Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

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Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate. 

Jalen Mills wants to set record straight about Eagles fans

Jalen Mills wants to set record straight about Eagles fans

The life of a cornerback can be lonely.

They can make 20 good plays, but many times, the few plays they don't make are the ones that fans seem to remember the most.

Last Sunday in Tampa, Jalen Mills had an inconsistent outing and it all began with the first play from scrimmage when DeSean Jackson got away from him for a 75-yard touchdown.

Mills should have had help over the top, but it wasn't there. After that loss, Mills endured negative comments from fans for his overall play. He fired back by referring to some as "fake fans." Fast forward to yesterday after the Birds' win over the Colts.

On Eagles Postgame Live, I asked Mills, who had 51 yards in pass interference penalties, if he felt he had a target on his back and if the criticism is unfair.

"For one," Mills said," I want to clear that up as far as lashing out. The picture was kind of painted that I was actually talking to Philadelphia, but I wasn't.

"I was actually talking to those fans who, because we won the Super Bowl, and we had this magnificent team that's on the rise and all of a sudden, they want to be Eagles fans.

"I was talking about those people. I know it's a hard city. The real fans want the best for us. As far as my position goes, that's just something I have to embrace and I'm going to keep playing hard."

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Eagles refusing to be slowed by Super Bowl hangover

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Eagles refusing to be slowed by Super Bowl hangover

When I think about the Super Bowl hangover you hear so much about, I think about a team that’s coasting, a team that’s just kind of floating along, still riding the lingering wave of euphoria from its championship.

I think of a team that’s still talented enough to win more games than it loses but is no longer doing all the little things that added up to a Super Bowl championship.

I think of a team that’s good enough to mask its issues against most opponents but lacking that deep hunger that carried it to a title.

And the most encouraging thing about these first few Eagles games is that I don’t see one single sign of any of that.

This Eagles team has had to work for everything it’s achieved so far this fall. The Eagles are 2-1 and none of their first three games was particularly pretty.

The two wins both came down to the final play, and the Eagles showed tremendous guts against both Atlanta in the opener and the Colts on Sunday, hanging on by a thread and somehow getting the job done.

Even in the Tampa game, the Eagles trailed by 20 late in the third quarter and finished with the football down six. They never really had a chance to win but they sure never stopped fighting.

Nothing has come easy for this Eagles team. They’ve been out of kilter on offense for large portions of all three games. They’ve given up way too many big plays on defense.

They have yet to play anything approaching a complete game, but they’re 2-1 because they’ve battled for 60 minutes in all three games.

And that's the biggest thing you look for with a team coming off a championship.

Do they still have that fight?

The Eagles do. 

You see it on those crucial third downs that they absolutely have to convert. You see it in the red zone, when the defense absolutely has to get a stop. You see it in the fourth quarter, where they’ve outscored their three opponents 22-9 so far.

There’s something special in this locker room, and that never changes, no matter how many penalties, turnovers or mistakes this team makes.

It’s easy to forget that things didn’t come easy for the 2017 Eagles either.

The first couple months they needed a 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants, a seven-minute drive to run out the clock in a two-point win over the Chargers, a late TD to hold off the Panthers in Charlotte.

Then just as they hit their stride, Carson Wentz got hurt, Nick Foles took the reigns and they had to scramble past the Rams, find a way to beat the Raiders, hang on for dear life against the Falcons and create a series of miracles to win the Super Bowl.

The Eagles developed a remarkable will a year ago that carried them to an unforgettable finish. And that championship has done nothing to stifle their will.

They’ve seamlessly made the transition back from Foles to Wentz, they’ve won a couple games despite a rash of injuries at wide receiver and running back, they’ve held up in the fourth quarter with games on the line.

Doug Pederson deserves so much credit for the way he handled the offseason and the way he’s kind of navigated his team around the challenges that can befall any championship team.

The bottom line is the Eagles are 2-1 coming off a Super Bowl championship, and they’ve pretty much eliminated any notion of a letdown or complacency.

It’s really been the opposite. This team has proven to be just as hungry, just as driven, just as motivated as last year.

It doesn’t mean the result will be the same. But three weeks into the season, it sure seems like they’re going to give themselves a chance.

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