15 leftover Eagles notes and observations from 2019 NFL owners meetings

15 leftover Eagles notes and observations from 2019 NFL owners meetings

Now that I’m back from Phoenix and the annual NFL owners meetings, it’s time to clean out my notebook. 

First, here are the major stories from covering the meetings. Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson all spoke during the week.  

Explaining why Eagles added so many older players

Eagles will host Ravens for joint practices this summer

Optimism Wentz will be ready for OTAs

5 tidbits from Pederson’s hour with reporters

Is kelly green still in the works?

Eagles are preparing for Wentz’s big deal

Lurie explains why they let Foles free

Pederson, Wentz need to keep offense balanced

OK, now that we got all that out of the way, now it’s time to get to some other notes and observations that are left over. Sometimes leftovers are the best. 

1. The Eagles submitted a proposal to change the tradition that has the Cowboys and Lions hosting Thanksgiving games every year. The proposal, which was withdrawn before the owners meetings kicked off, would have still allowed the Cowboys and Lions to play every Thanksgiving, but would make them alternate between home and away games. 

Lurie explained they submitted the rule not to tinker with tradition but on the terms of competitive balance. It may have been viewed as petty for the Eagles to submit a rule that would hurt the Cowboys, but Lurie is right. That’s a decided advantage that those two teams don’t have to travel on short weeks like the teams who have to go to them. The Eagles have played in Detroit and Dallas on Thanksgiving in recent years and there are rumors they’ll be in Minnesota this coming Thanksgiving. 

“There wasn’t enough support at this point, but you have to start the conversation somewhere,” Lurie said. “On behalf of our fans, we start that conversation.” 

2. The biggest rule change to come out of these meetings was to make pass interference reviewable whether it was called or not. This rule change proposal wasn’t even on the docket, but things moved quickly and Lurie was at the forefront of getting it passed. He spoke to the group of owners and stressed the importance of integrity and getting the big-impact plays correct. 

“You’re asking people to devote their heart and soul,” Lurie said. “You’re asking your players, your coaches and your fans to devote [their] heart and soul to it. … If you’re asking people to deliver their emotions to the product you’re presenting, then you owe it to everybody you’re presenting it to, to be as accurate as humanly possible.”

I didn’t realize how big of a proponent Lurie is of expanding replay. He said he even supported Bill Belichick’s proposal a couple years ago that would have expanded it to every play. 

It also seems like Lurie is well established as an influential leader among the owners. He’s owned his team for just about 25 years and the organization is one of the most respected in the league. He isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. 

3. This is the second year in a row that the biggest rule change to come out of these meetings wasn’t even a proposal going in. Last year it was the helmet rule; this year it was replay. Lurie said he thinks the two pillars of the NFL should be player safety and integrity. Based on how quickly coaches and owners worked to get these two rules accepted in consecutive years, he’s not alone in that belief.  

4. Got a chance to chat with Frank Reich on Monday night. To let you know how humble of a guy he is, I congratulated him on his team’s success last season and he responded, “Thanks … we got off to a slow start.” They did. The Colts were 1-5, but finished with a 10-6 record and then beat their division rival in the wild-card round. Nothing against Mike Groh, but I think the Eagles just miss having Reich around. 

Before the Colts played the Titans on Sunday night in Week 17 for a chance to get into the playoffs, Reich said he was watching the Eagles’ situation, hoping for his former team to get in first. Both ended up getting into the playoffs and winning a game. 

5. When asked about players who might not be ready for OTAs, Pederson mentioned that it will be a chance for younger players to get more reps. He named a few: Matt Pryor, Sidney Jones and Tre Sullivan. 

• Pryor —> Brandon Brooks 

• Jones —> Jalen Mills/Ronald Darby 

• Sullivan —> Rodney McLeod  

6. Something Lurie said in his lengthy opening statement caught my attention. He said Pederson’s coaching job in 2018 was “as impressive as the year we won the Super Bowl.” 

Lurie has been impressed by Pederson’s resiliency and stoicism in the face of adversity. There has been plenty of it in his three years as head coach.  

7. But Pederson wasn’t perfect in 2018. In fact, he admitted he probably wasn’t as aggressive in certain situations as he might have been the previous year. I’d expect that to change in the coming season. 

8. Since the meetings ended early again this year, the commissioner’s press conference and the competition committee press conference got molded into one. It was convenient if the league would have rather talked about a rule change than one of its most influential owners’ getting arrested for soliciting prostitution. But maybe that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me. Anyway, eventually Roger Goodell was asked about Robert Kraft and said Kraft will be subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy but not until all the facts are gathered. 

9. Pederson was asked about hiring women for coaching positions in the NFL and said he’s totally on-board. It came up because Bruce Arians was very outspoken about gender not mattering and the Bucs recently hired two female assistants. 

“If someone’s qualified, if a woman is qualified to handle a position, then I would be all for it,” Pederson said. “Right now, my staff is full obviously. But I’m encouraged by the direction in which we’re going.”

This is going to be a slow progress. The NFL has been a boys club for a long time, but it’s encouraging to see two of the top coaches in the league speak out in favor of hiring women in the NFL.

10. It’s encouraging that the Eagles are still completely committed to their approach with analytics. Lurie said they’re “obsessed” with it. But he also mentioned it’s not enough to just have raw data — the important part of the puzzle is understanding how to use it. I also like that he wants more of that data accessible to the public. He also (wisely) mentioned the rise of legal gambling in that explanation. It’s so refreshing to hear professional sports leagues and teams acknowledge that gambling is a big part of fandom. 

11. Lurie seemed to like the idea of the NFL’s international expansion. The Eagles played in London in 2018 and he is open to playing in Mexico and even China in the future … but he won’t give up a home game. 

12. When talking about the Michael Bennett trade, Pederson mentioned that new defensive tackle Malik Jackson will play on third downs. That’s an important development because it means the Eagles will keep Brandon Graham at defensive end in those situations. The Eagles’ starting defensive end can also be their best on third downs. 

13. The Eagles have been in a unique quarterback situation in the last couple of seasons, but maybe this is the year they start drafting QBs again. Pederson once said he’d like to draft quarterbacks every year and develop them. Lurie this week seemed to be on board with that idea. Pederson said the Day 3 crop of quarterbacks is “really good.” 

14. My favorite part of the owners meetings, and I think I say this every year, are the families who just happen to be on vacation at the same resort while it’s going on. The resort is almost always near-full with NFL folks, but imagine being poolside and John Elway just strolls by. Has to be a little confusing. 

15. You’ve probably already seen plenty of images of Pederson and his Roll-A-Bout in Phoenix. He had a surgery to get a bone spur shaved on his left ankle. It had been rubbing his Achilles and the surgery was preventative before a more serious Achilles tear. He’s in the boot for 10 weeks total but has just four more weeks of non weight-bearing. He says he’ll be good to go for OTAs, but he’ll have to be careful when he’s on the field. At the owners meetings reception, I sat next to Pederson for a short chat. Poor guy couldn’t get away. 

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How Eagles helped Nigel Bradham by cutting him now

How Eagles helped Nigel Bradham by cutting him now

The Eagles formally released linebacker Nigel Bradham on Wednesday, one day after it was initially reported that the team had decided not to exercise his $8 million contract option and a month before they had to.

Bradham’s contract requires the Eagles to decide by the last day of the 2019 league year — in this case March 18 — whether to extend his deal by a year and pay him $8 million in base salary for 2020 or not exercise the option, allowing him to become a free agent.

But by releasing him on Wednesday — a full four weeks before they were required to — the Eagles give Bradham the opportunity to begin talking to teams and potentially negotiating a new contract before the start of free agency, which is also March 18.

Now that he’s no longer the Eagles’ property, he’s an unrestricted free agent a month before all the other linebackers hit the market.

It's a courtesy that gives him a head start on the mid-March free agency frenzy.

The Eagles and Bradham renegotiated his contract in March of 2018, and that renegotiation ran through 2022 but gave the Eagles an escape clause in the form of option years after the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Because there’s no remaining guaranteed money in Bradham’s deal, the cap ramifications are no different if they release him now or formally decline his option next month. 

Bradham will count about $5.3 million in dead money under the Eagles’ 2020 cap, according to Spotrac, instead of the $9 million he would have counted if the Eagles’ kept him.

Bradham, who turns 31 in September, spent four years with the Eagles and started 64 of a possible 70 games, including the postseason.

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NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

On Tuesday night, receiver Stefon Diggs sent the internet into a tizzy when he apparently erased any mention of the Vikings from his Instagram account. 

We’re taking a bit of a leap here (gotta love 2020) but if this is Diggs’ somehow voicing his frustration with the Vikings it wouldn’t be the first time. And it would also basically be a Bat Signal to the other 31 NFL teams: “Come and get me!” 

The Eagles should. 

It’s funny. Before all those rumors began to swirl on Tuesday night, I was on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants and was asked for one potential trade target for the Birds. The name I gave was Diggs. He made sense even before this. While there’s no guarantee the Vikings trade him, it’s worth finding out. 

If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles are in desperate need of help at receiver. It’s why about 85 percent of mock drafts have them taking one in the first round of the draft in a couple months. But any player they pick in the draft is an unknown. Diggs is not. 

There are three big reasons why Diggs should be attractive to the Eagles: 

1. He just turned 26 back in November

The Eagles are committed to getting younger this offseason and getting Diggs now would kind of be like signing a free agent after his rookie deal. The Eagles have been getting older but Diggs would help them get younger. No, he’s not a 21-year-old anymore but he is arguably entering his prime. 

2. Diggs is already one of the best receivers in the NFL

Despite his targets dropping from 149 in 2018 to 94 in 2019 (ostensibly one of the reasons for his displeasure), Diggs still managed to have more receiving yards this past season. Since the 2016 season, Diggs has 313 catches, 3,903 yards and 26 touchdowns. There are just six players in the league with better stats in those four seasons: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. 

What has been impressive about Diggs is that he’s been successful in different ways. After averaging 10.0 yards per catch in 2018, he averaged 17.9 (a career high) in 2019 and was a tremendous deep threat. Just three players in the NFL had a higher yards-per-catch average in 2019. 

The Eagles certainly saw what he can do. In Week 6 against the Birds, he had his best game of the 2019 season. He caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was the only time this season he was targeted over 10 times in a game. 

3. Diggs is relatively cost-controlled for another four seasons

While trading for Diggs will cost draft equity (we’ll get to that soon), his salary will be cheaper than that of a free agent of the same caliber because he’s already locked up. While multiple teams will out-bid each other for free agents and end up over-paying, Diggs has a contract that runs through the 2023 season and it’s a very reasonable contract. By the end of it, there’s a very good chance he’ll be extremely underpaid. Even though he just signed the five-year extension in the summer of 2018, he’s already just the 13th highest-paid NFL receiver in terms of APY, according to OverTheCap. 

Check out his base salaries for the remainder of the contract: 

2020: $10.9M
2021: $11.4M
2022: $11.4M
2023: $11.4M

No, that’s not exactly cheap like a rookie contract would be but it’s very manageable. And once the new CBA is eventually worked out, those prices will probably look even better. And there are some performance escalators written in, but if Diggs hits them, both sides would be happy. 

So what will it take? 

This is the big question. I think we all agree that Diggs is a good player and the Eagles would love to have him. But what would they have to give up in a trade? 

Well, the Vikings are going to start any negotiation with a first-round pick at minimum. They should. All those reasons I listed above are reasons why they should have teams lining up for Diggs. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad things really are between Diggs and the Vikings, though. There was definitely frustration during the 2019 season but he finished out the year. Is it bad enough that it’s an untenable situation? If so, then the Vikings would lose some leverage. 

If it’s a second-round pick, this is an easier conversation. The real question is whether or not the Eagles would be willing to give up a first-round pick. I kind of doubt they’d be willing to but you can make a real case for it. It’s easy to say the Eagles should just focus on the draft and take one of the many talented options with the 21st pick but there’s no guarantee they’ll hit. In fact, their history picking receivers, especially in the last decade, shouldn’t instill much confidence. They have drafted four Day 1 or Day 2 receivers since 2010: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. 

None of them ever became what Diggs is right now. And there’s a good chance any player taken at 21 won’t become what he is either. 

Maybe GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be worried about Diggs’ fit in the building; after all, he has created enough drama in Minnesota to bring all of this up in the first place. Would that eventually happen here? Hard to say. This isn’t a no-brainer but it’s worth a call or two. 

Pick up the phone, Howie. 

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