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2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, WR: Is Jordan Matthews due for a contract extension?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, WR: Is Jordan Matthews due for a contract extension?

Was there a worse collection of wide receivers in the NFL in 2016 than the Eagles' group? Hard to say, but as bad as the unit was, at least they had two things going for them — they were young and cheap. Jordan Matthews was the oldest at 24 years old (once Josh Huff was released, anyway), while Nelson Agholor had the biggest cap hit at a little over $2 million.

That means there might be room for improvement with the players who are already here, and if nothing else, at least the Eagles didn't pay through the nose for such a lousy overall performance.

No doubt, the Eagles will look to upgrade the talent level at the position in the offseason, although it will be interesting to see what they do about Matthews as well. The club's leading receiver is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and happens to be the only wideout on the roster who's established himself as a viable target in the NFL, much less a weapon.

And make no mistake, Matthews is a weapon. While '16 was his worst season yet in terms of production with 73 receptions for 804 and three touchdowns, his first three years in the NFL put him in rare company. He's one of only seven players in history to post at least 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns during that span. The others: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss.

Matthews is clearly a step down from that who's who of Pro Bowlers. Regardless, he's still incredibly underrated, and as things stand right now, the Eagles probably can't afford to let Matthews go. 

While the front office has another year to make that decision, waiting for Matthews to post a career year and then hit the open market ala Jeremy Maclin wouldn't be wise. The Eagles should be proactive this time, even though the result is costs go up for 2017.

Looking at some of the contracts signed by wide receivers in comparable situations last offseason, Matthews' deal won't be cheap. Doug Baldwin, Keenan Allen, Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns all re-upped with their respective clubs for four years at an average over $10 million and going as high as $11.5, with guarantees ranging between $12 and $20 million.

A new deal for Matthews can be structured in such a way that the first season will carry a reduced cap figure, although his number couldn't possibly get any lower than it is now. If the Eagles do this, it will increase spending for '17 — and they should go ahead and do it anyway.

WIDE RECEIVERS UNDER CONTRACT

Nelson Agholor
Age: 24*
Age: $2,557,465

Like it or not, Agholor is a near lock to make the Eagles' roster in 2016, and it boils down to dollars and cents. Should the 2015 first-round draft pick be released, his cap hit nearly doubles to over $4.94 million due to the remaining prorated bonuses from his rookie contract. If that sounds familiar, it's because the front office ran into essentially the same problem with Marcus Smith this past offseason. It's not like anybody is trading for him, either. Now, if Agholor doesn't show some improvement in training camp or at least carve out a role on special teams, the Eagles could decide the roster spot is more important than money. He wasn't THAT useless though, finishing with 36 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns — not so invisible as to eat twice his salary.

Jordan Matthews
Age: 25*
Cap Number: $1,574,768

Keep in mind, Matthews also missed two games due to injury this season and was hindered in others. Otherwise, he almost certainly finishes with more yards than his rookie season, and would've had an outside shot to beat out his career high for receptions and yards set last season. The complaints about dropped passes are warranted. The knock that Matthews hasn't recorded a 1,000-yard season is not, when just last year he racked up 85 catches, 997 yards and eight scores. Think what he could do with Carson Wentz entering his second season and another quality receiver on the outside to draw some of the attention away. Matthews may have a couple of Pro Bowls in him yet.

Dorial Green-Beckham
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $944,418

At least Green-Beckham had somewhat of an excuse for his last of production. The second-year pro only joined the Eagles by way of trade with the Titans in August, and by all accounts, he's not the type who's going to pick up a brand new offense in record time. Regardless, DGB's struggles went beyond numbers. It's amazing that somebody with his size and speed can't seem to threaten defenses perfectly or make the occasional acrobatic catch. Even the routine grabs were troublesome, as evidence by his 48.6 percent catch rate. That being said, he still managed to finish with almost identical numbers to Agholor (36 rec., 392 yds., 2 TD). Green-Beckham is young, gifted athletically, and there's no risk in bringing him to camp — his entire salary can be recovered in the event of his release.

Bryce Treggs
Age: 23*
Cap Number: $540,000

For a brief period in the wake of Josh Huff's release, it appeared Treggs might actually have a shot to make an impact. In his first game active, the undrafted rookie out of Cal caught two passes for 69 yards against the Giants, including a 59-yard grab that turned out to be the longest play by an Eagles receiver all season. Treggs' success turned out to be short-lived, however, as he wound up catching just one more ball the rest of the way. He has tremendous speed, but little else going for him. The Eagles nabbed Treggs off waivers from the 49ers after cut-down day and stashed him on the 53-man roster, but he'll have to show more in '17 to make the team again.

Paul Turner
Age: 24*
Cap Number: $540,000

Turner was the official Eagles preseason darling and leading the NFL with 17 receptions and 165 yards over four exhibition games. That didn't manifest itself in an opportunity to come off the practice squad and play until Week 12, and even then, he didn't see the field much. Outside of six catches for 80 yards in a Week 13 beatdown at the hands of the Bengals, Turner appeared in only three more games and caught only three more passes. He's undersized at 5-foot-9 and doesn't provide much value on special teams, making for a difficult path to the roster. Best guess is Turner would have to outperform DGB to merit a spot on the roster, although that's before seeing any other moves the club might make.

David Watford
Age: 24*

One of three receivers to sign a futures contract at the conclusion of the season, Watford signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie out of Hampton, where he played quarterback. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has good size, although the Eagles probably view him as more as a good athlete to keep around on the scout team than a prospect at wideout.

Marcus Johnson
Age: 23*

Johnson was also brought in as an undrafted rookie out of Texas and initially made the Eagles' practice squad, but was released after Sam Bradford was traded to make room for emergency quarterback Aaron Murray. Johnson was eventually restored to the scout team in December, but obviously he's not a priority prospect.

Rasheed Bailey
Age: 24*

Does this name ring a bell? The Eagles originally signed Bailey was an undrafted rookie in 2015 out Division III Delaware Valley, where he absolutely crushed the competition, finishing his senior year with 80 catches, 1,707 yards and 19 touchdowns. He's since spent time on the practice squads of the Jaguars and Chargers, but just on Wednesday he returned to the Eagles on a futures deal. While a fan favorite, Bailey has been three places now and has yet to crack a 53-man roster, so don't count on his fortunes changing in his second stint with the Eagles. Then again, in this receiving corps, you can't exactly rule anything out, either.

* Ages as of 12/31/17

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

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Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

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Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles