestricted free agent in March (see full story).

Jets: Forte sees ‘a lot of versatility’ in offense
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Matt Forte is eager to be a bigger part of the New York Jets' offense.

That means running the ball, of course, but also catching more passes out of the backfield -- something he thinks new coordinator John Morton will allow him to do.

"A guy who catches the ball," Forte said Tuesday after practice, "should be involved in the offense on the receiving side of it."

There were times last season that Forte wondered what his role was under former coordinator Chan Gailey. He ran for a career-low 813 yards in his first year with the Jets, but also had just 30 receptions.

While Forte played through a torn meniscus in his right knee that eventually ended his season after 14 games, the dip in his production was also due in large part to Gailey's deployment of personnel.

Forte was mostly used on first and second downs, and then often replaced by Bilal Powell on third downs -- which is typically a passing situation. Forte told NJ Advance Media that the decision by Gailey, who retired after the season, to not use him more on third downs was "odd."

"Last year, I don't think I played really on third downs, which is, like I said, `odd,'" he said. "I went from catching like 100 balls to like 60 and last year, I caught like 30."

Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles' inactives vs Giants

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USA Today Images

Stefen Wisniewski heads Eagles' inactives vs Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles will be without their starting left guard Sunday afternoon against the Giants. 

Stefen Wisniewski (ankle) is officially inactive. Either Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo will play in his place. 

Wisniewski came into the weekend listed as questionable after he injured his ankle during the first half of last Sunday's game in Los Angeles. After Wisniewski came out against the Rams, he was replaced by  Warmack and then Seumalo. Both struggled against L.A. and Aaron Donald. 

Since joining the Eagles as a free agent, Wisniewski had played in all 29 games with the team. He earned the starting left guard job earlier this season. 

Joining Wisniewski among the Eagles' inactive players are Rasul Douglas, Wendell Smallwood, Marcus Johnson, Steven Means, Elijah Qualls and Dannell Ellerbe.  

Nick Foles will obviously get the start at quarterback and Nate Sudfeld will be the backup. This is the first time Sudfeld will be active for an NFL game. 

With Wiz out, offensive tackle Will Beatty is active for the first time as an Eagle. Douglas, the third-round rookie who played well when given a chance this season, is inactive for the first time since the season opener. 

Bryan Braman, who was brought back this week, is active and should immediately play a role on special teams. 

For the Giants, safety Landon Collins, who came into the weekend listed as doubtful, is active. 

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Intrigue surrounds Nick Foles' 1st start

Eagles-Giants
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -8

A game that until recently looked like a speedbump on the Eagles’ path to the playoffs has all of a sudden become a matchup of intrigue and mystery.

NFC East rivalry or not, the 11-2 Eagles were expected to dispatch the 2-11 Giants with relative ease, and still very well may. However, the season’s second meeting between the two teams has taken on a decidedly different feel now that it will feature Nick Foles under center for the Birds.

It’s become appointment viewing for an Eagles fan base collectively holding its breath, hoping to catch a glimpse into whether Foles possesses the ability to lead the team deep into the postseason.

Foles has made 36 career NFL starts – seven more than the quarterback he replaces, Carson Wentz – and has appeared in 46 games total, most of that with the Eagles. Nonetheless, the sixth-year veteran is viewed as something of an unknown entity. Foles was productive for several seasons, even historically prolific, but also lost a pair of starting jobs, nearly playing himself out of the league along the way.

Now in his second stint with the Eagles, the question is which version of Foles are the Eagles getting this time around, and can they still reach the Super Bowl with a new signal caller? We will begin to get some answers Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

In a position to succeed
Regardless of whether Foles is up to the challenge, it wouldn’t hurt the Eagles’ chances if they were able to finish what they started and earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That could actually happen as early as Sunday.

A win over the Giants and a Vikings loss to the Bengals would be enough to clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Even if the Vikings don’t lose this week, the Eagles can secure the top seed in the conference with any two wins over the Giants, Raiders or Cowboys over the final three games. Of the three remaining opponents, only the Cowboys are currently above .500 at 7-6.

In other words, Foles shouldn’t have to do much heavy lifting until the postseason, while the Eagles can make his job a little easier in January if they take care of business down the stretch.

With a little help from his friends
Foles has been under the microscope all week, and the backup quarterback has been examined from just about every angle. There’s nothing much more to say about the Eagles from the offense’s standpoint, at least until we’ve seen it action.

The group that’s flying under the radar in the aftermath of the injury to Wentz is the defense. Even the unit’s role in last week’s 43-35 win over the Rams has been overlooked to a degree, despite coming up huge in the fourth quarter.

After allowing the Rams to go up and down the field for the better part of the contest, the Eagles made two pivotal stops after Wentz’s exit. A Chris Long strip sack set up the game-winning field goal and that was followed by a quick three-and-out that allowed Foles and the offense to milk nearly the entire final two minutes of regulation.

That was against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, and though the Eagles did surrender 35 points, the defense stepped up when it mattered.

Wentz might be out, but the Eagles’ defense still ranks first against the run, 13th against the pass, fourth in total yards, fifth in scoring and is tied for third in takeaways entering the week. This isn’t all on Foles and the offense. They are more than capable of limiting or completely shutting down an opponent.

Coming up short?
The one area of the offense that might be worth keeping an eye out moving forward is on third downs. The Eagles are third in the NFL with a 45.3 percent conversion rate, and Wentz just seemed to have a knack for making something happen even during third-and-long situations, often keeping the play alive or simply making a clutch throw.

Foles did find Nelson Agholor for a huge third-down conversion against the Rams, but Wentz has been uncanny in those situations. Foles is far less likely to extend a play with his feet, and he’s far more willing to make a safe throw to a checkdown receiver and live with a punt.

Perhaps more than anything else this season, that ability to keep drives alive was what made Wentz so dangerous and so difficult to defend. When it seemed the Eagles’ backs were against the wall, he’d throw a strike, or run around and find somebody or pick up the first down himself.

No matter what happens, the offense won’t be the same without Wentz. The guy is special. But on third down in particular, there was a feeling no distance was too far, and a conversion was inevitable – and on occasion, it would break the will of opposing defenses.

The Eagles better get used to the idea of running on first and second down to create manageable thirds, punting when it’s not there and playing defense. Foles will do fine, but he’s not quite an unstoppable force, unlike Wentz.