How Eagles convinced Blake Countess to take a pay cut

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How Eagles convinced Blake Countess to take a pay cut

The Rams released safety Blake Countess because he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut. The Eagles claimed him and within two days he had agreed to … a pay cut.

Welcome to HowieBall.

Although there’s certainly no guarantee Countess will become a productive player for the Eagles, the way the Eagles handled the Countess acquisition is just another example of how Howie Roseman and his staff — led by contract and cap expert Jake Rosenberg, the Eagles’ Vice President of football administration — use financial creativity to lock up promising players the Eagles like with very little risk.

Now that we have the Countess contract details, we can take a look at exactly what the Eagles did.

First, some background: The Eagles drafted Countess in the sixth round in 2016 and released him in the final cut, hoping to bring him back on the practice squad. He signed instead with the Rams’ practice squad, was promoted to the 53-man roster in November of 2016 and remained there through the Rams’ Super Bowl run this past February.

Roseman always regretted losing Countess and had it in the back of his mind that if ever became available, he would pounce.

• Countess, now 25, played in five games as a rookie and all 36 regular-season and postseason games the last two years. In his 41 games with the Rams, he played 370 snaps on defense and 814 on special teams. 

• The Rams released Countess on May 2, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Countess had declined to take a cut from his $2.025 million base salary for 2019. None of that $2.025 million was guaranteed.

• By claiming him, the Eagles were awarded Countess’s existing contract, which included a $2.025 million cap hit and left Countess as an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season.

• Last Tuesday, the Eagles reworked that contract, both lowering Countess’s cap hit and securing his rights through 2020.

So Countess agreed to a pay cut … literally a week after the Rams released him because he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut.

Here’s how:

• The Eagles lowered Countess’s 2019 base salary from $2.025 million to $900,000 and guaranteed $180,000 of that salary, so that’s money that Countess gets no matter what happens. It’s not a ton but it’s more than he was guaranteed before.

• The Eagles added three separate $50,000 roster bonuses that Countess can pocket in 2019. One pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 53-man roster for any one game during the season. Another pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 53-man roster for eight or more games. And the third pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 46-man game-day active roster for at least eight games.

• Because Countess played in 16 games for the Rams last year, those three bonuses are considered “likely-to-be-earned,” and they count against the Eagles’ 2019 salary cap. So Countess’s 2019 cap figure is $1,050,000 - the $900,000 base and $150,000 in roster bonuses. That’s roughly half of what it was before the restructure.

• For 2020, which is technically an option year, Countess has a base salary of $1 million with a $300,000 roster bonus that he will get if he’s on the roster on the third day of the league year, which will be sometime in mid-March. There’s no signing bonus, so nothing pro-rates. The $300,000 disappears with no dead money if the Eagles release Countess after the season. The 2020 cap figure is $1.3 million - the base and the roster bonus.

• There is also a $500,000 playing-time escalator that increases Countess’s 2020 salary to $1.5 million if he meets a certain snap-count plateau. This doesn’t count against the cap unless he triggers the escalator. 

So Countess’s combined cap figures as of now for 2019 and 2020 are $2.35 million — or just $300,000 more than his original 2019 cap figure when he got here last week.

It’s a smart deal for both sides.

For the Eagles? They secure Countess’s rights through 2020 but only if they want him without having to pay him more than $2 million this year. 

For Countess? He gets a nice chunk of money guaranteed now with the security that the more he plays and the better he plays, the more money he’ll make over the next two years without worrying about hitting the open market this offseason.

HowieBall strikes again!

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10 things I can't wait to see at Eagles training camp

10 things I can't wait to see at Eagles training camp

My 32nd Eagles training camp starts Thursday. That’s eight at West Chester, 17 at Lehigh and now seven at the NovaCare Complex.

Over the next few weeks, some careers will come thudding to an end and others will take unexpected turns. 

Somebody we didn’t think had a chance will make the team. Someone else we thought was almost a lock won’t.

It’s always a fascinating time of year, as a 90-man roster drops down to 53.

So here are 10 things I’m looking forward to seeing as camp kicks into gear:

Carson to DeSean

 Carson’s never had a receiver like DeSean and DeSean’s never had a quarterback like Carson, or at least not since he played with Donovan McNabb in 2008 and 2009. They clicked at a very high level on deep balls in OTAs. Can’t wait to see how they build on that during camp and into the season.

Miles Sanders vs. Jordan Howard

 How far behind is Sanders after missing most of minicamp? How will the reps be distributed between the rookie second-round pick and the accomplished veteran? Where does Corey Clement fit in? The running back position is a fascinating one this summer.

What does Sproles have left? 

Now that Darren Sproles is back, it’s going to be interesting to see how much he has left and exactly how the Eagles plan to use him. Is he mainly a punt returner? How much does Doug plan to mix him in on offense? Sproles is 36 now and coming off two injury-plagued seasons. Only six running backs in NFL history 36 or older have had more than 102 yards from scrimmage in a season. It’s always fun having Sproles around, but there are a lot of questions surrounding him.

How will that second group of defensive ends develop? 

One of my biggest questions going into camp is what the Eagles have behind Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The Eagles are high on Josh Sweat, Vinny Curry can give you reps, Daeshon Hall is a former third-round pick who has half a career sack, Shareef Miller is a rookie and Joe Ostman is a guy Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson love but has no real track record. Going to be a wide-open competition here. Should be fun.

How does cornerback play out? 

There are countless ways the Eagles can line these guys up. A lot of it depends on who’s healthy, but I can’t wait to see the competition among Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc.

Sorting out safety

Will be interesting to see how things evolve behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Andrew Sendejo had a strong spring, Blake Countess is a Howie Roseman favorite and we saw some promising things from Tre Sullivan the second half of last year.

What about receiver depth? 

Always interesting watching the second group of receivers. Veteran Charles Johnson, former CFL star Marken Michel and third-year pros Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are all in the mix here. I think CJ2 has a real good shot.

Sorting out linebacker depth

 Is Nate Gerry more than just a special teamer? Where do L.J. Fort and Paul Worrilow fit in? Can undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards compete? Lots of questions here.

How does Nate Sudfeld look? 

I don’t see any reason Carson Wentz can’t stay healthy for a full season, but the reality is he hasn’t done it the last two years, and the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback has made it through 16 starts just five times in the last 28 years (McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008 and Wentz in 2016). With Nick Foles in Jacksonville, a lot of eyes will be on Sudfeld at camp. How will he respond?

How will the new coaches do? 

Philip Daniels is the Eagles’ third defensive line coach in five years and Carson Walch is the fifth receivers coach in five years. Curious to see how both fit in with their new roles, both coaching some accomplished veterans and promising youngsters.

Can J.J. Arcega-Whiteside elbow his way into the WR mix? 

You figure there won’t be many receiver reps to go around with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson. But Arcega-Whiteside was so impressive in OTAs I think Doug has to find a role for him, especially at the goal-line. Can’t wait to see if he can build on the promise he showed in the spring over the next few weeks. 

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Complete health check as Eagles get set for training camp

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Complete health check as Eagles get set for training camp

Before the Eagles broke for their month off leading up to training camp, Doug Pederson was asked for his biggest concern about his team. 

He said health. 

Well listen, we got guys that are nicked up who haven't been with us and you know some of those are going to linger. I guess as a coach for me I want to be 100 percent heading into training camp and obviously, we are going to be close. I also understand too that this is a long season and training camp is long and we don't play games for a while so I'm going to make sure everybody is 100 percent or 110 percent before they hit the football field. But, really other than that, the overall health of the team is sort of my biggest concern with the team right now heading into the season.

As Pederson said, there are several players who are going to be close to being ready for training camp. So expect the Eagles to put a few players on the Active/PUP list before training camp. Basically any player coming off a serious injury who isn’t ready to practice should be on that list. They can be removed whenever they’re ready to practice, but they can’t be added to the Reserve/PUP list without being on this list first. Think of it as an insurance policy. 

Anyway, let’s take a look through the roster at Eagles who are recovering from injuries. We’ll go in alphabetical order:  

Josh Adams - The second-year running back out of Notre Dame had offseason shoulder surgery but was back on the field this spring. He should be good to go for training camp. 

Nelson Agholor - The Eagles’ slot receiver missed the last few days of the spring with a “lower-body injury” but is expected to be fine for camp. There was even video of him working out in the last month with Hall of Famer Randy Moss. 

Derek Barnett - As of OTAs and minicamp, Barnett wasn’t back to being a full participant. Barnett’s 2018 season ended early when he needed shoulder surgery after tearing his rotator cuff. Pederson had been impressed by how Barnett attacked his recovery. He’s now about nine months removed from surgery, so he should be back. 

Nigel Bradham - Bradham had thumb surgery during last season and kept on playing. We’re not exactly sure what kept Bradham out during the spring, but before the team broke for summer, he told me he expected to be back for training camp. 

Brandon Brooks - In the playoff game against the Saints, Brooks tore his Achilles. He’s been furiously rehabbing since. We’re a little over six months since his surgery and it appears, based on videos from Brooks, that the rehab is going well. Brooks has said all along his goal is Week 1; it might be close. 

Corey Clement - Clement’s season ended with a knee injury in December. In the spring, he was back on the practice field as a limited participant. 

Fletcher Cox - He played through it but Cox suffered a significant foot injury in the loss to the Saints that required surgery. Back in April, he said his goal was to be ready for training camp.

Ronald Darby - The Eagles brought Darby back this offseason as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL he suffered on Nov. 11. He did some work during the spring, but said he was going to be ready for training camp. We’ll see how much he does and how they ramp up his work. 

Mack Hollins - This will be an important training camp for Hollins, who missed the entire 2018 season with a mysterious groin injury. He’s far removed from sports hernia surgery and took the field at OTAs as a limited participant. He should be good to go for training camp barring a setback. 

Jordan Mailata - Mailata had a stress fracture at the end of last season that landed him on the IR. He healed during the offseason and was practicing at OTAs, so he’s good to go. 

Rodney McLeod - Like Darby, McLeod is coming back from an ACL tear, but McLeod’s injury happened early in the 2018 season. The start of training camp is about 10 months from the injury date. This was the first major injury of McLeod’s NFL career, so he’s in uncharted territory. But, like a lot of these guys, McLeod said he expected to be ready for camp.

Jalen Mills - A foot injury ended Mills’ season early in 2018 and it seemed to get worse over time last year. Unlike some of his teammates, Mills wasn’t even on a side field running during OTAs, but he did post a video recently of him working out. 

Josh Perkins - Yeah, Perkins is still on the team after suffering a serious knee injury last season. He’s been kind of forgotten since the top three tight ends seem to be set, but he was practicing at OTAs. 

Jason Peters - Technically, Peters isn’t hurt right now, but he’s 37, so don’t expect him to be overworked this summer. And it’s important to note he’s another year removed from that ACL tear. 

Miles Sanders - A nagging hamstring injury kept the second-round pick off of the field during OTAs and minicamp, but it was mostly precautionary. He’ll need to — pardon the cliche — hit the ground running in training camp. 

Josh Sweat - He’s completely healthy now after an ankle injury ended his rookie season early. Big training camp coming for Sweat. 

Carson Wentz - All eyes will be on Wentz, who is completely healthy after a stress fracture in his back last season. He was a full participant during the spring. 

Paul Worrilow - The linebacker tore his ACL early in OTAs last year, but rehabbed and signed another one-year deal to return to the Eagles. During OTAs, the Eagles had to pull him back a bit, so we’ll see if he’s a full-go at training camp. 

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