Eagles

Because they won, Eagles able to laugh off unfairly officiated game

Because they won, Eagles able to laugh off unfairly officiated game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles were able to joke about it. They were able to laugh off the laughable disparity in penalty flags on Thursday night. 

Because they won. 

Despite the historic lopsided margin in penalty yards on Thursday Night Football, the Eagles were able to leave Bank of America Stadium with a 28-23 win over the Panthers. 

But after the game, as the Eagles sat in the visitor's locker room, they didn't feel like they just beat the Panthers. They felt like they beat the refs too. 

"That was crazy, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "I don't know. The only thing we can do is be resilient, man, keep fighting. And just try to keep fighting through. You don't know what you're going to get thrown at you in this game."

The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards on Thursday night. The Panthers were penalized one time for one yard. The Panthers were flagged a couple more times but both penalties were declined by the Eagles. 

Still, the disparity was historic. 

It was the first time in NFL history one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had less than 10.  

"Ten to one," head coach Doug Pederson said with a smirk after the game. "Hey, it’s part of the game. We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Can’t have 10 penalties."

On Friday morning, Pederson said they will send clips to the league to seek clarification, a process they go through every week. 

Thursday was the first time since 2007 the Eagles had been penalized for that many yards in a game and their 126 penalty yards were 12th most in franchise history. It was the first time since 2015 one of their opponents had just one penalty. 

"We felt like a lot of those were ticky-tack, or weren’t good calls," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "For us, adversity is nothing new for us. We just kind of strap up and keep playing, and hunker down. We continue to play aggressively, that is the biggest thing. We don’t want that to take away our aggression, or our ability to make plays. So we just go to the next play." 

Coming into Thursday, the Eagles were well aware of which officiating crew would be throwing flags in Charlotte, Jenkins said. They likely knew them as the same crew that hit them for 14 penalties and 111 yards in Detroit last season, while flagging the Lions just twice for 18 yards. 

In fact, the last four times Pete Morelli's crew has officiated an Eagles game it's been away from Lincoln Financial Field. The disparity in penalties is shocking. In those last four games, dating back to 2013, Morelli's crew has hit the Eagles with 40 penalties for 396 yards. Eagles opponents have been penalized eight times for 74 yards. Pederson said he does think the league is aware of the disparity. 

For fairness' sake, the last Eagles home game Morelli officiated came in 2012, coincidentally against the Panthers. The Eagles were flagged five times for 30 yards in that one, while the Panthers were hit with six for 101. But two wrongs don't make a right. Especially not on Thursday night when the Eagles seemed to be on the wrong end of many calls. 

"Coach hinted that they called a lot of OPI but they actually called a lot of DPI tonight," safety Rodney McLeod said. "It was tough. Maybe Carolina had a little bit of help tonight, them being at home. But we were able to overcome it; that was the most important part."

Amazingly, the Eagles were able to overcome it on Thursday night and they have actually won two of those last four Morelli-officiated games. 

Four of the Eagles' 10 penalties came on defense and gave the Panthers a new set of downs. It can be tough for a defense to regroup after those types of penalties, especially when they're questionable, but the Eagles were able to do that on Thursday night. 

"It is hard. Penalties always extend drives," McLeod said. "That's what we always talk about. The cornerbacks got some tough calls tonight but they stayed at it. They didn't flinch, not one bit. They stayed aggressive and were able to make some big plays down the stretch for us."

One of the questionable calls on Thursday came in the first quarter when running back LeGarrette Blount was hit with an unnecessary roughness after it looked like he finished his block to the whistle. At least that's what the Eagles argued. Blount said he wasn't given an explanation as to why he was flagged and didn't think he did anything to deserve it. 

In the fourth quarter, rookie Derek Barnett was hit with an unnecessary roughness when he took down Cam Newton on third down. Actually, it was a dead ball foul because the Panthers didn't get the snap off. Barnett said he kept going because he never heard a whistle. It didn't matter; the flag came out anyway. He was offered no explanation of why. 

"We didn't hear no whistle," Barnett said. "We would have stopped if we heard the whistle."

Three plays after the Barnett penalty, Cam Newton hit Christian McCaffrey for a 1-yard touchdown to cut into the Eagles lead, 28-23. 

It could have been a killer penalty, and it might have seemed like it at the time, but the Eagles rebounded. They won the game despite the penalty flags. They're 5-1 and have the best record in the conference. 

That's why they were able to joke about it after the game. 

"I didn't agree with those calls but at the same time, we're 5-1," Jalen Mills said, "so I don't really have nothing negative to say."

Jeremy Maclin announces retirement from NFL at wife's baby shower

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Jeremy Maclin announces retirement from NFL at wife's baby shower

It just doesn't feel like it's been 10 years since Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson first teamed up. While Jackson is back in Philly, Maclin, the Eagles' first-round pick in the 2009 draft out of Missouri, announced Sunday that he's retiring from the NFL.

He did it in a pretty cool way, too, at his wife's baby shower.

Maclin was with the Eagles from 2009 to 2014, recording 343 catches, 4,771 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns. He had 85 catches and 10 touchdowns in 2014 for the 10-6 Eagles and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. That offseason, Maclin signed with the Chiefs and reunited with Andy Reid in Kansas City.  

After playing two seasons in Kansas City and one in Baltimore, Maclin was released by the Chiefs last March. 

While the 30-year-old Maclin is saying goodbye to football, the 32-year-old Jackson will still be asked to stretch the field for the Eagles come the fall. 

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How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

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How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

When the Eagles announced the Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham and DeSean Jackson contracts, they were referred to as three-year deals. When the Ronald Darby contract was announced, it was announced as a one-year deal.
 
Take a look at any of them and they’re actually five-year contracts.
 
Until they aren’t.
 
Confused yet?
 
We’re here to help!

The odd structure of Eagles contracts

In the often-baffling world of NFL contracts, Eagles vice president of football operations and salary cap guru Howie Roseman has been designing contracts with fake years, a tool that spreads out cap hit into contract years that are guaranteed to never exist.
 
It’s kind of cheating.
 
But according to the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA, the players’ union, and ownership, it’s completely legal.
 
NFL contracts can be very complicated, but in simple terms, a player’s salary cap figure for a specific year is determined by adding together three components:
 
1. The player’s base salary
2. The pro-rated amount of his signing bonus, which is derived by dividing the amount of the bonus by the number of years in the contract (up to five years)
3, All so-called “likely-to-be-earned” incentives, which are generally speaking performance and playing-time milestones the player reached the previous year

 
The longer the contract, the more years the signing bonus is spread out over and the less the cap hit.

The Ronald Darby contract

But what if you have a player like Darby, who has been hurt the last two years, and you’re reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal because of injury concerns?
 
Let’s take a look at Darby’s contract.
 
At first glance, it’s a five-year deal with base salaries of $1 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
 
Yes, $15 MILLION per year.
 
The deal also includes a $3.5 million signing bonus that he received when he signed on March 19 and a roster bonus worth as much as $2 million in the form of $125,000 weekly bonuses for each game that Darby dresses for in 2019.
 
The cap hit for 2019 is a modest $2.825 million — that’s the $1 million base salary, $700,000 of the signing bonus (the first 20 percent of the $3.5 million pro-rated over five years) and an additional $1.125 million representing the likely-to-be-earned portion of the roster bonus.
 
What about those $15 million annual salaries from 2020 through 2023?
 
That’s a ton of money!
 
The small print in Darby’s contract states simply that the 2020 through 2023 seasons “void automatically” if Darby is on the Eagles’ roster 23 days before the start of the official 2020 league year, which would be sometime in late February.
 
In other words, if he’s on the team, he’s no longer on the team.
 
And the $60 million base salaries? They evaporate. They disappear.
 
All that remains is the $2.8 million remaining pro-rated portion of Darby’s signing bonus, which accelerates into dead money under the Eagles’ 2020 cap.

What’s the point of all this?

Howie Roseman is clearing as much room under the Eagles’ 2019 cap as possible, presumably to give the team flexibility for the inevitable signing of Carson Wentz to a massive, $30 million-per-year ballpark contract.
 
Whether that happens now or next offseason, clearing cap room now helps because whatever the Eagles don’t use under their 2019 cap carries over to additional cap room in 2020.
 
And the more room the Eagles have after signing Wentz, the more flexibility Roseman will have to make additional moves.
 
The Graham, Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson deals are a little more complicated because they include an option bonus that is added to base salary if the Eagles don’t execute it, but in each case, the deals are listed as five-year deals but can’t last more than three years.
 
The Graham deal includes a $12.5 million signing bonus that pro-rates to $2.5 million per year, so if Graham plays all three years that would mean $5 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Malik Jackson’s deal similarly includes a $9 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $3.6 million in dead money in 2021.
 
DeSean Jackson’s deal has a $7.17 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $1.434 pro-rated per year. So if he’s here for the life of his contract, that would mean $2.868 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Without the fake years?
 
Darby’s 2019 cap hit would be $5.625 million instead of $2.825 million. Malik Jackson’s would be $4 million instead of $2.8 million. DeSean’s would be $4.12 million instead of $3.164 million. Graham’s would be $5.17 million instead of $3.5 million. 
 
So by adding fake years into four contracts, the Eagles saved about $6.6 million under their 2019 adjusted cap figure of $197,901,096.
 
According to a league source familiar with league-wide free agency contracts, there are only a few other instances of teams using guaranteed voidable years during this free agency period.
 
The Lions used the technique in the contract for tight end Jesse James, the Panthers used it with center Matt Paradis and the Cards with Terrell Suggs.

Could this all blow up in the Eagles’ face?

If it seems like the Eagles are simply deferring salary cap hell into the future, don’t forget, this is Howie. He knows what he’s doing.
 
First of all, the salary cap has been increasing more than 10 percent per year. As recently as 2013, the unadjusted cap figure was $123 million. In 2019, it’s $188 million. That’s more than a 50 percent increase in just six years. It will likely be close to $200 million next year.
 
So the exact same cap hit in the future is a smaller percentage of a team’s cap in the present. So it’s just common sense to defer as much cap hit as possible as long as possible.
 
But also the current CBA expires after next year, so nobody really knows what’s going to happen in 2021. Some expect a lockout or a strike. There’s a chance 2021 will be an uncapped year, just as 2010 was after the last CBA expired.
 
And if the next CBA includes a bunch of new rules? Rest assured Roseman will figure out a way around them as well.

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