Eagles

Clayton Thorson keeps improving, but what happens next?

Clayton Thorson keeps improving, but what happens next?

There was a sequence at Eagles practice Monday in which rookie Clayton Thorson on back-to-back snaps fired touchdown passes against the Ravens in the near right corner of the end zone.

The first was to JJ Arcega-Whiteside, covered by Cyrus Jones of the Ravens, the second to Marken Michel, who was covered by Terrell Bonds.

I think at that point everybody at practice kind of did a double take.

Was that really No. 8?

It really was, and when Thorson spoke Thursday night about building on a promising performance against the Jaguars, this is exactly what he meant.

Thorson followed a bounce-back performance in his second preseason game with — by far — his best practice of the summer on Monday.

The improvement the rookie fifth-round pick from Northwestern has made just in the past week is really encouraging.

I think any game experience you get makes you more confident, so every week I’m getting more and more confident and the game helped out even more,” Thorson said after practice Monday. “It’s fun to come out here and play someone new. It’s a lot of fun to play against these guys, such a good defense like this. You just have to see it and really trust your reads and make efficient decisions.

Thorson looked overmatched the first couple weeks of camp and the first preseason game.

But that’s totally normal for a rookie quarterback. The adjustment from college is enormous, and you have so much thrown at you, it just takes a while to process it all to the point where you can go out and make plays.

Obviously, it took him a couple games to really get comfortable, but I knew he had it in him the whole time, we all did,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “That’s why none of us are really surprised. He’s a baller.

Thorson has come so far it’s easy to forget that he’s only been doing this for a few weeks now.

But for him to go out against another team — granted it was the Ravens’ third team, but their corners are all talented — and show confidence and poise and the ability to make plays is a great sign.

“It’s my first training camp, so just learning so much, just about being in the NFL, going against NFL defenses and just knowing what I’ve got to work on,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just getting more comfortable. Getting out and trusting yourself and just ripping it.”

Arcega-Whiteside rooms with Thorson and said he’s been impressed with him since Day 1.

I see the same thing that I’ve seen from him since we started rooming together when we got here,” he said. “Confident, puts in a lot of hard work. You walk in our room and he’s studying the playbook, he’s got headphones on studying the calls, studying how people talk. He’s very detail-oriented.

All that said, nothing is guaranteed for Thorson, especially now that Josh McCown is here.

There are five quarterbacks on the roster, and Thorson could make the team, he could wind up on the practice squad, he could wind up getting claimed somewhere else.

There are a lot of moving parts in the Eagles’ quarterback picture right now, and Thorson is doing his best not to think about any of that.

“Coach talks about it a lot, just stacking days,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do and just get better and better and better. That’s the only thing you can control. You can’t control anything else and that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

And if he was disappointed when the Eagles brought in the 40-year-old McCown, he sure didn’t show it.

When you get new teammates, it’s an opportunity to learn from them, so having Josh here is awesome,” he said. “For me to come in as a rookie and have Carson (Wentz), Nate (Sudfeld) and Cody (Kessler), who’ve played a lot of ball, and then to have Josh come here? An 18-year veteran? I couldn’t ask for anything better than to have that.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen next with Thorson, but it’s safe to say he’s making the Eagles’ decision a lot harder.

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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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