Meet Cody Kessler, the quarterback that Nick Foles brought to the Eagles

Meet Cody Kessler, the quarterback that Nick Foles brought to the Eagles

Why did Cody Kessler sign with the Eagles?

He doesn’t hesitate.

“Nick Foles.”

Foles is the gift that keeps giving. 

It was Foles who urged Kessler to consider signing with the Eagles after he was released by Jacksonville, where Kessler and Foles were briefly teammates.

He spoke so highly of this place, he really did,” Kessler said after practice Wednesday. “It really did have a special place in his heart and you could hear that when he talked to me.

Foles signed with the Jaguars on March 11, and the Jags released Kessler on May 5, so even though they were technically teammates, they never practiced together and barely knew each other.

Yet one of the first people to call Kessler after he was released was Foles, who had just taken his roster spot.

He was actually the first person to talk to me other than my family and my agent," Kessler said. "When Jacksonville let me go, he called me that day and we had a really good talk, really about a 45-minute talk just about his journey and what he went through and we started getting to know each other after that. The way he talked about this place was something that really intrigued me, and he wasn’t lying. The locker room is special, the city is special, this team is special. It’s been great.

Foles and Kessler have a lot in common. Both were third-round picks — Foles was the 88th pick in 2012, Kessler the 93rd pick in 2016.

And both bounced around early in their careers and experienced some pretty low points. Foles went from the Eagles to the Rams to the Chiefs and back to the Eagles before he became a legend. 

Kessler is now on his third team in four years and trying to find a home like Foles did.

Kessler said he and Foles met a couple times before their paths briefly converged, but he said they really didn’t know each other at all before Foles picked up his phone and called him this past May.

That's the Nick Foles we all know.

He called a virtual stranger just because he thought he could provide him with some guidance.

He’s just awesome,” Kessler said. “He’s definitely someone that I look up to, someone that obviously went through tough times in his career, ups and downs, something I’ve kind of dealt with, whether it was in Cleveland or Jacksonville last year, kind of a rough time, so it was nice to have that, someone who’s kind of been through the journey, the highs and the lows of this league, someone to kind of lean on and talk to. And I still talk to him. Just one of the most positive, genuine guys I’ve ever been around. Someone you definitely want in your corner.

Foles certainly had more succcess early in his career than Kessler has had.

Kessler went 0-8 in eight starts for the Browns in 2016, although he did have six TDs, just two INTs and a 92.3 passer rating, fourth highest by a Browns QB in the last 50 years.

He sat behind DeShone Kizer in 2017, then was traded to the Jaguars last spring. He went 2-2 for the Jags last year before getting released and signing with the Eagles.

One of his strengths is his anticipation, and he throws a really friendly ball, a ball that’s accurate, and gives his receivers a chance to make a play,” said Nelson Agholor, Kessler’s roommate at USC. “I was happy when we signed him because if I can help him in any way giving himself value then that’s what I want to do. I like him as a person and I like him as a player and with the right opportunity he can have a lot of success in this league.

Can it be here?

After a rocky minicamp, Kessler has looked fairly sharp the first week of training camp and that combined with Nate Sudfeld looking not quite so sharp makes you wonder if he has a shot at the No. 2 job.

It would be an upset, but it’s not all that far-fetched. Sudfeld has been here longer, but Kessler is more experienced and has started and won NFL games.

Something you can’t control, other than you can control how you perform on the field, but I don’t worry about it,” Kessler said. “Me and Clayton (Thorson) are both in the same spot right now, learning the offense, and Carson and Nate have been great talking us through it, telling us what they see and what they’re looking for. My biggest thing is learn the offense, keep making plays, perform in the preseason games, and I don’t think about anything else.

Maybe Kessler will be quickly forgotten around here. Maybe this training camp won’t amount to anything for the 26-year-old. 

One thing is certain: He sure picked the right guy to help guide him along his path.

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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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