How swap of tight ends Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins changes Eagles' offense in 2019

How swap of tight ends Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins changes Eagles' offense in 2019

Richard Rodgers tried to walk off the field on Monday, but he couldn’t. Instead, he sat down in pain after a practice rep and lowered his head into his hands. Shortly after a hug from Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ anguished third-string tight end was carted inside. 

Just like that, Josh Perkins’ odds of making the Eagles’ roster skyrocketed. But he wasn’t in much of a celebratory mood after practice. 

“It’s terrible,” Perkins said on Monday afternoon. “I’ve seen him working his butt off the last few weeks, trying to get back out here. … It just sucks for him. I feel real bad for the guy.”

Such is life in the NFL. One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. 

For the second year in a row, it appears that Perkins is going to get an opportunity, unfortunately, at the expense of Rodgers. It was a surprise Perkins made the roster out of camp last year, but it made more sense when Rodgers was placed on IR before the opener. Perkins spent the first nine weeks of 2018 as the Eagles’ third-string tight end before an injury of his own. It seems he’s destined for that role again this season. 

I just try to stay locked in each day,” Perkins said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Coach always says, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.’ So when you’re thrown into the fire, you already know what to do.

Even before this injury to Rodgers, Perkins was pushing for a roster spot. The 26-year-old Perkins had a “steady” training camp, according to offensive coordinator Mike Groh. Pederson said this will be another good opportunity for Perkins. 

For his part, Perkins thinks he’s “light-years” ahead of where he was this time last year. Now, he knows the playbook and is able to fine-tune any mistakes. 

With a receiver background, Perkins is just a different player than Rodgers, who is better as a blocker on the line of scrimmage. Without Rodgers, Perkins admitted the Eagles will probably need him to block more at the LOS and it’s a part of his game he’s worked hard to improve. 

“I’m never scared to put my head down,” Perkins said. “We can bang all day.” 

But as much as he works on his blocking, Perkins’ strength is what he can do in the passing game. Heck, the Eagles basically used him as a receiver early last season. 

Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz noted if the Eagles want a blocking tight end, they can use an extra offensive tackle, which they’ve done plenty in the three years under Pederson. 

Ertz also explained what the difference in third-string tight ends means for him and Dallas Goedert. Basically, in a three-TE package, the type of third tight end dictates where Ertz and Goedert line up in the formation: “Dallas and I are pretty much always going to be on the field when we go three tight ends, so it either shifts us one tight end down in the formation or one tight end up in the formation. We feel good about either one of them.”

“If they put a nickel in, we can run the ball,” Perkins said. "If they put a linebacker in, we can throw the ball. I feel like I’m a great matchup threat. I feel like I can be a versatile piece to the offense.”

In nine games last season, Perkins caught five passes for 67 yards. With Ertz and Goedert ahead of him, there will probably still be limited offensive opportunities for Perkins this year, but he’s learned to make the most of any opportunity whenever — or however — it comes. 

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How Eagles helped Nigel Bradham by cutting him now

How Eagles helped Nigel Bradham by cutting him now

The Eagles formally released linebacker Nigel Bradham on Wednesday, one day after it was initially reported that the team had decided not to exercise his $8 million contract option and a month before they had to.

Bradham’s contract requires the Eagles to decide by the last day of the 2019 league year — in this case March 18 — whether to extend his deal by a year and pay him $8 million in base salary for 2020 or not exercise the option, allowing him to become a free agent.

But by releasing him on Wednesday — a full four weeks before they were required to — the Eagles give Bradham the opportunity to begin talking to teams and potentially negotiating a new contract before the start of free agency, which is also March 18.

Now that he’s no longer the Eagles’ property, he’s an unrestricted free agent a month before all the other linebackers hit the market.

It's a courtesy that gives him a head start on the mid-March free agency frenzy.

The Eagles and Bradham renegotiated his contract in March of 2018, and that renegotiation ran through 2022 but gave the Eagles an escape clause in the form of option years after the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Because there’s no remaining guaranteed money in Bradham’s deal, the cap ramifications are no different if they release him now or formally decline his option next month. 

Bradham will count about $5.3 million in dead money under the Eagles’ 2020 cap, according to Spotrac, instead of the $9 million he would have counted if the Eagles’ kept him.

Bradham, who turns 31 in September, spent four years with the Eagles and started 64 of a possible 70 games, including the postseason.

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NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

On Tuesday night, receiver Stefon Diggs sent the internet into a tizzy when he apparently erased any mention of the Vikings from his Instagram account. 

We’re taking a bit of a leap here (gotta love 2020) but if this is Diggs’ somehow voicing his frustration with the Vikings it wouldn’t be the first time. And it would also basically be a Bat Signal to the other 31 NFL teams: “Come and get me!” 

The Eagles should. 

It’s funny. Before all those rumors began to swirl on Tuesday night, I was on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants and was asked for one potential trade target for the Birds. The name I gave was Diggs. He made sense even before this. While there’s no guarantee the Vikings trade him, it’s worth finding out. 

If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles are in desperate need of help at receiver. It’s why about 85 percent of mock drafts have them taking one in the first round of the draft in a couple months. But any player they pick in the draft is an unknown. Diggs is not. 

There are three big reasons why Diggs should be attractive to the Eagles: 

1. He just turned 26 back in November

The Eagles are committed to getting younger this offseason and getting Diggs now would kind of be like signing a free agent after his rookie deal. The Eagles have been getting older but Diggs would help them get younger. No, he’s not a 21-year-old anymore but he is arguably entering his prime. 

2. Diggs is already one of the best receivers in the NFL

Despite his targets dropping from 149 in 2018 to 94 in 2019 (ostensibly one of the reasons for his displeasure), Diggs still managed to have more receiving yards this past season. Since the 2016 season, Diggs has 313 catches, 3,903 yards and 26 touchdowns. There are just six players in the league with better stats in those four seasons: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. 

What has been impressive about Diggs is that he’s been successful in different ways. After averaging 10.0 yards per catch in 2018, he averaged 17.9 (a career high) in 2019 and was a tremendous deep threat. Just three players in the NFL had a higher yards-per-catch average in 2019. 

The Eagles certainly saw what he can do. In Week 6 against the Birds, he had his best game of the 2019 season. He caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was the only time this season he was targeted over 10 times in a game. 

3. Diggs is relatively cost-controlled for another four seasons

While trading for Diggs will cost draft equity (we’ll get to that soon), his salary will be cheaper than that of a free agent of the same caliber because he’s already locked up. While multiple teams will out-bid each other for free agents and end up over-paying, Diggs has a contract that runs through the 2023 season and it’s a very reasonable contract. By the end of it, there’s a very good chance he’ll be extremely underpaid. Even though he just signed the five-year extension in the summer of 2018, he’s already just the 13th highest-paid NFL receiver in terms of APY, according to OverTheCap. 

Check out his base salaries for the remainder of the contract: 

2020: $10.9M
2021: $11.4M
2022: $11.4M
2023: $11.4M

No, that’s not exactly cheap like a rookie contract would be but it’s very manageable. And once the new CBA is eventually worked out, those prices will probably look even better. And there are some performance escalators written in, but if Diggs hits them, both sides would be happy. 

So what will it take? 

This is the big question. I think we all agree that Diggs is a good player and the Eagles would love to have him. But what would they have to give up in a trade? 

Well, the Vikings are going to start any negotiation with a first-round pick at minimum. They should. All those reasons I listed above are reasons why they should have teams lining up for Diggs. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad things really are between Diggs and the Vikings, though. There was definitely frustration during the 2019 season but he finished out the year. Is it bad enough that it’s an untenable situation? If so, then the Vikings would lose some leverage. 

If it’s a second-round pick, this is an easier conversation. The real question is whether or not the Eagles would be willing to give up a first-round pick. I kind of doubt they’d be willing to but you can make a real case for it. It’s easy to say the Eagles should just focus on the draft and take one of the many talented options with the 21st pick but there’s no guarantee they’ll hit. In fact, their history picking receivers, especially in the last decade, shouldn’t instill much confidence. They have drafted four Day 1 or Day 2 receivers since 2010: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. 

None of them ever became what Diggs is right now. And there’s a good chance any player taken at 21 won’t become what he is either. 

Maybe GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be worried about Diggs’ fit in the building; after all, he has created enough drama in Minnesota to bring all of this up in the first place. Would that eventually happen here? Hard to say. This isn’t a no-brainer but it’s worth a call or two. 

Pick up the phone, Howie. 

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