Eagles

LeSean McCoy, Brandon Graham think DeSean will return to Eagles, but let's pump the brakes

LeSean McCoy, Brandon Graham think DeSean will return to Eagles, but let's pump the brakes

DeSean Jackson is a free agent after the season, the Eagles have the NFL's least impactful wide receiver group, and so it's almost a foregone conclusion around these parts that DeSean will return to the Eagles.

Confidence in a reunion grew when Jackson didn't deny interest in it earlier this season. 

"I never really had hard feelings toward Philadelphia, besides being released by whoever released me," Jackson said in mid-October, obviously referring to Chip Kelly. "That's different — but I guess he's not there anymore."

In that same interview, Jackson noted that he still talks to former Eagles teammate LeSean McCoy "every day."

So when Shady says something like he said over the weekend, maybe it means a little more. On a live video on Instagram Saturday night, McCoy said that Jackson told him he was going back to the Eagles. Shady also called linebacker Kiko Alonso, for whom Kelly traded him to the Bills, a "bum," according to NFL Network host Dan Hellie

Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham, who played with Jackson from 2010-13, also thinks he's coming back.

"It's an exciting feeling to get an Eagle back," Graham said Monday morning on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. 

"I'm excited because he should have never left. Everybody knows that DeSean, yes, things were happening while he was here, but he's a good guy. I used to be with him all the time.

"I'm just happy because I kinda knew already. I've talked to him. I talked to him when Doug (Pederson) got hired. He was like, 'Tell Coach come get me.' We have fun during the season. He's like, 'B.G., I'll be back.' But now that it's official, as far as the season about to be over, I think you'll be hearing a lot of noise about DeSean. ... I'm saying official as far as the end of season, now we're gonna really see."

So Shady thinks DeSean is coming back to the Eagles. Brandon Graham thinks DeSean is coming back to the Eagles. Most Eagles fans think DeSean is coming back to the Eagles. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's not like DeSean is going to be hurting for offers. 

This year's group of free-agent wide receivers is ugly. Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor ... and then Jackson and Pierre Garcon, both current Redskins, are probably the next-best options.

Sure, Jackson is 30 at a position filled with youth, but he's still averaged 18.0 yards per catch this season, the fourth-highest mark of his career. He's just 29 yards away from another 1,000-yard receiving season, even after missing a game. He's still a focal point of a high-powered offense.

You mean to tell me Jackson is so gaga over Philly that he's going to forego what might be his last chance at a big payday?

There are going to be a lot of teams interested in Jackson and his ability to take the top off a defense. One thought I've had lately is that maybe the Patriots take a look at DeSean in free agency. They've long coveted speedy, downfield threats — Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, even someone like Chris Hogan — and they've taken in divas in the past like Moss and Chad Johnson. If you put DeSean in that offense, it would open up even more space underneath for Tom Brady's other receivers. 

One thing you can probably rule out is DeSean's returning to Washington. The 'Skins need to spend money to improve their defense, and they already have a lot of weapons for Kirk Cousins in Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, the running backs and this past year's first-round pick, Josh Doctson. Plus, Cousins himself has to get paid.

Eagles mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

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Eagles mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

Part 1 touched on Sidney Jones, Josh Adams and my pick for Eagles Rookie of the Year.

Part 2 answered questions about Corey Clement, UDFAs and Big V’s future as a guard.

Here’s Part 3:

I guess this answer depends on your definition of “break out year.” Barnett’s 2018 season ended prematurely with a shoulder injury that hampered him before the Eagles shut him down. But early in the year, I thought he was the best defensive end on the team (by that point Michael Bennett hadn’t played well and Brandon Graham was getting over his ankle injury). In six games, Barnett had 2 1/2 sacks. But before the shoulder injury, he had 2 1/2 in four games before he missed Week 5 with the shoulder injury that eventually ended his season. So Barnett was on pace for 10 sacks before the injury. With plenty of opportunity this season, I think Barnett can be a double-digit sack guy. Sure. That’s a good bar to set. Before Fletcher Cox did it in 2018, the last Eagle to top 10 sacks was Connor Barwin in 2014.

One thing is for sure: this is a big year for Barnett. The Eagles traded away Bennett, Chris Long just announced his retirement (see story) and the Eagles passed on taking an edge rusher early in what was supposed to be a historically deep class. Barnett needs to not just be a starter, but be extremely productive in Year 3.

This is an interesting question and there really aren’t many contracts from this offseason that even qualify. So many of these contracts done by Howie Roseman are one-year deals. The long-term ones were: DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham, Isaac Seumalo. Seumalo’s deal is cheap enough that I won’t count him.

If I had to pick the most likely, it would be DeSean Jackson’s deal. He’s 32 and his game is predicated on speed. So even though we haven’t seen it, there’s a chance that speed disappears and the Eagles are left with a speed receiver sans speed. That’s possible. For the record, I’d be willing to take that risk, as the Eagles did, because Jackson’s speed was exactly the element the Eagles needed. I was tempted to say Graham because the Eagles did kind of overpay him, but even if he can’t get after the QB, he can at least stuff the run. If Jackson loses his speed, what good is he?

Yeah, eventually they’ll return as an alternate in my lifetime, which would make me thrilled because I could finally stop reporting on a jersey color. (Just kidding, love you guys.) The hold-up here is that the NFL has this antiquated rule that won’t allow teams to have more than one helmet for each player. It’s an old safety rule. Jeff Lurie says he wants kelly green jerseys, but they don’t want them without matching helmets. Before you bring up the Rams, they use the same helmets with different decals. The Eagles say decals aren’t an option for them. It’s alternate helmets or bust. A couple of years ago, competition committee chairman Rich McKay told me he was optimistic this rule would eventually be changed. For now, we wait.

I’ll say 14 or 15. I really don’t know. I think he’ll be healthy at the start of the season but maybe he gets hurt during the year and misses a game or two. I can’t see the future.

It’s fair to say the Eagles are in win-now mode, but none of their contracts really tie their hands long-term. That’s the interesting thing about what the Eagles have done. They have some real flexibility with their roster. They are clearly playing to win a Super Bowl this year, but they’ll have the ability to keep signing free agents and should have plenty of draft picks coming up. That’s important because they’ll need cheap talent to surround Wentz when he’s making $30+ million per year soon enough.

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Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

After a few months of contemplation, Eagles defensive end Chris Long has made his decision.

He’s calling it a career.

The 34-year-old announced his official retirement from the NFL on Saturday night and he did it, of course, on Twitter.

Not long after his official announcement, the Eagles congratulated Long, who became a fan favorite in Philly during the two years he played here.

Back in 2008, Long was the Rams’ No. 2 pick in the draft out of Virginia. He played his first eight years in St. Louis, before winning a Super Bowl in 2016 with the Patriots and then winning again in 2017 with the Eagles. He reached legend status in Philly during that Super Bowl run for helping create the dog mask phenomenon and for then rocking out during the parade down Broad Street.

And it was Long who pressured Case Keenum to throw that pick-6 to Patrick Robinson in the NFC Championship Game. In two seasons in Philly, he had 11 1/2 sacks and forced six fumbles.

In his 11 years in the NFL, Long piled up a clean 70 sacks to go along with 15 forced fumbles.

The Eagles will miss Long on the field and off it. Aside from being a highly productive player in his two seasons with the Eagles, Long was also a very highly respected member of the locker room. He was a favorite among teammates and his sense of humor — he created a Nick Foles shrine last year — was infectious at the NovaCare Complex. (The funniest part of the Foles shrine was watching Long’s mischievous smile as he watched a bunch of reporters gobble it up.)

Long had a long and productive football career, but, really, his legacy will be the work he’s done off it. That work is not finished.

Long was named the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable efforts through the Chris Long Foundation. He clearly deserved the honor.

He’s given away his salary, raised millions for educational initiatives in cities across the country and, through his Waterboys initiative, has provided access to clean water for communities in East Africa for years.

While his teammates and coaches will be happy for Long, his departure does leave the Eagles a little light at defensive end. To his credit, Long told the Eagles to plan as if he wouldn’t be back. Long wasn’t interested in returning for a reduced role, which the Eagles told him he would have in 2019.

Without Long, the Eagles have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall and Joe Ostman as their defensive ends. Malik Jackson, signed this offseason, will play on third downs as a defensive tackle, taking stress off the ends, but the Eagles will still miss Long, who had been a third-down specialist during his time with the Eagles.

Last season, the Eagles entered the year with Long and Michael Bennett as their top rotational defensive ends. That was incredible depth they won’t have this season unless they make another move.

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