Zach Ertz

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

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Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate. 

Eagles find another way to create more cap room

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Eagles find another way to create more cap room

The Eagles are staying creative as they work through a difficult salary cap situation in 2018. 

After already restructuring Lane Johnson’s contract earlier in the week to save $7.5 million in cap space, the Eagles have reportedly done it again, this time with Zach Ertz. 

The Eagles created over $5.4 million in cap space this year by reworking Ertz’s contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates

Just like Johnson, Ertz isn’t taking a pay cut. The Eagles turned $7.21 million of his $8 million base salary into a guaranteed bonus. This is another move that will spread out Ertz’s cap hit over the remaining years of his contract. 

Ertz agreed to restructure his contract in a similar way last March, too. The nice thing about Ertz’s contract, from the Eagles’ perspective, is it wasn’t insanely back-loaded. That’s probably why they feel better about adding more money to the last three years. 

As NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank wrote Wednesday, it’s foolish at this point to question Howie Roseman’s mastery of the salary cap. Every year there are questions and every year Roseman finds a way to make it work. 

But there are reasons teams don’t do this more often. In a way, these types of moves just push the problem off to future years to help in the present day, but it’s likely Roseman’s plan extends well beyond this year. 

For now, the Eagles have gotten themselves out of salary cap hell. They were under for the start of the league year and these moves will allow them to fit in Nigel Bradham and Haloti Ngata. They could still use some extra room to sign more free agents and eventually pay their draft picks. 

The next possible moves that would create more space would be to cut or restructure Vinny Curry’s contract. On Wednesday, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn reported the Eagles asked Curry to restructure and if he doesn’t, it might force them to release him. And Mychal Kendricks is reportedly being shopped for the 256th straight offseason. Cutting Curry would save $5 million in space and trading Kendricks would save $4.4 million. 

Another option would be to offer an extension to Brandon Graham, who is entering the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $8 million, but we haven’t heard much about that recently. 

It’s never boring with Roseman around. 

Trey Burton feels 'hurt' by Eagles

Trey Burton feels 'hurt' by Eagles

Trey Burton will always be a hero in Philadelphia. He’ll always be the guy who helped pull off one of the most magical plays in Super Bowl history. He’ll always be the player who worked his way up from an undrafted rookie to a fan favorite. 

So it’s unfortunate he might be leaving Philadelphia with a slightly bad taste in his mouth. 

Burton, who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with the Bears, a league source confirmed (see story), joined the WIP afternoon show on Tuesday and was asked about the conversations his agent had with the Eagles about possibly retaining him. 

Those conversations apparently didn’t get too far. 

“Nah, I was really disappointed, man, honestly,” Burton said. “If I’m going to be open and transparent, I was really disappointed there wasn’t any offer. Didn’t even seem like they were really trying to make it happen. In reality, you can make anything happen if you really want to. That was my mindset. I’m really disappointed in that. It kind of hurt me a little bit. 

“But I’m excited about where I’m going and where we’re heading. I think it’s a great fit for us. Really good days are on the horizon.”

In some ways, Burton is right. If the Eagles really wanted to retain him, they could have prioritized moving money around to fit him in. But Burton’s new deal with Chicago will pay him $8 million annually, making him the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Well, the Eagles already have one guy above him on that list in Zach Ertz. And with Ertz and Brent Celek (who was released on Tuesday) also on the roster, Burton played just 27 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps in 2017. 

So it just wasn’t in the Eagles’ best interest to throw this kind of money at Burton. 

It’s unclear if the Eagles made a run at Burton during the 2017 season, but they did try to sign him during the 2016 season. Instead, the Eagles placed a second-round tender on him as an RFA to keep him in the building and push off his inevitable free agency. 

While Burton admitted he was hurt about the lack of attempt to re-sign him from the Eagles, he said he’ll always be an Eagle at heart and he made sure to thank the organization for giving him his start. Burton, who lives in the Tampa area, threw out the first pitch at the Phillies’ spring training game on Tuesday. 

“My agent and I thought it was a good idea,” Burton said. “Like a final farewell to Philadelphia. It was really cool.”