Carson Wentz

Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

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Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

The Eagles are in awfully good shape this year, sitting at 10-2 with four games left. Just as importantly, they’re in pretty good for the future, as well. 

In fact, you can make a case that they’re better positioned for the future than any other NFL team.

Thank Howie Roseman for that.

With Alshon Jeffery signing a four-year contract extension last weekend, the Eagles now have 19 players under contract through the 2020 season. That means at least three more years with the current nucleus that's been so impressive so far this year.

No other NFL team has more players signed for the next three years. The Browns and Redskins are close. Both have 18 players signed or with a team option through 2020, but both also have very serious quarterback questions. 

The Browns haven’t been settled at quarterback since the days of Bernie Kosar, and the Redskins still don’t have Kirk Cousins under contract beyond this season. Carson Wentz is under contract through only 2019 under the terms of his four-year rookie deal, but it’s only a matter of time before Roseman has him locked up long-term.

The Eagles also have 32 players signed through 2019 and 44 through next year.

Among those signed through 2020 are the hearts of both lines: Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks on the O-line; and Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett on the D-line.

Also locked up for at least the next three years behind this season are key guys such as Jeffery (2021), Zach Ertz (2021), Malcolm Jenkins (2020), Rodney McLeod (2020), Sidney Jones (2020) and Rasul Douglas (2020).

Since his return from Chip Kelly exile nearly two years ago now, Roseman has done a masterful job of navigating through salary cap challenges to re-sign key players to long-term deals while trading away undervalued assets to clear cap space.

Right now, the only starters due to hit free agency after this season are LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson and Nigel Bradham. Blount and Robinson have both been very good, but both are in their 30s and play positions where the Eagles are very deep, so the Eagles could certainly move on from both. 

Bradham, now in his second year here, most likely will be one of the Eagles' top offseason priorities.

Also up are guys like Trey Burton, Kenjon Barner, Corey Graham, Jaylen Watkins and Beau Allen. That group falls into the category of contributors the Eagles value but who are ultimately replaceable depending on their contract demands.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has been very good since replacing Cody Parkey, is also up but Doug Pederson has already said the team plans to let him go via free agency and retain Jake Elliott.

Darren Sproles, who has spent the last few days with the team in Los Angeles, is also scheduled to become a free agent. That's a complicated situation because as popular and productive as he's been, he's 34, he's currently rehabbing, and he plays a position that's very crowded right now.

The Eagles currently have just over $5 million available under their adjusted 2017 cap figure of $174,933,869, according to Spotrac.com, which tracks NFL salaries, contracts and cap figures.  

They're also already over their projected 2018 and 2019 cap figures, according to Spotrac. So there's no question they'll have some difficult decisions looming over the next couple offseasons.

This is why it's so important to draft well. When you're forced to cut ties with proven veterans because of cap issues, you need younger players to capably replace them.

That all sounds alarming, but Roseman has proven to be adept at juggling contracts, restructuring deals and shuffling the roster to create cap space, and the addition of Joe Douglas to the scouting department seems to have made a difference when it comes to talent evaluation and acquisition.

Here's a look at the Eagles' current roster and how long each player is signed for:
 
Signed through 2017 (14)
Trey Burton
Darren Sproles*
LeGarrette Blount
Kenjon Barner
Chance Warmack
Beau Allen
Nigel Bradham
Najee Goode
Dannell Ellerbe
Nate Gerry
Corey Graham
Patrick Robinson
Jaylen Watkins
Caleb Sturgis*

Signed through 2018 (12)
Nate Sudfeld 
Nelson Agholor
Marcus Johnson
Jay Ajayi
Brent Celek
Brandon Graham
Destiny Vaeao 
Ronald Darby
Rick Lovato
Jake Elliott
Steven Means 
Jordan Hicks*

Signed through through 2019 (13)
Carson Wentz  
Wendell Smallwood
Corey Clement
Jason Peters*
Stefen Wisniewski
Isaac Seumalo
Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Mychal Kendricks
Kamu Grugier-Hill
Joe Walker
Jalen Mills
Donnie Jones
Chris Maragos*

Signed through through 2020 (12)
Mack Hollins
Shelton Gibson
Brandon Brooks
Jason Kelce

Vinny Curry
Elijah Qualls
Malcolm Jenkins
Rodney McLeod
Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Nick Foles (club option in 2019 and 2020)
Donnel Pumphrey*

Signed through through 2021 (6)
Alshon Jeffery
Zach Ertz
Lane Johnson
Tim Jernigan
Chris Long
Derek Barnett (club option in 2021)

Signed through through 2022 (1)
Fletcher Cox

*Injured reserve

Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

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Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

When Sonny Jurgensen threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles in 1961, it was historic stuff. He tied the NFL record for TDs in a season — set two years earlier by the Colts’ Johnny Unitas — and broke the Eagles' record of 25, set in 1948 by Tommy Thompson during the Eagles' first championship season.

Nobody realized back then — 56 years ago — just how historic Jurgensen’s season was.

Because that franchise record for touchdown passes that Jurgensen set in 1961? It still stands.

Jurgensen, now 83 years old and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has over the last half-century taken on all challengers to his Eagles TD passing record.

Norm Snead, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Nick Foles all went after Jurgensen. 

All failed.  

As Carson Wentz becomes the latest to challenge Jurgensen’s mark, this a great chance to put into perspective just exactly what Christian Adolph "Sonny" Jurgensen III accomplished back in 1961 and marvel at just how long his record has stood.

Jurgensen, the Eagles' fourth-round draft pick out of Duke in 1957, barely played his first four years. He backed up Bobby Thomason as a rookie, although he did go 3-1 in four starts, and then he backed up Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin in 1958, 1959 and in the 1960 NFL Championship season.

Van Brocklin retired after the 1960 season, and Jurgensen had instant success in 1961, quarterbacking the Eagles to a 10-4 record, setting an NFL record with 3,723 passing yards (in just 14 games) and also leading the league with both 32 TDs and 24 interceptions.

Jurgensen is best-known for his 11 seasons with the Redskins, but 56 years after he threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles, that record still stands.

The Eagles and Oilers/Titans have the oldest TD pass records in the NFL. George Blanda threw 36 touchdown passes for the Oilers in 1961. They were in the AFL at the time, but when the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, all AFL stats became NFL stats.

Wentz is the latest Eagles quarterback to challenge Jurgensen but definitely not the first.

In 1967, Snead — who the Eagles acquired from the Redskins in 1964 in the ill-fated trade that sent Jurgensen to Washington — threw 29 TDs in 14 games. Snead had three games with four touchdowns and three more with three touchdowns, but in the Eagles' eight other games he had only eight TD passes and was never really in a position to make a run at Jurgensen's mark. Interestingly, that was the only season Snead had more than 19 TD passes as an Eagle.

In 1980, Jaworski was on pace for 33 touchdown passes after 11 games. He had 23 touchdowns with five games to go but threw only four in the Eagles' last five games and finished with 27. Jaws had only one other year in his career with more than 20 TDs — 23 in 1981.

In 1990, Cunningham became the first Eagle since Jurgensen with 30 touchdown passes in a season. He had 26 with three games to go but threw only four the last three games of the season and fell two short of Jurgensen. That was Randall's only season with more than 24 TD passes until he revived his career in Minnesota.

McNabb was on pace to break Jurgensen's mark in 2004. After throwing five TDs against the Packers in early December, he had 28 TD passes with four games to go. But he had only one each the next two games, then — with the Eagles already clinching the No. 1 seed — he threw only three passes (with one TD) the last two weeks of the season and finished with 31. He never came close again.

Foles threw 27 touchdowns in 2013, but he didn't start until Week 6. If he played the whole season? He may have thrown 40. But he didn't.

Which brings us to Wentz.

With four games left, the 24-year-old has 29 touchdown passes, most in the NFL and already the fourth-most in Eagles history behind Jurgensen, McNabb in 2004 and Randall in 1990.

Wentz has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 12 games the Eagles have played. He's the only NFL QB to throw at least one TD in all 12 games this year.

With the Rams, Giants, Raiders and Cowboys left on the schedule, Wentz needs just three touchdowns to tie Jurgensen and four to pass him. Considering that Wentz is averaging 2.4 touchdown passes per game, the record should finally fall.

But it probably should have fallen a few other times.

More than half a century after he last played for the Eagles, Jurgensen keeps finding ways to cling to his record.

Wentz has had a remarkable year, maybe an MVP year, and it looks like the record will soon be his. But Jurgensen has been incredibly resilient. The Red Roach has protected his record for 55 years. Can he do it again?

Browns fire GM responsible for passing on Carson Wentz

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Browns fire GM responsible for passing on Carson Wentz

CLEVELAND — One win in two seasons cost Sashi Brown his job with the Browns. Coach Hue Jackson is keeping his -- for now.

Winless with four weeks left in another dismal season, the Cleveland Browns fired Brown on Thursday, jettisoning their top football executive who was unable to improve the franchise enough to satisfy owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.

Jackson, though, is safe and will return for the 2018 season despite a 1-27 record.

"We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi's commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns," Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. "Today we informed Sashi that we were going in a new direction. The 2018 draft and offseason is pivotal for our franchise, we need to ensure that we maximize our opportunity for success; with our picks, free agency and building our roster.

Brown was named the team's top executive by the Haslams during an overhaul following the 2015 season. His firing is not unexpected since the Browns are 0-12 for the second straight season with Brown in charge. He gutted Cleveland's roster, electing not to re-sign some of the team's own free agents in favor of signing younger players and acquiring future draft picks.

However, the team's decision to pass up on drafting quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the past two drafts may have hastened Brown's demise and Cleveland has shown little sign of improvement since Brown took over. Brown had no experience in evaluating players as he served as the team's general counsel before handling the salary cap and contracts.

ESPN was first to report Brown's dismissal.

Brown and Jackson appeared to be at odds over several roster decisions and Haslam figured his best course of action was to end the relationship rather than attempting to repair it.

The Browns host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.