Corner Steven Nelson needed to play 90 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps this year to trigger a $375,000 incentive bonus.
Going into the Dallas game, he was at 92 percent. So far so good.
The problem is with a wild-card berth locked up, the Eagles didn‘t want to play Nelson or any of their veteran starters in a meaningless game that had no bearing on the playoffs.
So Nelson sat Saturday, his 2021 snap count remained at 983 and the Eagles played 62 defensive snaps against Dallas, and that dropped his percentage from 92 percent to 87 percent.
He wound up just 31 snaps shy of 90 percent for the season, 31 snaps shy of earning more than a third of a million dollars.
Nelson played this year on a relatively modest one-year, $3 million free agency contract, so the $375,000 bonus would have increased his total pay 11 percent. That’s significant.
So what did the Eagles do?
They paid up anyway.
First reported Thursday morning by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBCSports Philadelphia, the Eagles gave Nelson a $375,000 signing bonus to make up for the missed incentive bonus.
They didn’t have to do that, but it’s the kind of move that makes the Eagles an attractive franchise for free agents and keeps morale up in the locker room heading into the most important game of the season.
Darius Slay spoke Wednesday about Nelson’s value to the Eagles and predicted that because of his play in 2021 Nelson would be in line for a big payday if he hits free agency in March.
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"Sad to say, but when the time comes, I hope he earns what he deserves because he's earning a lot of money right now," Slay said Wednesday.
The $375,000 does count against the Eagles’ 2021 salary cap, although at this point of the season that’s not really a concern.
The Eagles had $17,618,593 available under their cap before Nelson received the bonus. Any cap money remaining at the end of a league year carries over into the following year and is added to a team’s standard cap figure.