Eagles

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

It wasn't quite a WWE throwdown message, but Michael Bennett definitely put NFC East quarterbacks on notice during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon.

He's coming for them.

And so are the rest of his defensive line teammates.

"I know Eli Manning is probably watching this and thinking, like, yes I'm coming," said Bennett, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Seahawks. "I know Dak (Prescott) is watching this like, 'Yeah, he's coming.' Yeah, I am.

"And Alex Smith, he knows he can't run from me. I told him at the Pro Bowl. So it's definitely going to be a great season and it's going to be fun to chase quarterbacks. I just know third down it's just going to be ... and second down and first down, it's just going to be fun."

When Bennett, 32, named all three of the starting quarterbacks from the NFC East, he was actually answering a question about comparing the defensive schemes from Seattle and Philadelphia. Bennett began by saying that he played with some great players in Seattle, before saying he doesn't think there's a tight end in the NFL that can block him.

From there, he started to name the QBs.

Manning in New York. Prescott in Dallas. And recently-acquired Smith in Washington. They'll all be seeing Bennett twice this season.

Bennett is basically replacing Vinny Curry on the Eagles' defensive line, and Haloti Ngata is basically replacing Beau Allen. While Curry and Allen are younger, many think Bennett and Ngata are improvements in the short-term, which means the strength of the Eagles' defense from 2017 is even stronger in 2018.

While Curry had just three sacks in 2017 and has gone over the four-sack mark just once in his six-year career, Bennett has had at least five sacks in all of those last six seasons. Bennett has 48 sacks since 2012 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons.

While there was a report that surfaced saying Seattle was trying to part ways with socially active players, Bennett said he didn't give it much credence. His relationship with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll goes beyond football and he knows Seattle was just trying to unload him to get something back in return; it's part of the business.

It seems likely that in Philly, Bennett will get a chance to play both inside and outside. His versatility was used in a similar fashion in Seattle, but he also played a ton of snaps, which he won't have to do in the Eagles' rotation. It should keep him fresh.

And it will probably keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.

How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

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How Eagles are using fake contract years to create cap space

When the Eagles announced the Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham and DeSean Jackson contracts, they were referred to as three-year deals. When the Ronald Darby contract was announced, it was announced as a one-year deal.
 
Take a look at any of them and they’re actually five-year contracts.
 
Until they aren’t.
 
Confused yet?
 
We’re here to help!

The odd structure of Eagles contracts

In the often-baffling world of NFL contracts, Eagles vice president of football operations and salary cap guru Howie Roseman has been designing contracts with fake years, a tool that spreads out cap hit into contract years that are guaranteed to never exist.
 
It’s kind of cheating.
 
But according to the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA, the players’ union, and ownership, it’s completely legal.
 
NFL contracts can be very complicated, but in simple terms, a player’s salary cap figure for a specific year is determined by adding together three components:
 
1. The player’s base salary
2. The pro-rated amount of his signing bonus, which is derived by dividing the amount of the bonus by the number of years in the contract (up to five years)
3, All so-called “likely-to-be-earned” incentives, which are generally speaking performance and playing-time milestones the player reached the previous year.

 
The longer the contract, the more years the signing bonus is spread out over and the less the cap hit.

The Ronald Darby contract

But what if you have a player like Darby, who has been hurt the last two years, and you’re reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal because of injury concerns?
 
Let’s take a look at Darby’s contract.
 
At first glance, it’s a five-year deal with base salaries of $1 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
 
Yes, $15 MILLION per year.
 
The deal also includes a $3.5 million signing bonus that he received when he signed on March 19 and a roster bonus worth as much as $2 million in the form of $125,000 weekly bonuses for each game that Darby dresses for in 2019.
 
The cap hit for 2019 is a modest $2.825 million - that’s the $1 million base salary, $700,000 of the signing bonus (the first 20 percent of the $3.5 million pro-rated over five years) and an additional $1.125 million representing the likely-to-be-earned portion of the roster bonus.
 
What about those $15 million annual salaries from 2020 through 2023?
 
That’s a ton of money!
 
The small print in Darby’s contract states simply that the 2020 through 2023 seasons “void automatically” if Darby is on the Eagles’ roster 23 days before the start of the official 2020 league year, which would be sometime in late February.
 
In other words, if he’s on the team, he’s no longer on the team.
 
And the $60 million base salaries? They evaporate. They disappear.
 
All that remains is the $2.8 million remaining pro-rated portion of Darby’s signing bonus, which accelerates into dead money under the Eagles’ 2020 cap.

What’s the point of all this?

Howie Roseman is clearing as much room under the Eagles’ 2019 cap as possible, presumably to give the team flexibility for the inevitable signing of Carson Wentz to a massive, $30 million-per-year ballpark contract.
 
Whether that happens now or next offseason, clearing cap room now helps because whatever the Eagles don’t use under their 2019 cap carries over to additional cap room in 2020.
 
And the more room the Eagles have after signing Wentz, the more flexibility Roseman will have to make additional moves.
 
The Graham, Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson deals are a little more complicated because they include an option bonus that is added to base salary if the Eagles don’t execute it, but in each case, the deals are listed as five-year deals but can’t last more than three years.
 
The Graham deal includes a $12.5 million signing bonus that pro-rates to $2.5 million per year, so if Graham plays all three years that would mean $5 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Malik Jackson’s deal similarly includes a $9 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $3.6 million in dead money in 2021.
 
DeSean Jackson’s deal has a $7.17 million signing bonus, initially spread out over five years, which means $1.434 pro-rated per year. So if he’s here for the life of his contract, that would mean $2.868 million in dead money in 2021.
 
Without the fake years?
 
Darby’s 2019 cap hit would be $5.625 million instead of $2.825 million. Malik Jackson’s would be $4 million instead of $2.8 million. DeSean’s would be $4.12 million instead of $3.164 million. Graham’s would be $5.17 million instead of $3.5 million. 
 
So by adding fake years into four contracts, the Eagles saved about $6.6 million under their 2019 adjusted cap figure of $197,901,096.
 
According to a league source familiar with league-wide free agency contracts, there are only a few other instances of teams using guaranteed voidable years during this free agency period
 
The Lions used the technique in the contract for tight end Jesse James, the Panthers used it with center Matt Paradis and the Cards with Terrell Suggs.

Could this all blow up in the Eagles’ face?

If it seems like the Eagles are simply deferring salary cap hell into the future, don’t forget, this is Howie. He knows what he’s doing.
 
First of all, the salary cap has been increasing more than 10 percent per year. As recently as 2013, the unadjusted cap figure was $123 million. In 2019, it’s $188 million. That’s more than a 50 percent increase in just six years. It will likely be close to $200 million next year.
 
So the exact same cap hit in the future is a smaller percentage of a team’s cap in the present. So it’s just common sense to defer as much cap hit as possible as long as possible.
 
But also the current CBA expires after next year, so nobody really knows what’s going to happen in 2021. Some expect a lockout or a strike. There’s a chance 2021 will be an uncapped year, just as 2010 was after the last CBA expired.
 
And if the next CBA includes a bunch of new rules? Rest assured Roseman will figure out a way around them as well.

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Eagles mailbag: RB in Round 1, Chris Long, old guys

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Eagles mailbag: RB in Round 1, Chris Long, old guys

We’ve reached the end of the mailbag line. You guys gave me enough Eagles questions to split this into three parts. 

Part 1

Part 2

And, now, here’s part three: 

If I had to guess between Josh Jacobs and the field, I’d still choose the field by a wide margin. But I also wouldn’t be completely stunned if the Eagles were on the clock at 25 and they deemed him to be the best player available and went that way. Ultimately, I still think they end up with a lineman there, but Jacobs is an intriguing fit for the Eagles. He would fill their greatest need on offense and could become a true three-down back in the NFL. He really could step in and be a starter in his rookie season. 

As for Love, I think the second round is too early for him. If he’s there in the fourth round or later, that would be an option. Remember, the draft is about value. You don’t draft someone in an early round if you think they’ll be there later. It’s hard to figure out where injured players will go, but Love isn’t a sure thing to me. I’ll get into other running back options in a bit. 

Nah, I thought Long had another pretty good year. He had 6 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles. He’s played in every game since coming to Philly. I don’t know if he’ll be back, but the Eagles should want him back. Without Long, they’re down to Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, and Josh Sweat. There’s a really good chance they draft a defensive end with a high pick too, but with the rotation, the more the merrier. Long has a $5.6 million cap hit in 2019, but I can deal with that. I think he’s worth keeping around. 

There aren’t many running backs still left on the open market, but Yeldon would be a good fit. He’s a big back but can also be used as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s still just 25 too. The trade options are also open and it wouldn’t hurt the compensatory pick formula, something that’s been important to Howie Roseman this offseason. 

In the draft, we already talked about Jacobs. He would fit. In the second round, the two players I like most are David Montgomery and Miles Sanders. Montgomery didn’t put up a great 40 time, but I don’t care. His tape says enough to me. I think he has star potential in the NFL. And the Eagles have shown a lot of interest in Sanders. He is quicker than Montgomery, but is also a little more unproven after sitting behind Saquon Barkley for two years. But that means he has less mileage too. 

It’s interesting because this has been the way the Eagles have used free agency in the last few years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The Eagles have signed guys like Chris Long who worked and guys like Mike Wallace who didn’t. The important thing for the Eagles is making sure these old guys still have some sort of fire left in them, that they’re not collecting paychecks. It’s not always easy to tell. 

These contracts show the Eagles are clearly in a win-now mode (as they should be), but most of them don’t really change the organization’s longer-term plans. It does, however, put even more emphasis on nailing their draft picks. That’s how the Eagles need to get younger now, so there’s a lot of pressure on Joe Douglas and his team.

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