Joel Embiid and the biggest/worst contracts in Philly sports history

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Joel Embiid and the biggest/worst contracts in Philly sports history

On Tuesday, Sixers center Joel Embiid finalized his five-year contract extension worth $148 million. The sum could rise to $178 million if certain incentives are met in the 2017-18 season.

It's official. The ink is dry. No takebacks.

As no shortage of folks have already observed, this was simultaneously a great day and a scary day in Sixers history. The new contract essentially cements Embiid as the face of the franchise, which is a hopeful sign for the future. And while not all the details were concrete at the time of this writing, we are told the deal provides the organization significant financial protection against injury — crucial with a player who's dressed for all of 31 games over three NBA seasons. Yet, still, it's difficult not to feel some trepidation about an expensive, long-term deal for any athlete given the track record of such moves in the Philly sports scene.

Ryan Howard immediately comes to mind, with a contract similar in length and money that the Phillies only finally got out from under last year. Ilya Bryzgalov is another, and though the Flyers were allowed to escape Bryz and any salary-cap implications via an NHL-granted one-time buyout, the club will be paying the squirrely netminder literally until 2027. Let's not forget how quickly Nnamdi Asomugha went from being one of the biggest free-agent signings in Eagles and NFL history to one of the biggest-free agent busts ever.

Just look at the last time the Sixers committed big bucks to anybody for any length of time. Almost a decade ago, the 2008 offseason saw the organization pay Elton Brand $82 million over five years in free agency, not to mention a six-year extension worth $80 million for Andre Iguodala.

Brand was 29 at the time, but looked much older. Iguodala was fine, but not a superstar-caliber player, which that money represented at the time. (These deals look like chump change now, but both were close to top dollar in '08). Those contracts quickly became a burden for the Sixers — moves that helped lead them down the road toward The Process in the first place.

A deal like Embiid's can and often does have lasting repercussions if it goes awry. However, not every long-term contract is destined to become an albatross.

Every once in awhile, there is a transcedent talent who is totally worth the risk. For example, there's no way the Eagles ever regretted giving Donovan McNabb a 12-year, $115 million contract in 2002. McNabb was in the midst of a run of four straight NFC Championship appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl, and though he was slowed by injuries and natural decline in his later years, he was still good enough to guide the team to the playoffs on a nearly annual basis. Sure, McNabb's tenure didn't end with a parade down Broad Street, but his presence provided stability for the better part of a decade.

Even when a player runs his course with a team before a deal expires, as tends to happen for various reasons, most contracts can be traded. That's ultimately what happened to McNabb. The Phillies were never able to move Howard, but Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels all got dealt. In some ways, the Hamels trade was reminscent of when the Flyers suddenly shipped out Jeff Carter and Mike Richards early, in that they were early in their recently signed long-term deals. And just last year, the Eagles were able to move some pricey contracts, namely that of Byron Maxwell.

A massive contract isn't necessarily a death sentence if it doesn't work out perfectly or for the entire duration. Michael Vick. Jim Thome. Vinny Lecavalier. Chris Pronger. Their contracts were impediments, but only temporarily, until other arrangements could be made.

Depending on what the injury clause covers and the extent of the money that can be recouped — rumor is around 50 percent — the Sixers may not even feel much or any short-term pain if Embiid isn't working out a few years from now. And this is also what makes this situation so unique. While NBA contracts are tradtionally guaranteed, like those in the NHL and MLB, it sounds like this one is structured closer to that of an NFL deal, with plenty of outs for the franchise at nominal fees. It's well worth the risk for a player with Embiid's tremendous upside.

But as we've seen far too often, players signing these types of massive deals in Philly rarely equates to sustained success for long periods of time. On occasion, there's no success at all. Embiid certainly has a lot to prove to be the rare talent who avoids winding up in either category. Yet, even if he doesn't live up to his contract — and it will be a tall task — it's structured in such a way that it's not likely to set the Sixers back for years to come.

After all, it's only money.

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

The Eagles may have lost Carson Wentz for the season, but it could be worse. A lot worse. The Eagles could be the in the New York Giants’ shoes.

How much better are the Eagles than their loathsome NFC East rival to the north this season? Even with a season-ending injury to an MVP-caliber player under center, the Eagles still look vastly superior to their Week 15 opponent on Sunday. In fact, would you even trade their quarterback situation with the Giants?

We try to answer that question and more while we examined whether the Giants do anything better than the Eagles in 2017. Anything at all!

Probably not though.


Eli Manning may have a couple of Super Bowl rings, and his supporting cast with the Giants is awful, but I can’t understand why there was such a clamoring to have him remain the team’s starter. Their record is 2-11. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt this season – only Joe Flacco has been worse. And Manning turns 37 in less than three weeks, so what’s the upside? He looks shot. At least Nick Foles gives the Eagles some hope heading into his 29th birthday. At this stage of their respective careers, you would take Foles, and it’s a no-brainer. Heck, plenty of people would take Davis Webb over Manning.

Advantage: Eagles


The Giants’ backfield is better than many suspected at the beginning of the season. Of course, turning out marginally better than the worst backfield in the NFL isn’t a huge accomplishment. Orleans Darkwa runs with power, and Wayne Gallman is a nice change of pace when he’s not fumbling the football. Both average better than 4.0 yards per carry. Shane Vereen looks cooked in the third-down role. Of course, the team doesn’t run the ball much, and none of the trio is a home-run hitter of the caliber of Jay Ajayi for the Eagles. Neither Darkwa nor Gallman looks like a better prospect than Corey Clement, either.

Advantage: Eagles


The Eagles have three players with more yards and touchdowns than the Giants’ leading receiver. Alshon Jeffery has 732 yards and eight touchdowns, while Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor both have 663 yards and seven scores. New York’s receiving corps was also decimated by injuries to Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Despite the losses, speedy Evan Engram is having an incredible rookie season for a tight end, becoming the primary weapon in the passing attack with 55 catches, 623 yards and six touchdowns. Clearly, Engram’s stellar play hasn’t been enough to compensate. Now wideouts Sterling Shepherd and Roger Lewis are questionable to play Sunday, too.

Distinct advantage: Eagles


The Giants’ best O-lineman, right tackle Justin Pugh, is questionable as well with a back injury, and hasn’t suited up in weeks. That’s a problem, because their line wasn’t very good to begin with. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has improved as the season progressed, and isn’t near as bad his reputation might suggest. Otherwise, there aren’t many bright spots up front. The Eagles have had their issues. The hope is Stefen Wisniewski can go with an ankle injury, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai has looked beatable in recent weeks. At least their issues are confined to the left side. From center to right tackle, the unit is great.

Advantage: Eagles


If games were won and lost on reputation, the Giants’ D-line would be among the scariest units in the league. Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are all All-Pro/Pro Bowl players, yet New York ranks 31st against the run and is tied for 30th in sacks. The stars are not living up to the hype. Surely, it hasn’t helped that roughly all of their linebackers are on injured reserve. The Eagles still rank No. 1 against the run, though they’ve looked a little shaky of late, and are tied for ninth in sacks. Their defensive end rotation with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Bennett is becoming quite dangerous, with 20.5 sacks between them.

Slight advantage: Eagles


Don’t worry, the Giants’ issues on defense aren’t limited to the front seven. The club also ranks 31st against the pass, and unlike so many other areas of the roster, injuries aren’t solely to blame. Janoris Jenkins was hurt all year and eventually landed on IR. For Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, it’s been a question of effort and will they or won’t they quit on their teammates. Apple has since been benched and left on the inactives list. The Eagles’ secondary has its flaws, but attitude isn’t one of them. They’re also an opportunistic bunch, with three players – Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Patrick Robinson – with three interceptions, and three more with two.

Advantage: Eagles


As bad as the Eagles’ special teams have been for at times this season, the Giants have been worse. Their kicking game stinks – Aldrick Rosas has made only 75.0 percent of field-goal tries. Their coverage units stink, with a blocked punt and a punt return for touchdown. And their return game stinks, with a 19.4 average on kickoffs and a 5.1 average on punts. We’re going to assume the re-signing of Bryan Braman this week fixes some of the issues the Eagles have experienced, and they’re back to being one of the top all-around units in the league.

Advantage: Eagles


Ben McAdoo had one of the most meteoric rises and falls you will ever see. In a matter of three years, McAdoo was hailed as a genius for reinventing Manning, usurped the head coaching job from Tom Coughlin, and guided the Giants to the playoffs. Eleven months later, he was out of a job. Perennially overrated defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over in the interim, so no groundbreaking changes on the sideline for the time being. McAdoo’s timeline might be a cautionary tale for Doug Pederson and the Eagles. As far as this game is concerned, the staff that’s not in the midst of upheaval has the edge.

Distinct advantage: Eagles


There was no shortage of warning signs for New York entering heading into 2017. Sure, they managed to go 11-5 and make the playoffs a year ago, but had not won more than seven games in any of the previous three seasons. I’m not sure anybody saw 2-11 coming, although with an aging quarterback, shaky offensive line, and no running game, the Giants needed their defense to shoulder the load. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Eagles have the injury under center, but I’ll take Foles with his roster over the current version of Manning and his crew of flunkies. And I wouldn’t think twice.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

ESPN broadcast

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

You will not find Billy Donovan on the Thunder's injury report after Friday's game against the Sixers.

But Oklahoma City's head coach may be icing down alongside his players or popping a few Advil.


Donovan took an errant pass straight to his face during the Sixers-Thunder game at the Wells Fargo Center. Richaun Holmes was looking to collect an assist on a JJ Redick jumper, but the Sixers' big man put a little too much mustard on the pass.

The one-handed dish went right to Donovan … who was not ready to catch it, and why would he be? Holmes also just barely missed former Sixers player and head coach, Maurice Cheeks, who is an assistant under Donovan.

At least that was Holmes' only turnover of the game.