Eagles

Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

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Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

Eagles-Cowboys
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles +2.5

The Eagles’ Week 17 tilt with the Dallas Cowboys may be meaningless in terms of the playoffs, but the NFC East rivals have plenty to play for in the final game of the regular season.

Dallas is eliminated from postseason contention, yet still has an opportunity to finish above .500. Redemption may be on the Cowboys’ minds as well after losing the first meeting of the season 37-9 at JerryWorld.

As for the Eagles, the top seed in the NFC is wrapped up, though most of the starters will see at least some action as the squad looks to maintain its edge heading into the tournament.

The game matters, even if the outcome doesn’t.

Milestone watch
The Eagles may have more motivation to win than it would seem, as a victory would set off some cool milestones — and even put them in the history books.

They can set a franchise record with 14 wins in a season. They can go undefeated at home for the first time since 1992. And they can sweep their six divisional matchups for the first time since 2004.

Ultimately, none of those marks are as important as getting to January as healthy as possible. That being said, the Eagles probably wouldn’t mind making a little history along the way.

Bold strategy?
Some would argue the health of the team is paramount, so it would be a mistake to play the starters at all Sunday. Yet, while one more key injury has the potential to devastate the Eagles, there isn’t a whole lot of choice in the matter.

Sure, Eagles coach Doug Pederson could sit a guy or there. But with gameday rosters maxing out at 46 players, some regular players inevitably will have to take the field. For example, there are only eight offensive linemen and nine defensive backs on the roster, but often, at least five of each playing at a time.

Plus, if the goal is to get the offense some additional reps with Nick Foles under center, would you want him standing in the pocket behind anything less than the best five offensive linemen?

Pederson said he wants the team to get some work in, but also acknowledged his hands are tied to an extent. Even when a starter comes out of the game, an injury to the backup could force the starter back into the game.

Naturally, if a key starter gets hurt, Pederson is going to get torched by the fans. Regardless, the reality is some of the starters have to play.

It’s Sudfeld time
While Pederson stressed most of the starters will play, the coach also acknowledged Nate Sudfeld will replace Foles at quarterback at some point during the contest.

The chance to see Sudfeld play is arguably the most compelling reason to tune in — right up there with the debut of second-round draft pick Sidney Jones at cornerback. The difference is expectations are sky high for Jones, whereas Sudfeld is a total mystery.

Sudfeld has become an incredibly important name for the Eagles because he’s one play away from becoming the starting quarterback. And if he performs well Sunday, his profile may be on the rise.

The Eagles could opt to trade Foles if there’s a market in the offseason, and install Sudfeld as the No. 2 behind Carson Wentz. Or, another team may view Sudfeld as a prospect and try to engineer a swap for the second-year player.

A sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016, Sudfeld has garnered quite a bit of attention. The Eagles swiped him from Washington after training camp, stashed him on the practice squad and then added him to the 53-man roster when another team attempted to sign him. It’s time to find out what all the commotion is about.

Coming up with the inactive list
Pederson more or less confirmed defensive end Brandon Graham will not play because of an ankle injury. But in doing so, the coach also provided some insight into how the inactive list will look Sunday.

Expect players who are a little banged up right now to take a seat this week.

Joining Graham could be cornerback Jalen Mills, who has also been dealing with an ankle injury. Running back Jay Ajayi could also make the list. Though Ajayi is not on the injury report, his chronic knee condition might be reason enough to give him a rest.

Pederson also said left guard Stefen Wisniewski will play after missing the last couple games with an ankle, so maybe it’s not so simple.

Whatever the case is, the inactive list is the place to stash the few starters who won’t be taking the field at all. With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to stash key players like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Nigel Bradham there, too.

How ‘bout them Cowboys?
Whether the game matters or not, what would Dallas week be without a little trash talk?

With a 21-12 loss to the Seahawks last week, the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, and the Eagles have a chance to leave their divisional foe stranded at eight wins for the season. And while All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott has returned from a suspension, Dallas still looks like a mess.

The Eagles may very well beat the Cowboys while using the back end of their bench, including a bunch players who are ordinarily inactive. Who wouldn’t get a kick out of that?

Just one more reason to tune in at 1 p.m.

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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