Eagles

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

I still remember pretty vividly the first day most people thought the Eagles were dead. It was a Tuesday morning, the day after the Eagles' 34-24 win over Washington at home on Monday Night Football. 

Sure, the Eagles had moved to 6-1 on the season but after already losing Chris Maragos and Darren Sproles, they suffered two even bigger blows. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters, who were both carted off against Washington, were done for the season. 

"We still have a lot of football left," Doug Pederson said on Oct. 24. "We still have a game this Sunday and the season's not over." 

Of course, Pederson ended up being right. The Eagles weren't dead. They continued to win, continued to get stronger. But he had to rally his team again a couple months later when it lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. 

Again, a lot of people thought the Eagles were dead. They weren't.

No matter how it happened, the Eagles' first Super Bowl championship was going to be something memorable. But looking back at it, the way they won it made it even more special. The fact that they overcame multiple losses that would have killed most teams makes it incredible. 

Owner Jeff Lurie realized it too. 

And in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Lurie actually agreed that it would be special to win a championship with this specific team. 

"It would," he said at Super Bowl media night, six days before Super Bowl LII. "It would mean everything to win no matter what. But to win this way, I just think it would be a great message to the world that it's not always on paper. You can overcome so much and succeed in life. 

"This is the most resilient group of human beings I've ever watched or been a part of. I feel like that's a quality that really is incredible to have." 

As hokey as it sounds, Lurie's insight is worth remembering. What the Eagles overcame leaves a pretty incredible message of resilience. 

Of course, this all gets back to the underdog mentality and the masks and Jason Kelce's impassioned speech on the steps of the art museum. The Eagles used the idea that others were counting them out as fuel. They relished in the idea of doing something most deemed impossible. Maybe that made it all possible. 

But thinking about the talent they had on the sideline during Super Bowl LII — Sproles, Maragos, Peters, Hicks and Wentz — it's hard to not come away impressed that a team missing that many key players was able to take down one of the most impressive dynasties in NFL history. 

The fact that the Eagles were able to do it without those players probably has them thinking about getting those guys back for another run next year. That seems pretty possible; they'll get most of them back. 

But this specific team grew incredibly close and it's not hard to figure out why. Aside from natural chemistry, there's something about going through adversity that helps people grow closer. This team will never be the same, as many players began to note toward the end of the season. Some players will leave, while new guys will infiltrate the locker room. 

At least once they get those Super Bowl rings, they'll have them forever. And every time they look down and see it shining back at them, it'll serve as a reminder. The same reminder Eagles fans will get every time they think about their Super Bowl-winning team: It's possible to overcome so much. And if you do, the reward will be even sweeter.

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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