Eagles

How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

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How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

When the Eagles announced the Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham and DeSean Jackson contracts, they were referred to as three-year deals. When the Ronald Darby contract was announced, it was announced as a one-year deal.
 
Take a look at any of them and they’re actually five-year contracts.
 
Until they aren’t.
 
Confused yet?
 
We’re here to help!

The odd structure of Eagles contracts

In the often-baffling world of NFL contracts, Eagles vice president of football operations and salary cap guru Howie Roseman has been designing contracts with fake years, a tool that spreads out cap hit into contract years that are guaranteed to never exist.
 
It’s kind of cheating.
 
But according to the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA, the players’ union, and ownership, it’s completely legal.
 
NFL contracts can be very complicated, but in simple terms, a player’s salary cap figure for a specific year is determined by adding together three components:
 
1. The player’s base salary
2. The pro-rated amount of his signing bonus, which is derived by dividing the amount of the bonus by the number of years in the contract (up to five years)
3, All so-called “likely-to-be-earned” incentives, which are generally speaking performance and playing-time milestones the player reached the previous year

 
The longer the contract, the more years the signing bonus is spread out over and the less the cap hit.

The Ronald Darby contract

But what if you have a player like Darby, who has been hurt the last two years, and you’re reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal because of injury concerns?
 
Let’s take a look at Darby’s contract.
 
At first glance, it’s a five-year deal with base salaries of $1 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
 
Yes, $15 MILLION per year.
 
The deal also includes a $3.5 million signing bonus that he received when he signed on March 19 and a roster bonus worth as much as $2 million in the form of $125,000 weekly bonuses for each game that Darby dresses for in 2019.
 
The cap hit for 2019 is a modest $2.825 million — that’s the $1 million base salary, $700,000 of the signing bonus (the first 20 percent of the $3.5 million pro-rated over five years) and an additional $1.125 million representing the likely-to-be-earned portion of the roster bonus.
 
What about those $15 million annual salaries from 2020 through 2023?
 
That’s a ton of money!
 
The small print in Darby’s contract states simply that the 2020 through 2023 seasons “void automatically” if Darby is on the Eagles’ roster 23 days before the start of the official 2020 league year, which would be sometime in late February.
 
In other words, if he’s on the team, he’s no longer on the team.
 
And the $60 million base salaries? They evaporate. They disappear.
 
All that remains is the $2.8 million remaining pro-rated portion of Darby’s signing bonus, which accelerates into dead money under the Eagles’ 2020 cap.

What’s the point of all this?

Howie Roseman is clearing as much room under the Eagles’ 2019 cap as possible, presumably to give the team flexibility for the inevitable signing of Carson Wentz to a massive, $30 million-per-year ballpark contract.
 
Whether that happens now or next offseason, clearing cap room now helps because whatever the Eagles don’t use under their 2019 cap carries over to additional cap room in 2020.
 
And the more room the Eagles have after signing Wentz, the more flexibility Roseman will have to make additional moves.
 
The Graham, Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson deals are a little more complicated because they include an option bonus that is added to base salary if the Eagles don’t execute it, but in each case, the deals are listed as five-year deals but can’t last more than three years.
 
The Graham deal includes a $12.5 million signing bonus that pro-rates to $2.5 million per year, so if Graham plays all three years that would mean $5 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Malik Jackson’s deal similarly includes a $9 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $3.6 million in dead money in 2021.
 
DeSean Jackson’s deal has a $7.17 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $1.434 pro-rated per year. So if he’s here for the life of his contract, that would mean $2.868 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Without the fake years?
 
Darby’s 2019 cap hit would be $5.625 million instead of $2.825 million. Malik Jackson’s would be $4 million instead of $2.8 million. DeSean’s would be $4.12 million instead of $3.164 million. Graham’s would be $5.17 million instead of $3.5 million. 
 
So by adding fake years into four contracts, the Eagles saved about $6.6 million under their 2019 adjusted cap figure of $197,901,096.
 
According to a league source familiar with league-wide free agency contracts, there are only a few other instances of teams using guaranteed voidable years during this free agency period.
 
The Lions used the technique in the contract for tight end Jesse James, the Panthers used it with center Matt Paradis and the Cards with Terrell Suggs.

Could this all blow up in the Eagles’ face?

If it seems like the Eagles are simply deferring salary cap hell into the future, don’t forget, this is Howie. He knows what he’s doing.
 
First of all, the salary cap has been increasing more than 10 percent per year. As recently as 2013, the unadjusted cap figure was $123 million. In 2019, it’s $188 million. That’s more than a 50 percent increase in just six years. It will likely be close to $200 million next year.
 
So the exact same cap hit in the future is a smaller percentage of a team’s cap in the present. So it’s just common sense to defer as much cap hit as possible as long as possible.
 
But also the current CBA expires after next year, so nobody really knows what’s going to happen in 2021. Some expect a lockout or a strike. There’s a chance 2021 will be an uncapped year, just as 2010 was after the last CBA expired.
 
And if the next CBA includes a bunch of new rules? Rest assured Roseman will figure out a way around them as well.

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Eagles’ defenders have seen those moves from Boston Scott before

Eagles’ defenders have seen those moves from Boston Scott before

There were plenty of people surprised about Boston Scott’s breakout performance on Monday night against the Giants. 

Eagles defenders were not among them. 

After a year of trying to stop Scott in practice, they were aware of just how dangerous the 5-foot-6 running back can be. They weren’t even surprised about this devastating juke move Scott put on veteran corner Janoris Jenkins in the fourth quarter. 

Heck, it’s even happened to Rodney McLeod before. 

“Yeah,” McLeod said with a laugh. “Well, I don’t know about that bad. I gotta talk to Jenk about that one. But, yeah, he’s given me a move in the open field. He has a good change of direction ability and quick burst. Glad to see him making plays for us.”

In the 23-17 overtime win, Scott finished with 10 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown and added six catches for 69 yards.   

His 128 yards from scrimmage are the most ever in a game for the Eagles from a guy formerly on their practice squad. 

Scott finally got a chance to shine in a game, but he’s been shining in practice for a while now. Eagles defenders seemed happy that this time it was against Jenkins and the Giants.  

“He does that to us,” Nate Gerry said. “He’s done that for the last year.” 

Scott was a sixth-round pick by New Orleans out of Louisiana Tech last year. He arrived to Philadelphia last December after the Eagles signed him off the Saints’ practice squad. He spent the remainder of last year on the roster, but didn’t really get a chance to play. 

This offseason, Scott had a good training camp but Darren Sproles returned, which basically bumped him to the practice squad. He stayed there until Oct. 11 and didn’t really get a chance to play much until Monday night. 

But Scott was impressive all summer and even earlier this year in practice. 

“He definitely has that switch,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “He has that burst that’s a little bit different from others. You definitely saw that on the field, that they weren’t expecting because they didn’t know who he was. But he was definitely a big factor.”

Earlier this week, head coach Doug Pederson said Eagles will find a role for Scott in the offense going forward. With four games left, Scott might be able to make an impact. 

Based on the reactions in the locker room since Scott’s breakout performance, he seems to be a favorite of his teammates. Scott is the prototypical hard-worker, gets in early, leaves late, just needed a chance. He finally got it and made the most of it. 

“It wasn’t a surprise for me at all,” McLeod said. “I’m just really glad he got his opportunity to get out there and showcase what he can do.”

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A record for Boston Scott and more in this week's Roob Stats!

A record for Boston Scott and more in this week's Roob Stats!

If you want Boston Scott stats, you know where to go. If you want Carson Wentz, second-half defense and Eagles-Giants all-time series stats, you know where to go. Most importantly, if you want stats on two-yard touchdowns — and who doesn't? — you know exactly where to go.

Right here.

One thing we've learned over the years: The stranger the game, the better the stats. And Monday night's Eagles-Giants game was really strange.

HOT START FOR WARD: Greg Ward’s 11 catches are most in Eagles history by an undrafted player in his first four games. The previous high was nine, by both Paul Turner in 2016 and Mike Siano of Springfield (Delco) in the 1987 strike replacement games.  

HISTORIC SECOND HALF: The Eagles only allowed 29 yards after halftime in their 23-17 overtime win over the Giants. The last time they allowed fewer yards after halftime was Sept. 23, 2001, when the Seahawks netted only 23 in the second half of a 27-3 Eagles win in Seattle.

LEAVING SHADY BEHIND: With 69 scrimmage yards Monday night, Miles Sanders increased his total for this year to 948, most ever by an Eagles rookie running back. LeSean McCoy had 945 in 2009. Sanders now needs just 61 yards to break the overall franchise rookie scrimmage record of 1,008, set in 2008 by DeSean Jackson.

AND STILL CHASING SHADY: With 45 rushing yards, Sanders increased his season total to 565, passing Billy Ray Barnes (529), Mike Hogan (561) and Bryce Brown (564) and moving into a tie with Po James for 4th-most ever by an Eagle rookie. He needs 13 to pass Keith Byars, 22 to pass Correll Buckhalter and 73 to pass McCoy.

THREE QUICK ONES ON BOSTON SCOTT:
1) Scott's 120 scrimmage yards after halftime Monday night are the most by an Eagles RB after halftime since Shady had 170 in the second half in the Snow Bowl against the Lions in 2013.
2) Scott’s 128 scrimmage yards are the most ever by an Eagle who had been on the practice squad.
3) Scott is only the 7th Eagles running back since 1991 to net at least 128 scrimmage yards on 16 or fewer touches. Herschel Walker, Brian Mitchell, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, McCoy and Sproles also did it.

FINALLY GAINING THE ALL-TIME EDGE: The Giants won the first three Eagles-Giants games [in 1933 and 1934] and 17 of the first 20 meetings. As recently as 2008, the Giants led the series 80-66. Going into Monday night, the all-time series was tied 84-84-2. The Eagles now lead the all-time series for the first time ever.

THREE QUICK ONES ON ZACH ERTZ:
1) This was Ertz’s 19th game with nine or more catches. The only tight ends in NFL history with more are Tony Gonzalez [25] and Jason Witten [21]. Gonzalez played 270 games, Witten has played 252, Ertz has played 104.
2) Ertz has 827 receiving yards. He needs to average 58 in last three games to become the 9th tight end in NFL history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
3) By surpassing 800 yards on Monday night, Ertz became the first Eagle in history with five straight 800-yard seasons. Mike Quick, Tommy McDonald, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Harold Carmichael have all had four straight. The only other tight ends with five straight 800-yard seasons are Gonzalez (7), Witten (7), Travis Kelce (6) and Greg Olsen (5).

ELITE COMPANY: Carson Wentz has 22 TD passes and 7 INTs. If he throws three or more TDs in the final three games and no more than three interceptions, he’ll become only the 4th QB in NFL history with three straight seasons of at least 25 TD passes and 10 or fewer interceptions. That’s only been achieved by Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

A DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: With Alshon Jeffery’s season over at 490 receiving yards, Nelson Agholor stuck at 363 yards with a knee injury, Mack Hollins next with 125 yards and now on the Dolphins, there’s a real possibility the Eagles won’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards this year. The last time that happened was 1964, when their top wideout, Ray Poage, had 479 yards.

THREE QUICK ONES ON 2-YARD TOUCHDOWNS:
1) The Giants game was the first in franchise history in which the Eagles scored three 2-yard touchdowns.
2) Ertz became only the 5th player in NFL history and the first Eagle with two 2-yard touchdown catches in the same game.  
3) Ertz had more 2-yard touchdowns Monday [2] than he had in his previous 103 career games [1].

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