Eagles

Exploring Eagles' options in wake of Nate Sudfeld's injury

Exploring Eagles' options in wake of Nate Sudfeld's injury

After backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld broke his left wrist during the preseason opener on Thursday night, the Eagles are left with two real options: 

1. Sign another veteran quarterback to back up Carson Wentz 

2. Go into the 2019 season with Cody Kessler as the backup 

It seems like they’re leaning toward No. 2. 

Just a few hours after Sudfeld was carted into the locker room, where X-rays revealed a fracture in his non-throwing wrist that will need surgery, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles don’t currently have any plans to sign another quarterback. 

Right now,” Pederson said, “we are going to continue with who we have. We are comfortable with Cody and we will get Clayton [Thorson] more work. Again, with Nate, this is not a season-ending injury, so we are excited about that.

Admittedly, there is a third option. The Eagles could sign a quarterback — be it a camp arm or a veteran to compete — and still go into the season with Kessler as the backup. But the result would still be the same. Kessler would back up Wentz in Week 1 and until Sudfeld is ready to return. 

Pederson didn’t give a timetable for Sudfeld’s return, but a rough estimate for a broken wrist would be about 6-8 weeks. So, going off that rough estimate, we shouldn’t expect to see Sudfeld back until late September at the absolute earliest. Really, October is probably more realistic. 

So can the Eagles feel comfortable with Kessler being their backup for the first month or two of the season? 

On Thursday night, I asked Pederson if he could see Kessler going into the season as their backup. 

He's a veteran guy,” Pederson said. “He's started games in the National Football League. He's shown us he's been able to hand the playbook and incrementally getting better every day. He gets out there and takes reps. Looking forward, we're not there yet, but he's been in that role before, so he's accustomed to being a backup if that's the case. But right now, we're focused on these next few days and getting ready for Saturday.

The Eagles signed Kessler on May 13 and during OTAs and even the beginning of training camp, he was working as their fourth quarterback behind Wentz, Sudfeld and the rookie Thorson. But during training camp, he overtook Thorson and will now be the Eagles’ second-string QB when the team gets back together for practice on Saturday. 

And, honestly, the Eagles could probably do worse than Kessler as a backup. 

The former third-round pick has played in 17 games with 12 career starts in the NFL and has completed 64.2 percent of his passes with 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. And you have to remember: He played most of those games during miserable seasons in Cleveland. No, he isn’t a Pro Bowler, but Kessler’s not terrible and he would have a head start in the offense over anyone the Eagles would bring in. 

Theoretically, the Eagles could evaluate Kessler over the next week and in the next preseason game and then determine if he’d be an adequate backup. But if they deemed he isn’t, they would have just wasted a week of time that could have been used to get a signed player up to speed. The clock is ticking and we’re under five weeks to go before the start of the regular season. 

What Sudfeld’s injury should guarantee is that the Eagles can’t waste a roster spot on Thorson this season. The fifth-rounder looks like a project, so the Eagles should try to get him through waivers and to the practice squad. 

As long as Sudfeld’s injury won’t keep him out until Week 9 (if it would, then they could put him on IR), the Eagles should carry three quarterbacks on their roster: Wentz, an injured Sudfeld and the backup, either Kessler or a veteran to be named later. 

The Eagles have some decisions to make and they’re not easy ones. 

But the good news is that if Wentz stays healthy, none of this will matter anyway. 

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NFL free agency 2020: Detailing all 9 of Eagles new signings

NFL free agency 2020: Detailing all 9 of Eagles new signings

Since free agency began last month, the Eagles have reached deals with nine players and none of them will have big salary cap hits in 2020. 

In fact, all nine will combine for a cap hit of $20,831,875 in the upcoming season. Here’s an overall look at the Eagles’ current salary cap situation and how much room they have left.

Of the nine new contracts, just three are for longer than one year. 

Here’s a closer look at all of the new deals: 

Javon Hargrave 

Summary: The Eagles got the 27-year-old defensive tackle on a three-year, $39 million contract that includes $26 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus of $11.75 million. Hargrave has a base salary of $1 million in 2020 but it jumps to $12.75 million in the subsequent two years. 

Notes: The Eagles were able to alleviate some salary cap stress by adding two dummy years at the end of this contract. It’s a trick they like to use to spread out that signing bonus money for cap purposes. The 2023 and 2024 years void automatically but there is dead money left over in 2023 when Hargrave is gone (the remaining prorated signing bonus amounts). 

2020 cap hit: $3,450,000
2021 cap hit: $15,200,000
2022 cap hit: $15,450,000

2023 cap hit: $4,900,000

Darius Slay 

Summary: The Eagles traded third- and fifth-round picks to get Slay and then then gave him an extension. Because Slay had one year left on his deal in Detroit, the Eagles gave him a three-year extension worth just over $50 million. Combined, this becomes a four-year deal worth $60.55 million. There’s a total guarantee of $30.05M, $13 million of which is a signing bonus. 

Notes: While this is technically a four-year contract, it could basically turn into a two-year, $26 million deal. The Eagles could cut slay before the 2022 season; that would save $13.25M in cap space with $6.5M in dead money. If they cut him after the 2022 season, they would save $17.5M in 2023 with just $3.25 million in dead space. 

2020 cap hit: $4,300,000
2021 cap hit: $15,750,000
2022 cap hit: $19,750,000
2023 cap hit: $20,750,000

Rodney McLeod 

Summary: McLeod’s two-year contract is worth $8.65 million but he has the potential to earn $1.7 million more in incentives per year. McLeod got a $3 million signing bonus and a total guarantee of $5.5 million. 

Notes: Because of that guaranteed money, you can expect McLeod to play out this two year deal in Philly. This is another of those “dummy years” contracts. It’s technically a five-year contract but the final three years void for salary cap purposes and the remaining prorated amounts become dead money in 2022. 

2020 cap hit: $2,350,000
2021 cap hit: $5,200,000

2022 cap hit: $1,800,000
 

Jalen Mills

Summary: The Eagles brought Mills back on a one-year, $4 million deal with $2 million guaranteed. That $2 million comes to him immediately in the form of a signing bonus. Mills also has the potential to earn another million in incentives. 

Notes: Because Mills’ guaranteed money is all signing bonus, his base salary in 2020 is technically not guaranteed. But the Eagles didn’t bring him back to cut him. 

2020 cap hit: $4,000,000

Will Parks

Summary: The Philly native got a one-year, $1.5 million contract from the Birds that includes $1.375 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus of $375K. He has a base salary of $1M in 2020 and per-game roster bonuses that total $125,000. 

Notes: Since Parks played in just 14 games last season, just 14/16ths of his per-game roster bonus money counts toward his cap hit. It doesn’t mean he’ll earn any less, but he counts a little less against the cap.  

2020 cap hit: $1,484,375

Nickell Robey-Coleman

Summary: The veteran nickel corner’s one-year deal with the Eagles is worth $1.35 million, with a cap hit to match. He got a $300,000 signing bonus and $1.05 million guaranteed. 

Notes: He’s 28 now but Robey-Coleman is a good nickel corner and the Eagles got him for a pretty solid price. In his three years with the Rams, NRC earned over $12.5 million, an average of over $4 million per season. 

2020 cap hit: $1,350,000

Jatavis Brown 

Summary: The Eagles got the former Chargers linebacker on a one-year deal worth $1.047 million. He got a total guarantee of $550K and a signing bonus of $50K. 

Notes: This is a Veteran Salary benefit deal — designed to get teams to sign veterans instead of younger, cheaper players — so his $910K base salary will count as $750K against the cap. After that, he has a $50K signing bonus and an $87.5K roster bonus to make up his cap hit. 

2020 cap hit: $887,500

Nate Sudfeld 

Summary: The Eagles brought back their backup quarterback on a one-year deal worth $2 million and a cap hit to match. Sudfeld got a signing bonus of $500K and a total of $1 million guaranteed. 

Notes: This deal is actually a significant pay cut for Sudfeld. Last year, as a restricted free agent, the Eagles tagged him at a second-round level, which paid him a salary of $3.095 million. 

2020 cap hit: $2,000,000

Hassan Ridgeway 

Summary: The Eagles brought back Ridgeway on a one-year deal worth just north of a million bucks. He got a $25,000 signing bonus and that’s his only guaranteed money. In addition to his $910K base salary and his signing bonus, Ridgeway also has a $25K workout bonus. 

Notes: The Eagles like Ridgeway as their fourth defensive tackle but they haven’t married themselves to him. Cutting him would leave just $25K in dead money, so if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.

2020 cap hit: $1,010,000 

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10 Eagles who will be hurt most by limited spring workouts

10 Eagles who will be hurt most by limited spring workouts

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has already been a very strange NFL offseason and it doesn’t seem like anything is going to get back to normal anytime soon. 

While the NFL has forged on despite the spread of the virus, first with free agency and soon enough with the draft in some form, the league has already postponed offseason workouts and there’s a real chance NFL teams won’t have any OTAs this spring. 

The Eagles were scheduled to begin their offseason workouts on April 18 and OTAs would have started in May. 

If there are no spring practices (rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp) this offseason, the Eagles might actually be in a better situation to handle that than the other three NFC East teams. The other three — the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins — hired new head coaches for the 2020 season. That means a whole lot of changes are coming to Dallas, New York and Washington. 

It’s not like the Eagles don’t have any changes. They have a new offensive coordinator, defensive line coach, defensive backs coach, receivers coach and a few new offensive voices. But at least they still have Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz in place. 

The potential of lost spring practices will definitely hurt any rookie that gets drafted or signed. It’s hard enough being a rookie in the NFL and now they’re going to be behind. Because of that, expectations for some rookies might have to be tempered a little bit. 

We know rookies will suffer, but here are 10 Eagles already on the roster who will be negatively affected if there aren’t practices this spring: 

Jalen Mills  

He’s entering Year 5 in Schwartz’s defense so at least Mills will have a good grasp of the scheme, but new DBs coach Marquand Manuel might be making some changes too. And now Mills shifting to a hybrid safety role; any extra practice time probably would have helped. If nothing else, it would have given the Eagles a chance to figure out exactly how they want to use Mills. You can extend this to the entire new-look secondary, including free agent signing Will Parks, who will have to catch up once training camp arrives. 

Javon Hargrave 

The Eagles signed Hargrave to a three-year, $39 million deal because they think he will be a great scheme fit and they’re probably right. But I remember back to 2017 when the Eagles traded for Tim Jernigan. Jernigan played in a 4-3 before but had been playing in Baltimore’s 3-4 for a few years. I remember him telling me it took him longer than he expected to flip his mindset and muscle memory from two-gapping to getting upfield. That’s the transition Hargrave is going to go through and the more time he has to do it the better off he’ll be. 

Jordan Mailata 

We’re entering Year 3 of the Mailata experiment but the difference in 2020 is that he might actually need to play. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is gone and unless the Eagles draft someone, it looks like Mailata is the swing tackle. For a guy who didn’t start playing football until relatively recently, he can use every second he can get on the football field. 

Carson Wentz 

The Eagles will presumably add a receiver at some point this offseason, most likely in the draft. And they’ll probably add a couple. Getting on the same page with receivers is important for any quarterback and missing out on that time would hurt. If that happens, Wentz will probably try to find a way to make it work on his own time if possible. 

Jatavis Brown 

Another newcomer, Brown seems to be a perfect fit for what the Eagles want out of a modern linebacker. He’s had some ups and downs during his four years with the Chargers and this is a chance for a fresh start. But if he’s going to win a starting job, he’ll be behind Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley, who have already been in the defense for at least one year. 

Genard Avery 

At the end of the season, when asked about Avery, Howie Roseman said they always knew they’d have to see what Avery could bring with a full offseason. Well, that’s probably not happening anymore. The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick for the defensive end/standup rusher during the season and Avery played 33 total defensive snaps. 

Elijah Holyfield

The Eagles signed Holyfield at the end of the 2019 season after a year on the Panthers’ practice squad. The 22-year-old running back hasn’t played in an NFL game yet, but the Eagles liked him enough to bring him in at the end of 2019 as they looked ahead to the future. 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

After a really disappointing rookie season, JJAW was probably hoping to get on the field as soon as possible to start working on his second NFL season. Any extra time with Wentz would help too. 

Shareef Miller 

The Philly native basically had a redshirt season in 2019, which wasn’t his expectation but it wasn’t that surprising. But now with Vinny Curry likely gone, there will be some opportunity and the more he can show the coaching staff, the better his chances will be of making the team and then maybe earning some playing time. 

Sidney Jones 

This is going to technically be Year 4 for Jones and as Roseman said last week, it’s time for him to prove it. That’s hard to do when you’re not on the field. It also seems like Avonte Maddox is the frontrunner for the starting job opposite Darius Slay, but the Eagles would probably love it if Jones could win that position. Gonna be hard without practices. 

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