Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2021, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.
Today, we’ll look at specialists:
Roob: Usually, when a kicker has the issues that Jake Elliott had this past year - 14-for-19 with two misses inside 30 yards - it’s a no-brainer. He’s gone. But Elliott has that contract, and if the Eagles cut him he costs about $2 million more against their cap than if they keep him. And they’re really not in a position to start taking cap hits for kickers. And he is 89 percent from 40 to 49 yards in his career. They might bring in a dude to compete with him in camp, but it’s hard to imagine Elliott won’t at least start the season on the 53.
Dave: Simply put, Elliott wasn’t good enough in 2020. He made just 14 of 19 field goals this past season and was really bad on short and long kicks. He was just 1 for 3 on kicks from 20-29 yards and he was 2 of 5 from 50+. The problem is that the Eagles already paid Elliott and it would actually cost more in cap space to cut Elliott than it would to keep him. So unless he gets hurt or is just awful in training camp, he’s the kicker this year.
Roob: It’s curious that the Eagles and Johnston haven’t agreed to a long-term deal yet, but he’s still only a restricted free agent, so the Eagles get him cheap for one more year. Johnson faded a bit late in the season. He was the NFL’s all-time leading punter in terms of career average, but the retired Shane Lechler replaced him late in the season. He’s still 4th all-time at 47.0 yards per punt. He’s the least of the Eagles’ problems.
Dave: While the Eagles paid their other two specialists around the same time in November of 2019, Johnston’s deal never came. And now he’s set to be a restricted free agent. The Eagles could tag him at the lowest level but even that comes with a price tag of $2.1 million in 2021, so you can cross that off. The most likely scenario is the Eagles don’t tender him and then try to re-sign him at a cheaper rate. They did the same thing with Corey Clement a year ago. It couldn’t hurt to bring in some competition but I think Johnston is back.
Roob: Unless Nick Sirianni wants to spice up training camp and bring in a bunch of long snappers for an open competition, Lovato is safe. There is value in having consistency with the kicking unit, and presumably this will be the fourth straight season Elliott, Johnston and Lovato are together.
Dave: Lovato has been really solid during his time in Philly. He picked a bad time to have his worst snap, though. He had a bad one to backup holder Zach Ertz in December as the Eagles couldn’t convert on a PAT. Still, one bad snap in a couple years isn’t too bad. He’s generally pretty good, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and will be back this season.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: