Eagles

NFL Notes: Seahawks, RB Eddie Lacy agree to 1-year deal

NFL Notes: Seahawks, RB Eddie Lacy agree to 1-year deal

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks are hoping Eddie Lacy can be motivated by a one-year contract to rediscover the form that made him the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The Seahawks and Lacy agreed to terms on a one-year deal Tuesday, providing Seattle a big body for a run game that was once the best in football but lagged last season following the retirement of Marshawn Lynch.

"I like that we're bringing in a big, tough guy that's going to send a message the way he plays the game," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said in an interview with KIRO-AM, the Seahawks flagship station, on Tuesday.

Lacy was the top offensive rookie four years ago when he rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran for more than 1,100 yards in 2014, but has since been slowed by injuries and lost favor with Packers coach Mike McCarthy at times.

Last season, Lacy played in only five games, sidelined by ankle problems, and finished with only 360 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Weight has also been an issue for Lacy, but Carroll said he would expect the running back to play in the range of 240-250 pounds.

"He's a big guy. There is nothing wrong with that," Carroll said. "There will be a real concerted effort to make sure he's at his very best. This is a hard time for him because he's working some rehab right now, but he is well aware of our expectations and the standards that we are setting" (see full story).

Saints: Patriots’ Butler set to visit with team
Patriots restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler has scheduled a visit with the Saints at the team's headquarters on Thursday.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton confirmed the visit Tuesday, telling The Associated Press he holds Butler in high regard and is eager to meet with him.

If the Saints sign the 27-year-old Butler to an offer, New England has the option to match it. The Patriots could also let Butler go and then receive the Saints' 11th overall draft pick this year in return.

Butler, a two-year starter, is best known for his late, goal-line interception of Seattle's Russell Wilson in the 2015 Super Bowl. He intercepted four passes last season and broke up 17. He also was credited with 63 solo or assisted tackles, including a sack.

Payton and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are friends. They not only have had their teams practice together several times during recent preseasons, but also completed a high-profile trade last week that sent receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to New England in exchange for the Patriots' first round choice -- 32nd overall -- and a third rounder (see full story).

Steelers: Team meets with LB Hightower, no deal reached
PITTSBURGH -- Coveted free agent linebacker Dont'a Hightower's tour hit Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but Hightower left the team's facility without signing a deal.

The team announced it hosted him after he spent Monday getting wooed by the New York Jets. Hightower spent most of the day at the team's headquarters, but left early in the evening without a deal imminent.

Hightower has helped the New England Patriots win a pair of Super Bowls in his five seasons with the team and is probably the best inside linebacker on the open market. The Steelers are searching for a replacement for veteran Lawrence Timmons, who signed with Miami last week after spending a productive decade with Pittsburgh.

Hightower has 372 tackles and 17 sacks since New England selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He provided one of the signature moments during New England's furious second-half rally against Atlanta in the Super Bowl, forcing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan's fumble in the fourth quarter, helping swing the momentum to the Patriots for good on their way to a comeback 34-28 overtime victory.

The Patriots are still interested in bringing back Hightower and they have more money to spend than the Steelers. New England is more than $33 million under the cap, while the Steelers have about $18 million to spend after signing wide receiver Antonio Brown to a new five-year contract and applying the franchise tag to star running back Le'Veon Bell (see full story).

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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AP Images/USA Today Images

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

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USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."