Jeffrey Lurie

Jeff Lurie explains why Eagles decided to free Nick Foles

Jeff Lurie explains why Eagles decided to free Nick Foles

PHOENIX — During Jeffrey Lurie’s nearly 38-minute session with reporters on Tuesday evening at the annual league meetings, the Eagles’ owner showed the most emotion when talking about Nick Foles. 

As he began to speak, his eyes started to well up just enough that at least a few reporters in front of him took notice. After all, this is Nick Foles we’re talking about. 

“Nick, as you all know, exceptional person,” Lurie said. “There’s no understating it. Exceptional person. It was hard. We went through every alternative we could think of as an organization on how to proceed here. Really, in the end, I think, Nick really did want to have a team to take control of and be the guy.”

The Eagles could have slapped a franchise tag on Foles. They could have done that and then tried to ship him off to a team of their choosing instead of letting him become an unrestricted free agent. Lurie, on Tuesday, said it wouldn’t have been right to franchise Foles. 

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman at the combine on Feb. 27 (two weeks before the new league year) announced the Eagles’ intentions to let Foles hit free agency. 

Lurie was asked about his role in that decision and the timing of it: 

Certainly, Howie and I had long discussions about it. We thought the sooner we do it, the better because we wanted to give Nick every opportunity to be in the best possible situation and not have a team worry that we were potentially going to keep him and not have the opportunity to start, because there aren’t that many opportunities. We were also, to be honest about it, hoping that he would not end up with the Giants or the Redskins. That was part of it. We were very confident he was going to play for Jacksonville. 

That last part is pretty interesting. While Lurie and the Eagles clearly wanted to do right by Foles, I wonder what would have happened if one of the teams in the division became the front-runner to land Foles. Would they then have been more likely to franchise tag Foles and then pick his destination for him? 

That, of course, wasn’t the case. By the end of that week in Indy, the rest of the NFL world figured out what the Eagles already knew: Foles was going to Jacksonville. 

Lurie said he vouched for Foles to other teams, who asked him: “What’s Nick like?” and “Can he be dynamic for anyone but you?” 

Maybe in an alternate universe, Foles could have stayed in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. But in this universe, the Eagles have Carson Wentz and seem completely committed to signing him to a mega contract that will alter the future of the franchise.

But it sounds like Nick is welcome back for a visit any time. 

“He’s a legend in Philadelphia, he will always be,” Lurie said. “He will be a part of our family forever.”

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As Carson Wentz's next contract looms, Eagles are already preparing 

As Carson Wentz's next contract looms, Eagles are already preparing 

PHOENIX — It’s coming. 

At some point, be it this offseason or next, the Eagles are going to break the bank for Carson Wentz. They’re going to sign him to a mega contract to be their franchise quarterback for years to come. That contract is going to be wildly expensive. It’s also an inevitability. 

It’s something for which the Eagles have been planning for years. At the 2019 owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore, it’s pretty clear every move the Eagles have made recently keeps in mind the fact that they will one day soon pay Wentz over $30 million annually. 

This offseason is the first opportunity the Eagles have to sign Wentz, a rookie in 2016, to a contract extension. Even if it doesn’t happen this offseason, it’s going to happen. And the Eagles are going to be ready for it. 

Despite Wentz’s recent injury history, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he would “absolutely” be comfortable signing Wentz to that mega deal this offseason.  

“When you draw it up, it’s exactly what you want,” Lurie said about Wentz at the annual NFL owners meetings on Tuesday evening. “Highly competitive, very type-A personality, demanding, very smart, obsessed with winning and winning big, respected by everybody. You can’t really draw it up much better. And we’re lucky to have him.”

Every move matters 

This offseason — and really the last two — it’s been pretty clear the Eagles are taking more of an interest in the compensatory pick formula, which gives back draft picks to teams that lost more free agents than they signed in the previous offseason. In typical Howie Roseman fashion, he’s worked to get the most out of this system by bringing in players who were cuts or players who were traded and therefore won’t count against the Eagles’ compensatory pick formula. 

The reason for this is simple. It has a lot to do with Wentz. 

In recent years, the Eagles have been signing more expensive and older veterans to fill out the roster. Now, their strategy has simultaneously shifted to finding younger and inexpensive players to supplement a roster built around Wentz and his eventual payday. 

It’s fascinating to realize everything the Eagles have been doing revolves around one player. 

The Eagles have been stockpiling draft picks. They’re just going to play a numbers game in late April for at least the next two years. 

“We’re trying to plan by getting more young players into our system,” Roseman said. “We haven’t had that opportunity that last couple of years because of the decisions we’ve made. Again, happy about those decisions, but again, the ramifications of those and not having those picks is that we have to make sure that going forward, we have more picks and we have more shots because we’re not going to hit on every draft pick.”

When asked about compensatory picks, Roseman offered his reasoning about Wentz and how the eventual contract is central to their thinking. Just a month ago, Roseman seemed more hesitant to talk about an eventual extension with Wentz. On Tuesday, he explained balancing Wentz’s contract while building a successful and cost-effective roster around him. It’s not an easy task and it has hurt other teams in the past; the Colts infamously had trouble building a team around Andrew Luck’s big salary for years. 

But if you have a top quarterback, it’s incumbent that you pay him and then have a plan for how to fill in the roster. We’ll see if the Eagles’ plan works, but they at least 100 percent have one. 

The long game 

It was around this time three years ago that the Eagles had their sights on a bold play to move up to No. 2 in the draft for Wentz, the player they determined had all the traits necessary to become the next franchise quarterback in Philadelphia. Eventually, they pulled the trigger and got their guy. 

At that point, the Eagles hoped they found their franchise quarterback, but that wasn’t when they began to plan for this upcoming contract. 

“It definitely doesn’t start the day you draft him, but that’s making me think that maybe it should have,” Roseman said with a chuckle on Monday afternoon. 

“I think that once you see the kind of impact that he had on the field, the kind of player he is, the work ethic that he has, you start planning out how you’re going to build a team around a highly-paid player at that position. That’s something that we’ve been talking about really for the last two years.” 

Since Wentz is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract (the Eagles will clearly exercise a fifth-year option if they don’t reach a new deal), he’ll have a cap hit of $8.4 million in 2019. There’s some conventional wisdom saying not to pay Wentz just yet. Squeeze one more cheap labor year out of the franchise quarterback’s first contract. 

Maybe it would even behoove both sides to wait one more year. The Eagles might want to make sure Wentz can stay healthy and Wentz might want to prove it himself to cash in with a bigger payday. 

“But I think most organizations plan for the moment when you’re going to be spending top dollar for a quarterback,” Lurie said. “It’s part of the blueprint. You don’t want to not get Peyton Manning, Tom Brady … it’s what you hope happens.”

He’s the guy 

The highest-paid quarterback in the league right now is Aaron Rodgers, who has an annual average salary of $33.5 million. Since Rodgers signed that deal in August, the salary cap rose over $11 million per team and that trend isn’t going to stop for the NFL ratings machine. 

Expect Wentz’s next contract to pay out over $30 million per season. To put that into perspective, the highest cap hit on the team right now is Alshon Jeffery at $14.725 million. Even in the first year of his contract, Rodgers’ cap hit was over $20 million and it will rise to $37 million by 2022. That’s a lot of money but these figures aren’t going to creep up on Roseman and the Eagles. 

Despite the inevitability of his next contract, the Eagles have never wavered in their support of Wentz. Even when Nick Foles led the Eagles to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, they were always going to stay the course. This was always going to be Wentz’s team. 

“We love Carson and we drafted him for that reason — to be our quarterback,” head coach Doug Pederson said. 

With the label of franchise quarterback comes the price tag to match. It won’t be long until Wentz is making major bucks. 

At least the Eagles will be ready. 

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Eagles storylines at 2019 NFL owners meetings

Eagles storylines at 2019 NFL owners meetings

PHOENIX — Free agency has finally cooled down but it’s still gonna be hot in Arizona this week … like high-80s hot. 

It’s time for the NFL’s annual league meetings at the luxurious Arizona Biltmore. It’ll be our first chance to talk to the Eagles’ decision-makers since the new league year and it’ll be one of our last chances to talk to them before April’s draft. 

Here are some of the biggest Eagles storylines for the week ahead: 

Dust settles on moves 
The Eagles didn’t make a ton of huge splashes in free agency, but they were active. They brought in Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry, Andrew Sendejo and L.J. Fort. They brought back Ronald Darby and Jason Peters. They traded Michael Bennett. They re-signed Brandon Graham and extended Isaac Seumalo and Jason Kelce. Plenty to talk about and this is our first chance to find out why the Eagles made these moves. 

Hints at draft  
Do any of those moves change the Eagles’ philosophy in the draft? They shouldn’t. But with the draft about a month away, there might be some hints about where the Eagles are looking. 

Time with Lurie  
We don’t get to talk to owner Jeff Lurie very often, but this is the one time per year he always speaks with reporters. He watched as the Eagles talked about the new norm, got off to a slow start and then went on a run in 2018. Are you wondering what he thought of all that? Or what does he think about all the moves made by Howie Roseman? 

Hey, Howie!
Speaking of Roseman, I have some questions about philosophy this offseason. As you might have noticed, the Eagles have signed a good number of older players and haven’t really signed many young ones. I don’t think it’s as big a deal as some have made it out to be, but it’s still worth figuring out. 

And, is he ever going to add a running back? 

Time with Doug 
We also get our hour-long breakfast with Doug Pederson. The top question on my mind for the head coach surrounds his offense. After adding Jackson, the Eagles have a talented trio of receivers and a pair of really good tight ends. As far as problems go, this is a good one to have. But it’s up to the play-caller to get everyone involved. 

New rules
As always, the annual league meetings are a chance for the NFL to vote on new rules for the following season. Many of the rule proposals this season deal with replay, including the two submitted by the Eagles. 

One would add review of player safety-related fouls as subject to coaches’ challenge rules. The other would add scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul to the replay system. 

The Eagles did submit a proposal that would force the Cowboys and Lions to play every other Thanksgiving game on the road. But the Eagles withdrew that proposal. 

Kraft services 
Even after his apology (?), Robert Kraft is going to be the big story at this year’s event. He will be in Phoenix and is expected to remain on all his committees. 

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