Eagles

NFL Notes: Raiders' Derek Carr sets deadline for contract negotiations

NFL Notes: Raiders' Derek Carr sets deadline for contract negotiations

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr is confident he will have a new contract extension before the Raiders report for training camp at the end of July.

If for some reason that doesn't happen, Carr said he would play out the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 rather than negotiate a new contract once camp has started and his focus is entirely on the upcoming season.

"I wouldn't even answer my phone," Carr said Tuesday. "The money isn't the thing that drives me. If it was, then I shouldn't be standing here. What drives me is making sure I'm giving everything I have with my abilities and making sure that we win. I don't want anything distracting my thought process at all. It's not a jab or anything like that. That's just me saying, `I'm not going to deal with anything that's not helping me just focus on winning.'"

Carr is in the final season of his bargain rookie deal that is slated to pay him just under $1 million in his fourth season. Because he was drafted in the second round, not the first, in 2014, the Raiders are unable to use a fifth-year option to retain Carr like they did earlier this offseason with star pass rusher Khalil Mack.

So Oakland must give Carr a long-term deal that would likely make him one of the top-paid players in the game after a successful three-year start to his career or be forced to use the franchise tag in 2018 to retain him.

Carr said there have been no substantive talks as of yet but he expects things to heat up soon between the Raiders and his agent, Tim Younger.

"Hopefully it will get done," he said. "Both sides keep saying it's going to get done. I'm not worried about it to let you know about it. Once camp hits, I don't want to be a distraction. I've made it very clear that I want to be a Raider my entire career. I don't want to play for anybody else. They know that. They've told me how bad they want me. We'll see."

Carr said it bothered him to watch Mack have to answer questions about Carr's contract recently in a television interview and he wants to avoid putting his teammates in that situation in the future.

Panthers: Stewart focused on championships, not carries
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers veteran running back Jonathan Stewart isn't concerned about losing carries to Christian McCaffrey, the team's first round draft pick.

In Stewart's eyes, the more talent on the Carolina roster the better.

"Who cares? We want to win Super Bowls, right?" Stewart said following OTAs on Tuesday. "That's the bottom line on why we drafted him. It's not about people getting carries, or people getting touches, or getting touchdowns. It's about what you what can contribute" to the team.

Stewart has always approached things with a team-first mentality, having spent the majority of his nine-year career splitting reps with DeAngelo Williams.

The Panthers still envision Stewart having a huge role in the offense after a solid season in which he ran for 824 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games. That's why they signed him to a one-year $8 million extension that will keep him under contract through the 2018 season.

The 5-foot-10, 240-pound Stewart is an entirely differently runner than the smaller McCaffrey.

Stewart is a power back who excels at breaking tackles, while McCaffrey is expected to bring more speed, quickness and versatility to the backfield as a pass receiver.

"It doesn't change Jonathan's role," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the addition of McCaffrey. "We're going to do what we do. (McCaffrey) is a young man who can come in an supplant some of those reps. He's a dynamic player that can do some things Jonathan doesn't do."

Browns: Kirksey signs 4-year, $38 million extension
CLEVELAND -- When the Browns were sliding toward a winless 2016 season, Christian Kirksey stepped forward.

The linebacker boldly predicted a victory, which came a few weeks later.

On Tuesday, Cleveland locked up Kirksey for what the club hopes will be better seasons ahead.

Kirksey signed a four-year, $38 million extension with the Browns, who will have their leading tackler under contract through the 2021 season. The deal includes $20 million guaranteed.

"Christian Kirksey brings a lot to this football team," said Sashi Brown, the club's executive vice president of football operations. "He's another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long term. Chris reflects the hard work and commitment we want in our locker room. He has done everything asked of him since he was drafted and has developed into an impact starter. We look forward to watching him continue to emerge as a leader of our team and establish a culture of winning here in Cleveland."

The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder was one of the few positives last season when the Browns went 1-15. He led the team in tackles and finished third in the league with 148.

Kirksey, who made at least nine tackles in 10 games and played all but two defensive snaps last season, would have been eligible to be an unrestricted free agent in March (see full story).

Jets: Forte sees ‘a lot of versatility’ in offense
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Matt Forte is eager to be a bigger part of the New York Jets' offense.

That means running the ball, of course, but also catching more passes out of the backfield -- something he thinks new coordinator John Morton will allow him to do.

"A guy who catches the ball," Forte said Tuesday after practice, "should be involved in the offense on the receiving side of it."

There were times last season that Forte wondered what his role was under former coordinator Chan Gailey. He ran for a career-low 813 yards in his first year with the Jets, but also had just 30 receptions.

While Forte played through a torn meniscus in his right knee that eventually ended his season after 14 games, the dip in his production was also due in large part to Gailey's deployment of personnel.

Forte was mostly used on first and second downs, and then often replaced by Bilal Powell on third downs -- which is typically a passing situation. Forte told NJ Advance Media that the decision by Gailey, who retired after the season, to not use him more on third downs was "odd."

"Last year, I don't think I played really on third downs, which is, like I said, `odd,'" he said. "I went from catching like 100 balls to like 60 and last year, I caught like 30."

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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