Patrick Robinson

How Eagles are replacing key players lost from Super Bowl roster

How Eagles are replacing key players lost from Super Bowl roster

One of the biggest challenges for a Super Bowl champion is keeping the team together.

Guys who had a big role in a championship invariably want more money, and Super Bowl champions — like the 2017 Eagles — invariably find themselves in cap trouble. So you just can’t keep everybody. 

The 2018 Eagles have nine of 11 starters back on offense and eight of 11 on defense from the Super Bowl.

That’s pretty good. Returning 17 of 22 starters off a Super Bowl roster isn’t easy to do, but it’s a credit to Howie Roseman and a good bit of salary cap manipulation and roster management that the Eagles are in this position.

Still, there were some significant losses, and the ability of the new guys to adequately replace those who left is going to go a long way toward determining whether the Eagles can make another deep playoff run.

With opening day just 10 days away, let’s take a look at how the Eagles are doing at replacing the key players they’ve lost.

LeGarrette Blount
Blount led the Eagles with 766 rushing yards last year and had a huge Super Bowl, with 90 yards and a TD on 14 carries.

But he’s 31 now and because he’s not much of a receiver, he’s not a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offense. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that after Week 6, Blount averaged just 3.65 yards per carry the rest of the regular season.

With Darren Sproles back healthy, Jay Ajayi here for a full offseason and Corey Clement primed for a bigger role, the Eagles are in terrific shape to move on without Blount, who's now with the Lions.

Rookie Josh Adams, who has continued to impress the Eagles this preseason, may have the inside track for the fourth RB spot and could provide the same sort of tough inside power running that Blount gave the Eagles.

Patrick Robinson
Sidney Jones is the likely heir apparent to Robinson, who played so well last year after moving to slot corner and signed a huge deal with the Saints.

Jones has been battling rookie Avonte Maddox for the slot job and while both are promising young corners, neither is Robinson.

In a division loaded with talented wide receivers, this is definitely an area of concern for the Eagles. No doubt teams will test whoever the Eagles have in the slot until he proves he can handle the job.

Beau Allen
Allen wasn’t the flashiest player, but he was a solid defensive tackle, and that’s an area of some concern this summer, especially with Tim Jernigan’s status up in the air.

Allen, now with the Bucs, actually played 40 and 41 percent of the Eagles’ snaps as a rotational lineman the past two years.

The Eagles have Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls back, but neither has been as consistent as Allen. Undrafted rookie Bruce Hector has shown flashes and could make the 53-man roster.

Right now, Vaeao is probably the best of the bunch, but this is still an area of major concern and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles picked up an interior lineman on the waiver wire.

Vinny Curry
The Eagles are in great shape to move on from Curry, who was never able to build on his outstanding 2014 season when he had nine sacks and is also now in Tampa.

With Brandon Graham and Chris Long back, Michael Bennett now in the mix and Derek Barnett ready to take on a bigger role, the Eagles have plenty of outside pass rushers.

Beyond them, rookie Josh Sweat has flashed this summer, and veteran Steven Means is capable, even though he rarely plays.

A deep and talented group of pass rushers.

Trey Burton
Burton got a huge contract from the Bears that the Eagles couldn’t even think about matching, but by drafting Dallas Goedert, they instantly upgraded the No. 2 tight end spot.

Burton had a key role in the greatest play in Super Bowl history, but Goedert will not only surpass Burton’s receiving numbers (60 for 575, 6) over the last two years, he’s a stronger blocker and gives the Eagles more flexibility.

Brent Celek
Richard Rodgers is banged up right now, but he was having a good preseason before he got hurt and should be able to give the Eagles everything Celek provided as a third tight end the last few years of his career.

Najee Goode
Goode, now with the Colts, had the third-most special teams snaps last year (294) and played 19 percent of the snaps on defense.

He’s a significant loss on special teams, but I’d expect LaRoy Reynolds to make the 53 and do a lot of the same things Goode did as a reserve linebacker and key special teamer.

Donnie Jones
A huge concern here, although rookie Cameron Johnston has punted better in the preseason games than at practice. Jones is simply one of the greatest punters in NFL history, and his ability to pin teams deep was a huge weapon down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Johnston has averaged 45.2 yards per punt in the preseason with no touchbacks and six inside the 20, so that’s encouraging.

Torrey Smith
Smith had a very good 2017 postseason, but he only had three games the entire regular season over 30 yards, and the Eagles believe Mike Wallace can deliver more consistency and production.

Wallace has been quiet this preseason — one catch for three yards — but looking at their careers, Wallace has been a better receiver than Smith.

But he’s also three years older than Smith, now with the Panthers. The Eagles need Wallace to produce, especially with Alshon Jeffery not expected to be ready for the opener.

Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles will miss the playmaking and athleticism they got from Kendricks, now with the Browns.

Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill will likely take turns at weak-side linebacker situationally, and while both have played OK this summer, neither has ever started a meaningful NFL game.

It's definitely an area of concern until Gerry or Grugier-Hill prove they can handle a significant workload on defense.

More on the Eagles

No team has built a CB group quite like Eagles

No team has built a CB group quite like Eagles

For generations, the Eagles couldn't find one promising young cornerback. Now they have a whole stable of them.

And in the NFL, young means cheap.

The Eagles were able to allow 30-year-old Patrick Robinson to leave via free agency after an extraordinary season for five reasons: Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley.

To win consistently in the NFL, teams have to draft well because having a significant number of talented players on bargain-basement rookie contracts is the only realistic way for a contending team to stay under the salary cap.

The younger players essentially subsidize the high-priced stars.

And the Eagles' five young corners — Jones is 21, Douglas is 22, Worley and Mills are 23 and Darby just turned 24 — are all talented but most importantly, they're all still on their rookie contracts.

Jones, Douglas, Worley, Mills and Darby have a combined 2018 salary cap figure of $4,529,400.

Or less than Robinson's $5 million signing bonus with the Saints.

The Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas in the second and third rounds last year and Mills in the seventh round in 2016. Darby, who came to the Eagles last summer in the Jordan Matthews deal, was the Bills' second-round pick in 2015, and Worley, who the Eagles acquired last week from the Panthers in the Torrey Smith deal, was Carolina's third-round pick in 2016.

Here are the 2018 cap figures for the Eagles' five young corners:

$1,395,475 — Sidney Jones
$1,058,139 — Ronald Darby
$   756,572 — Rasul Douglas
$   670,000 — Daryl Worley
$   649,214 — Jalen Mills

Jones is the Eagles' highest-paid corner but only their 28th highest-paid player.

Darby's deal is up after this year. The Eagles have Mills and Worley under contract through 2019 and Jones and Douglas through 2020.

So they can stay cheap at corner for years.

According to Overthecap.com, the Eagles have the sixth-highest defensive payroll in the NFL but the third-lowest cornerback payroll, ahead of only the Packers and Colts.

The Eagles are devoting just 3.03 percent of their adjusted $177,714,409 salary cap to cornerbacks, per Spotrac.

Only the Colts (2.96 percent) are devoting a lower percentage of their 2018 cap to cornerbacks.

So the Eagles basically have young, cheap cornerbacks to offset the massive contracts they gave players like Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Brooks, and Zach Ertz.

The Eagles actually have 11 players under contract who, by themselves, have a higher 2018 cap figure than all the Eagles' cornerbacks combined.

None of this works if the young corners can't play. But Mills had a breakthrough season for the Super Bowl champs, Darby proved to be a speedy playmaker (although a bit inconsistent) when healthy, Douglas was solid while Darby was hurt and Jones could be the best of all.

Worley is the new guy and said Monday he can play anywhere — inside, outside, safety — and that's the key. All these corners are versatile, which gives Jim Schwartz (and Howie Roseman) a lot of flexibility.

How will they all line up next year? Too early to say, but it's easy to envision a scenario where Darby and Jones are outside, Mills is in the slot, Worley is the backup to all three spots and Douglas converts to safety, where the Eagles have little depth.

Or the Eagles could dangle Darby — whose contract is up after 2018 — and try to recoup a missing third-round pick.

And get even younger and cheaper.

Eagles lose Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen in free agency

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USA Today Images

Eagles lose Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen in free agency

Patrick Robinson was so bad during training camp last summer, there were plenty of people who thought he wasn’t even going to make it to the season. 

Then he became a huge part of the Eagles’ winning Super Bowl LII. 

And now he’s heading back to where his up-and-down career began. 

Robinson has agreed to terms of a four-year contract with the Saints, who drafted him in the first round of the 2010 draft, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Wednesday.

Rapoport also said the Eagles were close to a new contract with Robinson on Monday, but it never got hammered out. Earlier in the week, Rapoport said he expected the Eagles to get a deal done with the corner. 

Robinson, 30, came to the Eagles on a one-year prove-it deal and eventually, he proved that his career was far from over. At times during the 2017 season, he was the Eagles’ best cornerback. And his pick-six in the NFC Championship Game was one of the most important plays of the season. 

The big turning point during Robinson’s time with the Eagles came when the team traded for Ronald Darby. That move forced Robinson into the slot corner role and he shined. He tied a career-high with four interceptions in 2017. 

Earlier Wednesday, the Eagles brought back linebacker Nigel Bradham on a five-year deal, so it likely made it tougher to also re-sign Robinson. 

The good news for the Eagles is they have a stable of young cornerbacks they should feel confident in. Robinson’s moving on will mean more youth at the position that includes Jalen Mills, Darby, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. 

Robinson is heading to New Orleans and defensive tackle Beau Allen is signing a deal with Tampa Bay, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud.

Allen said his farewells to Philadelphia on Wednesday after the Eagles agreed to a contract with former All-Pro Haloti Ngata (see story)