Eagles

Eagles have too many needs to get into bidding war for Byron Jones or Amari Cooper

Eagles have too many needs to get into bidding war for Byron Jones or Amari Cooper

Should the Eagles spend nearly $20 million per year in free agency to acquire a lockdown cornerback like Byron Jones, or do it for a playmaking wide receiver like Amari Cooper? 

Great question. Important question. The only question, it seems. 

Meanwhile, if the season started today, Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford would be the Eagles' starting safeties, either Duke Riley or Alex Singleton would be the third linebacker and Kyle Lauletta would be under center in the event Carson Wentz got hurt. 

As you can see, corner and receiver are not the only glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed in free agency. 

So I get a little nervous when I hear the Eagles will engage in a "bidding war" for Jones and the price tag could reach $17 million per year, even more so at the thought of the Eagles as a "potential landing spot" for Cooper at close to $20 million per year, as has been reported during the offseason. 

Either move would be fine in a vacuum. Jones is a good-not-great cornerback, but looks like a fit on and off the field. Cooper possesses an elite-level skill set with the production to back it up. Both players are young enough that their best days might still be ahead. Free agents cost what they cost, and the Eagles traditionally have been experts at bending the salary cap to their will. 

But there is a salary cap, even if it rarely seems to prevent the Eagles from signing the players they want, and as of this moment, either Jones or Cooper's potential average salary represent over half of the team's capital for 2020. 

The Eagles are projected to be about $41 million under the cap, though estimates have the club spending $9 million just to sign their upcoming draft class, so it's more like $32 million. 

Even if a contract for a Jones or Cooper is structured in such a way larger sums of money are due later, you're probably looking at something in the neighborhood of $10 million the first year. 

Let's just call it $25 million left over after making a splash. That's $25 million to sign either a corner or receiver, whichever one still needs to be addressed, plus another corner because one may not be enough, at least one safety -- two if the club isn't going to restructure Malcolm Jenkins' deal -- a backup quarterback, a linebacker who can at least compete for playing time, maybe even an extra running back. 

With 10 picks in the draft, maybe the Eagles can afford to overlook spending at one or two spots and roll with young guys. Or the plan is to count on inexpensive holdovers like Sidney Jones and Greg Ward to step up and fill key roles. 

But is that really the best way to build a team? 

Sure, if the Eagles go out and pay top dollar for a corner, they would be be filling one of their biggest holes -- albeit, not necessarily with a star player. And they can throw good money after that at a wide receiver, throwing money at a bona fide playmaker while running up a tab that's already approaching $30 million between Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson alone. 

Yet, for all the cap voodoo I've seen the Eagles pull off over the years, I have a hard time believing they can make that type of move and fix everything else that needs fixing. 

Corner and receiver aren't the only needs. Not even close. And if the Eagles approach free agency that way, they'll be hurting come September. 

Then again, maybe they can't fix everything in one offseason anyway.

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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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