Eagles

Stay or Go 2020: Is this the year Jason Kelce walks away?

Stay or Go 2020: Is this the year Jason Kelce walks away?

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at interior offensive linemen:

Brandon Brooks 

Roob: Brooks is one of the best in the game, and hopefully he’s not going anywhere for a long time. Brooks is eight years in now and just keeps getting better. He didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until he was 28 but has now made three in a row. Snakebit with injuries at the end of the last couple seasons but a gamer and an absolute stud.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: What Brooks did in 2019 was nothing short of amazing. He came back from an Achilles tear in eight months and was even better than when he left, and he was already a Pro Bowler. I think he was a pretty egregious snub from the All-Pro team. There simply wasn’t a better right guard in football last season. The Eagles were wise to lock him up to a long-term deal this season. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: It's a shame Brooks suffered another significant injury late in the season, again putting his status in jeopardy for Week 1. The way he responded to his torn Achilles though -- coming back not just in time for opening day, but putting together one of the most dominant performances by an O-lineman in the NFL -- there's no reason to question how he'll fare with a separated shoulder. Signed to a big extension in November, Brooks is an Eagle for the long haul. 

Verdict: Stays

Jason Kelce 

Roob: One of these years, and it’s not too far off, he won’t be back. Kelce is through nine years now, and he’s made it clear that he takes a very long, serious look at his future after every season. He never misses any playing time, but his body has been through a lot and he’s a physical wreck by the time each season ends. He’s an under-sized center playing well over 1,000 snaps a season. But he’s also an absolute monster and for selfish reasons – I just love watching him play – I hope he sticks around at least another year.

Verdict: Stays 

Dave: The big question about Kelce every year is if he’s going to retire. His body takes a beating each year but it seems like it wasn’t as bad in 2019, as chronicled by The Athletic. The Eagles gave Kelce some money last offseason, he’s still under contract and is coming off another All-Pro season. I think he’ll be back. The Eagles do have to start preparing for life after him, though.

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: It's not a question of whether want Kelce back after his third consecutive season being named the NFL's first-team All-Pro at center. It's whether Kelce will want to continue playing. The 32-year-old made it known retirement is very much on his mind. He's accomplished everything there is to accomplish. He's got a family. He's had his share of injuries. That decision is coming soon. Probably not this year though. Kelce has $11 million in cash coming his way in 2020, and the Eagles could easily position themselves as contenders again. Why not give it one more go? 

Verdict: Stays

Isaac Seumalo 

Roob: After getting a contract extension back in the spring, Seumalo got off to a shaky start but rebounded to give the Eagles a pretty solid last few months at left guard. He’s not a star but he’s durable and consistent and plays hard. It’ll be different presumably playing next to Andre Dillard instead of Jason Peters next year. It’s a lot easier to play left guard when you have a potential Hall of Famer on either side. But I think Seumalo is fine.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: That game against Atlanta last year was about as bad as it can get for an offensive lineman. But I give Seumalo a ton of credit; he rebounded and ended up having a solid season. Sure, he was probably a weak link in a line made up of Pro Bowlers, but he’s a solid player, still pretty young and under contract. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Fans constantly seem to be replacing Seumalo on Twitter and talk radio, even though he's a very dependable and cost effective player, averaging a little more than $4 million per year in total cash through 2022. He's only 26 too. Sure, Seumalo gets pushed around every once in awhile, but it's so infrequent, the Eagles couldn't easily find somebody better without investing a high draft pick or spending lots of money -- and even then, it would be a roll of the dice. I'm not here for the idea of moving Jason Peters to left guard, either. 

Verdict: Stays

Matt Pryor 

Roob: Pryor was solid in the three games he was forced to play in place of Brandon Brooks. Unlike a lot of young offensive linemen forced to play because of injuries, he's confident and consistent and you don't see a lot of highs and lows in his performance. I would expect the Eagles to give Pryor a little more tackle in camp and see if he can take over the Big V role backing up both guards and tackles. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: When Pryor was forced into game action, there was obviously a drop-off from Brooks but Pryor held his own in his first real significant playing time. There’s a chance he could be the backup at every guard and tackle position heading into 2020. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: One of the underrated pleasant surprises, Pryor only played 79 offensive snaps in the regular season, but actually held his own. It was like he was a different player after an incredibly shaky preseason after which he was almost certainly in jeopardy of being cut. Instead, he's managed to position himself as the Eagles' top reserve guard with Big V's departure imminent. The club could still draft some competition, but Pryor holds the upper hand for now. 

Verdict: Stays

Nate Herbig 

Roob: Herbig actually got into the Giants game on the last day of the season, making his NFL debut for three kneel-downs at the end of the game. This could be the beginning of a brilliant NFL career. Or maybe not. Who knows. The Eagles liked Herbig enough to keep the undrafted rookie on the roster all year, so I’m going to assume they like him enough to keep him around next year too.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: It seems like Jeff Stoutland is always allowed to have one or two project guys on the roster. Herbig is one of them. His teammates seem to love the youngest player on the roster and there’s a reason the Eagles taught him two positions in his first NFL training camp and then kept him around all season. They like the potential and that’s enough to keep him around. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Herbig turned heads in training camp and the preseason, and not just because of his size -- 6-foot-4, 334 pounds. He's powerful for a 21-year-old kid, and acquitted himself well at a difficult position for a young player, center. If Kelce did retire, there's probably at least a 50-50 chance Herbig would wind up the starter. The Eagles seem to like him that much. 

Verdict: Stays 

Sua Opeta 

Roob: Always my favorite part of the Stay-or-Go series: Writing about a late-season undrafted rookie interior offensive lineman practice squad call up and trying to pretend I have any clue whether he can play. I have no idea. No one does. So I’m not even going to guess if he stays or goes. Oh, wait, I have to? Dave Zangaro says I have to. OK … 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: My absolute favorite part of training camp last summer was just before Opeta was about to take a rep, Jeff Stoutland just yelled at the top of his lungs, “It’s Sua time!” Stout seems to like Opeta enough that when another team came sniffing around him, the Eagles promoted him immediately. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Like Herbig, Opeta is powerful. Even stronger, in fact. He led all offensive linemen in the bench press at the 2019 scouting combine. Unlike Herbig, Opeta spent three months of the practice squad before cracking the 53-man roster, so not sure the Eagles are as in love with him. He could very easily be back on the scout team at least though, so that counts for something. 

Verdict: Stays

Keegan Render 

Roob: I guess if Kelce retires and Isaac Seumalo moves to center Render night have a chance to be in the mix as a backup center. He finished the year on the practice squad and signed a future’s contract, so he’s the longest of long shots going into 2020.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Render is from Iowa, a school known for churning out offensive linemen so I wouldn’t completely rule him out. But as long as those other guys are all back, I have a hard time seeing him crack the roster. But a good guy to keep around on the practice squad and develop in case Kelce retires next year. As for the 53-man roster …

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: It may surprise you to know Render was on the Eagles' practice squad since October. At least, it surprised me. The guy doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, which seems like a bad sign. 

Verdict: Goes

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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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Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

The Eagles decided Tuesday to decline the team option on Nigel Bradham's contract (see story), cutting the 30-year-old linebacker loose after four years in Philly. From the highs of winning a Super Bowl to the lows of his multiple run-ins with law enforcement, Bradham's time with the Eagles was nothing if not entertaining.

Bradham's teammates received the news Tuesday, just like fans did, and a number of his now-former teammates shared their reactions to the team's move on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Brandon Graham lamented the end of his time playing alongside Bradham:

DeSean Jackson and Kamu Grugier-Hill wished Bradham luck in his next NFL stop:

Nate Gerry thanked Bradham for teaching him the ins and outs of the linebacker position, and of life as pro football player:

Rodney McLeod and Nelson Agholor, two players who might not return to Philly in 2020, also shouted Bradham out on Instagram:

One particularly interesting reaction, to my eye, was that of cornerback Rasul Douglas, who opted to use the head-slap emoji in a quote tweet of a report about the move:

Whether that signifies surprise or displeasure, it seems like Douglas would've preferred Bradham return to Philly in 2020.

Instead, free agency is off and running, and the Eagles' sleepy offseason is finally about to heat up.

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