Eagles

Eagles Stay or Go — Will Jason Peters be back?

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Eagles Stay or Go — Will Jason Peters be back?

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Elijah Qualls
Roob: Qualls was essentially the Eagles' fifth defensive tackle this year, and as a sixth-round pick at a position in which the Eagles are very strong, he faces an uncertain future. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles draft a defensive tackle early on this spring, so I think Qualls faces an uphill climb to return.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Last summer Qualls began to show some flashes of a pass-rushing interior lineman. He also showed his immaturity at certain times as he learned to be a pro. He became the whipping boy for DL coach Chris Wilson, but that's OK. The Eagles invested a sixth-round pick in Qualls and there still might be something there. At least enough to keep him around another year to find out. 

Verdict: STAYS

Patrick Robinson
Roob: 
This one is tough since Robinson had such a remarkable year, especially considering how poorly it began. Robinson delivered exceptional play out of the slot and made one of the biggest plays of the postseason with his wild, winding 50-yard interception return that really changed the course of the Vikings game. But Robinson is an unrestricted free agent, and with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby, the Eagles have four cornerbacks who are 24 or younger. Robinson played for minimum wage this year, but he's going to cash in big-time this offseason. Great year. Next year will be somewhere else.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: You can make the argument that Robinson, taking in account performance and how little he was paid, was the best signing last offseason. Robinson was arguably their best cornerback last season while playing in the slot. Robinson is 30 now, so we'll see what the market is for a 30-year-old journeyman slot corner coming off a really good season. All it takes is one team to pay him. The Eagles should at least inquire; they can't just assume that another team will steal him away. For another near-minimum deal, sure, bring him back. But the Eagles have young, talented guys waiting. Probably time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES 

Jason Peters
Roob:
I think everybody was a little surprised when Doug Pederson announced a few days after the Super Bowl that he expects Peters to be his starting left tackle in 2018. The combination of Halapoulivaati Vaitai's dramatic improvement at left tackle after Peters was lost for the season and Vaitai's low salary ($686,281 cap figure in 2018 vs. Peters' $10.666 million cap figure) all pointed to Peters' exit and Vaitai taking over. But Peters is a Hall of Famer, and Pederson wants him back, so he'll be back.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He's a 36-year-old left tackle coming off another major leg injury. But I still wouldn't bet against him being the team's starting left tackle come September. He's going to have a $10.6 million cap hit this year. That's steep, but not crazy for a high-caliber starting left tackle. And before his injury last year, he was playing at an extremely high level. Pederson said he envisions Peters being his starting tackle; that's good enough for me. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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