Lane Johnson helps Eagles create cap space

Lane Johnson helps Eagles create cap space

Have no fear, Howie Roseman is here.

As many fans were worrying about the Eagles getting under the salary cap when the new league year starts on Wednesday afternoon, the Eagles have restructured Lane Johnson’s deal to save a ton of space, league sources confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

As ESPN’s Field Yates first reported, the Eagles created $7.5 million in cap space by slightly re-working Johnson’s deal. The Eagles still have some work to do, but according to OverTheCap, they needed to trim just under $9.9 million to be cap compliant. So they have about $2.3 million left to trim. 

Johnson’s cap hit was supposed to be $12.48 million, but it’s now just $4.98 million, according to ESPN. He’ll collect a signing bonus of just over $4 million in the process.

Basically, Johnson still gets all his money after an All-Pro season, but it comes to him in a different way. Basically, the way this works is that teams will give a player his money in a bonus instead of salary so that the cap hit is spread out over several years, alleviating a hit in the current year. It obviously didn’t bother Johnson at all and it gives the Eagles much more flexibility.

This is just the latest example of Roseman’s mastery of the NFL salary cap. The Eagles have been good at figuring out these puzzles for some time now. It’s really a waste of time to worry about Philadelphia being in cap hell.

The Eagles must be salary cap compliant at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the start of the new league year.

Does Le'Veon Bell make sense for the Eagles?

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Does Le'Veon Bell make sense for the Eagles?

The Eagles are desperate for a running back. One of the NFL’s best is about to hit the open market.

No-brainer, right?

It’s not that simple.

On one level, Le’Veon Bell makes a ton of sense for the Eagles. He’s a three-time all-pro running back who’s rushed for over 1,200 yards with at least 75 receptions in three of the last four seasons that he’s played. And he’s a tremendous blocker.

The running backs currently on the Eagles’ 2019 roster? Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement, none of whom is a starting-caliber NFL running back.

The Eagles’ inability to run the ball in the postseason — they didn’t even reach 50 rushing yards in either game — was damaging, and they don't have a more pressing need as they head into free agency in the draft.

So the Eagles will pursue Bell?

Probably not.

Two reasons, and they’re intertwined: 1) Philosophy and 2) Money.

Howie Roseman’s philosophy — and he’s never wavered from it in either stint as general manager— is that the historically limited shelf life of running backs means you never devote a tremendous amount of resources in the form of draft picks or salary for running backs. 

Because you’re just not going to get anywhere close to the return that you get from other positions.

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first three rounds since LeSean McCoy 10 years ago, and their only recent big-money free agents have been disasters — $42 million over five years for DeMarco Murray, $11 ½ million over three years for Ryan Mathews, both during the one year Chip Kelly was GM.

Remember, LeGarrette Blount’s one-year deal was worth about $1.6 million, Jay Ajayi cost the Eagles only a fourth-round pick and was on a fifth-round rookie contract when they acquired him, and Clement was undrafted. Those three were the backs on the Super Bowl championship team.

Bell only turned 27 earlier this week, but he’s got the fifth-most touches in NFL history by a player in his first 62 games. That's a red flag for Roseman. 

Is it smart to pay a fortune to a guy who plays a position where historically production begins to decline at the point he’s at?

I looked at the rest of the 20 running backs with the most touches after 62 games (the number of games Bell has played in his career) and compared their rushing average in those 62 games with the rest of their career.

The results are shocking: 16 of the 19 declined after the initial 62 games, and 11 of them — more than half — declined by at least half a yard per carry.

The only ones who increased were Jim Brown, Curtis Martin and Ricky Williams, none by more than 0.3 yards per carry.

On average, they declined by 0.42 yards per carry. 

Here’s that chart:

Playing running back in the NFL is not conducive to long careers. And as talented as Bell is, we may have seen the start of that decline in 2017, when he averaged 4.0 yards per carry — exactly half a yard below his career average of 4.5 going into 2017.

This doesn’t mean Bell will definitely experience the same sort of decline as Eric Dickerson, Terrell Davis, Earl Campbell, Jamal Lewis, Eddie George, Clinton Portis or the others. It just means the average NFL running back with a similar workload will.

So we may have already seen Bell at his best.

And Howie knows that. 

And that brings us to Part 2, which is money, and the Eagles just don’t have a whole lot of it to spend. 

According to an NFL.com story last year, Bell already turned down a five-year, $70 million contract from the Steelers. That would have been nearly 30 percent more lucrative than any running back contract in history.

CBS Sports reported earlier this week that Bell is looking for a deal worth $50 million in just the first two years.

For the sake of comparison, the Eagles paid their running backs a TOTAL of $3.21 million in 2017 and they won the Super Bowl.

The Eagles have cap issues, they have a young quarterback they need to sign and they have three of the first 57 picks in a draft that has some intriguing running backs.

I’m sure Howie could figure out a way to do this deal if he really wanted to. He’s Howie. This is what he does. 

I just don’t think the numbers make sense for the Eagles and the way they’ve historically done business.

The Eagles are going to get themselves a franchise running back. It’s just almost certainly not going to be Le’Veon Bell.

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A history lesson of the No. 57 pick in the NFL draft

A history lesson of the No. 57 pick in the NFL draft

The Eagles have two second-round picks coming up in the 2019 draft, so it’s time to continue our history lesson. 

Earlier this offseason, we looked at the history of pick No. 25 in the first round (see story) and yesterday we looked at No. 53 (see story), which the Eagles picked up last draft from the Ravens. 

Now we’ll look at the Eagles’ own pick in the second round, No. 57. 

The Birds have had pick No. 57 just twice in the modern era. In 1997, they drafted LB James Darling. And in 2007, they drafted DE Victor Abiamiri. 

Darling played 59 games (24 starts) with the Eagles in four seasons before moving on to the Jets and then Cardinals. He last played in the NFL in 2006 after 139 career games and 53 starts. 

Abiamiri didn’t last very long in the NFL. He played in 29 games (six starts) over three seasons for the Eagles, last playing in 2009. His short career was riddled with injuries. 

Here’s a look back at the last 10 years at No. 57: 

2018: P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State (Raiders)
As a rookie, Hall played in 14 games (six starts) with the Raiders. He had two passes batted and three tackles for loss. He got off to a slow start as a rookie but played better later in the season. Five of his starts came after December, but he is still waiting for his first NFL sack. 

2017: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt (Texans)
Cunningham has been a starter for Houston since he got drafted. He’s played in 30 games with 27 starts. In 2018, he was tied for the team lead in tackles with 105 despite missing a couple games with injury. Still early, but this looks like a great pick. 

2016: T.J. Green, S, Clemson (Colts)
After being taken by the Colts, Green played in 31 games (11 starts) in two seasons in Indianapolis. In 2018, he was waived/injured by the Colts and signed briefly with the Seahawks. After a few weeks, Green decided to retire. 

2015: Rob Havenstein, OT, Wisconsin (Rams)
Since getting drafted, Havenstein has played and started in 59 games, mostly at tackle. He’s been a very consistent player and signed a four-year extension with the Rams before last season that locked the right tackle up through the 2022 season. It was reportedly worth more than $32 million. 

2014: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State (49ers) 
The bruising running back spent his first four seasons with the 49ers, eclipsing 900 yards in 2016 and 2017. Last season, he began the year with the Browns but was traded to the Jaguars in October. In eight games with Jacksonville, Hyde averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and didn’t get into the end zone. He has two years left on his contract. 

2013: D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina (Texans)
The outspoken Swearinger lasted two seasons in Houston, then bounced from Tampa to Arizona to Washington. He was a Pro Bowl alternate for the Redskins in 2018, but publicly criticized his defensive coordinator and was cut. The Cardinals claimed him off waivers. This will be his second stint with the Cardinals. 

2012: Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State (Broncos) 
The 6-7 quarterback lasted four years in Denver but made just seven starts. He then went to Houston, back to Denver, then to Miami in 2018. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Osweiler has a 15-15 career record with 37 TDs and 31 INTs. 

2011: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois (Lions) 
In August before his rookie campaign, Leshoure tore his Achilles and missed all of the 2011 season. After missing the first two games of the 2012 season because of a substance-abuse suspension, Leshoure had 798 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 2012. He was released in August of 2014 and hasn’t played in the NFL since. 

2010: Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama (Ravens) 
In five NFL seasons (all with the Ravens), Cody played in 57 games with 21 starts. His last NFL season was in 2014, but he got in just one game. In 2011, he started all 16 games. He dealt with weight issues in the NFL and dealt with legal troubles in 2015 as he remained unsigned. 

2009: Paul Kruger, OLB, Utah (Ravens)
Kruger played his first four seasons in Baltimore, getting into 51 games and starting seven. He signed a contract with the Browns in 2013 and became a starter in Cleveland. His best season came in 2014, when he picked up 11 sacks. His last NFL season was in 2016, when he played in 15 games and started 13 for the Saints. He hasn’t played in the league since 2016.

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