Don't count on Packers helping Eagles

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Don't count on Packers helping Eagles

Derrick Gunn makes his Week 16 NFL picks.

Eagles vs. Raiders, Monday, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Nick Foles passed his first test, and everyone is breathing easier and feeling satisfied that Foles can keep the offensive efficiency going.

As for the Eagles' defense, for a third straight game, they were on shaky ground. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he's getting tired of repeating himself about how his defense needs to "get back to playing clean football and stop giving offenses help." 

Enter the Oakland Raiders, whose season turned out to be drastically different from the previous season. Quarterback Derek Carr and his offense can't find consistency and the defense can't make the necessary stops. Big play wide receiver Amari Cooper has been hampered by an ankle injury for several weeks and may have to sit this one out. The Raiders do have a pair of dangerous pass rushers in Pro Bowler Khalil Mack (10.5 sacks) and Bruce Irvin (7.5 sacks). Right tackle Lane Johnson, selected to his first Pro Bowl, has been outstanding against premier edge rushers this season, but the other side of the line has been up and down. Left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has struggled the past two games and may need some help protecting Foles' blind side.

This game might be the final time we see many of the Birds starters until the playoffs, so they'll want to put on a good show. 

Pick: Eagles 31, Raiders 20

Indianapolis at Baltimore, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network
The Ravens are knocking on the AFC playoff door, they just can't get it open yet. Currently sitting in the seventh spot, Baltimore needs to win out and get a little help along the way to slip into the postseason. The Colts will give it their best shot, but they're no match for Baltimore.

Pick: Ravens

Minnesota at Green Bay, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. on NBC
He was here only for a brief moment and now he's gone again. Aaron Rodgers returned to see if he could give the Pack new playoff life, but it didn't happen. Now Rodgers has been shut down for the season and it’s Brett Hundley’s squad again. The Vikes are trying to keep the heat on the Eagles for that top seed in the NFC. Packers’ nation was hoping A-Rod would help the Pack get revenge on the Vikes. Instead, it will be Minnesota Lambeau leaping to a win.

Pick: Vikings

Cleveland at Chicago, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
This season can't end soon enough for the downtrodden Browns. The Bears will try to rely on their ground game to soften up Cleveland’s defense. This will be the Browns’ last shot at a win because they close the season at Pittsburgh. The Browns will continue on their quest to finish 0-for-2017.

Pick: Bears

Detroit at Cincinnati, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Bengals have been outscored, 67-14, their last two games and it appears they've quit on head coach Marvin Lewis, who's riding on borrowed time. The Lions need help to crash the postseason party, but they must also keep helping themselves. The Lions will roar in the Bengals’ jungle.

Pick: Lions

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Titans can't close out close games against inferior competition, losing their last two to Arizona and San Francisco by a combined total of seven points. The Rams are sky high after putting a smackdown on Seattle. Tennessee will have to put up big points to keep up with the Rams’ high-scoring attack, but it won't happen.

Pick: Rams

Miami at Kansas City, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
Just when we thought the Chiefs were left for dead, they rise up and regain control of the AFC West. Miami has shown it can hang with the big boys, but you just never know which Dolphins team will show up. The Dolphins love warm weather, but with the temperature in K.C. expected to be a high of 36 degrees, look for the Chiefs to put the Fins in a deep freeze.

Pick: Chiefs

Buffalo at New England, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The catch rule helped bail out the Patriots in Pittsburgh. New England is now in a position to put a lockdown on the top seed in the AFC. The Pats pummeled the Bills back in Week 13. Look for more of the same in the rematch.

Pick: Patriots

Atlanta at New Orleans, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
All the Falcons have to do is win out and they win the NFC South, but that's easier said than done. A few weeks ago in Atlanta, Drew Brees threw an interception in the end zone and the Falcons were happy to get off the field with a huge win. This time around in New Orleans, the Saints will be motivated to maintain at least a share of the division lead.

Pick: Saints

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
Last week, a division lead was there for the taking for the Chargers and they let it slip away. With Josh McCown, the Jets always had a fighting chance, but now that he's out with an injury, Bryce Petty tries to get the Jets’ offense going. Not gonna happen.

Pick: Chargers

Denver at Washington, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
When this season began, the Broncos and Redskins were viewed as two teams with potential to do great things. Now they are two teams soul searching with nothing to look forward to except a long offseason. The Redskins have the home-field advantage. The 'Skins take the W.

Pick: Redskins

Tampa Bay at Carolina, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Panthers have won six of their last seven and a win in this one will secure a playoff spot. But they want more. The Panthers are tied with the Saints for first in the NFC South. The Panthers must not get distracted by the chatter of owner Jerry Richardson putting the team up for sale after this season, and linebacker Thomas Davis being suspended for a game. Carolina locks in and the Bucs go down.

Pick: Panthers

Jacksonville at San Francisco, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. on CBS
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is on a roll, winning three straight, but now he's about to run into a buzz saw. Jacksonville has won three straight and the Jags’ defense is ranked third overall, first against the pass (168.9 YPG) and first in points allowed (14.9 PPG). The Jags’ sixth-ranked offense is not too shabby either, leading the league in rushing (149.1 YPG). Jimmy G's win streak stops here.

Pick: Jaguars

Seattle at Dallas, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
Are we slowly watching the decline of the Seahawks? They’ve lost three of their last five and two in a row. Russell Wilson will go after the 'Boys' young secondary. But Zeke is back! After serving a six-game suspension, star running back Ezekiel Elliott returns to give new life to the Dallas run game. Both teams are 8-6 but because Dallas, winner of three straight, is at home, I’m riding with the 'Boys.

Pick: Cowboys

New York Giants at Arizona, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
Eli Manning and the G-Men gave the Eagles quite a scare but in the end, just like most of their games, they couldn't finish. The Cards haven’t scored a TD in almost three weeks. Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton is playing with a bum knee. The Giants go out west and come back with a W.

Pick: Giants

Pittsburgh at Houston, Monday, 4:30 p.m. on NBC
Can the Steelers bounce back from that controversial loss to New England? The Texans put up a good fight but their QB situation leaves them handcuffed against a Steelers D that will blitz all day. The Steelers got this one.

Pick: Steelers

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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