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Are Eagles barreling toward contract dispute with Jay Ajayi?

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Are Eagles barreling toward contract dispute with Jay Ajayi?

After sharing the backfield last season, Jay Ajayi appears to be in line for a bigger role with the Eagles in 2018. Will he demand a contract commensurate with his status as the primary ball-carrier?

There were a lot of stories floating around when the Eagles acquired Ajayi from the Dolphins for a fourth-round draft pick in October. Yet rumors about a selfish athlete who would demand more touches never externalized after the trade, as the Pro Bowl running back worked seamlessly with LeGarrette Blount.

Team culture and locker room chemistry, as one Miami Herald report put it, proved to be non-issues. Now that Ajayi spent 14 incident-free weeks with the Eagles, the story has been altered slightly.

“But to say a clash of personalities was the only reason the Dolphins dealt Ajayi would be wrong,” Adam H. Beasley of the Herald wrote.

“Ajayi, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, was not shy about telling the Dolphins he wanted a contract extension.”

The timing of Beasley’s report — the morning after the Eagles won the Super Bowl — lends the appearance of damage control. Per NFL rules, Ajayi isn’t even eligible to sign an extension until March 2018, so any conversations about a new deal were likely preliminary in nature.

But just because Ajayi was a good soldier in his relatively short time with the Eagles doesn’t mean money can’t come between them. He’s set to earn only $705,000 next season as the team’s No. 1 back, having averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 10 games, including playoffs. Blount, by the way, is a free agent.

The trouble is paying Ajayi might be easier said than done. The Eagles have a lot of maneuvering ahead with the salary cap this offseason, and based on current projections, they’re actually over the spending limit at the moment.

The cap space dilemma should buy the Eagles some time — at least a few months. But if the organization isn’t making progress on a new deal with Ajayi by this summer, it’s fair to wonder what the consequences of that might be.

RUNNING BACKS BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of September 2018

Jay Ajayi
Age: 25
2018 Cap Hit: $705,000

The other issue here is Ajayi’s health. Some around the NFL feel his right knee is a ticking time bomb, which led to his falling to the fifth round of the 2015 draft and obviously was a factor in the trade. Ajayi possesses amazing short-field burst but visibly labors at the end of long runs. The Eagles may need to placate him financially but should be cautious about the structure of an extension.

Donnel Pumphrey
Age: 23
2018 Cap Hit: $699,000

If we’ve learned anything from guys like Nick Foles, Nelson Agholor and Brandon Graham, maybe don’t write players off after one or two seasons. Or, in Pumphrey’s case, one preseason. A fourth-round pick, Pumphrey looked like a massive disappointment before landing on injured reserve. It was a much-needed redshirt year for the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader. He’ll get a shot to earn a roster spot as the third back and return specialist.

Wendell Smallwood
Age: 24
2018 Cap Hit: $691,000

At this point, Smallwood probably needs a change of scenery. He runs hard but wasn’t able to stay healthy his first two seasons in the league, and his opportunity with the Eagles has probably passed. With a clear depth chart already forming, a trade would be beneficial for Smallwood.

Corey Clement
Age: 23
2018 Cap Hit: $558k

Another reason the Eagles would hesitate to pay Ajayi: He may not even be the most talented back on the roster. Clement carved out a role as the offense’s change of pace in the playoffs, recording 10 receptions for 139 yards with a 55-yard catch in the Super Bowl and a 22-yard receiving TD. He finished with 616 yards from scrimmage as an undrafted rookie, including 172 in the postseason. All appearances are Clement can be a starter in this league.

Darren Sproles
Age: 35
Free Agent

Sproles reportedly wants to return for his 14th NFL season, and until recently the Eagles were probably very interested. Since Clement emerged as a viable receiver out of the backfield, maybe less so. Money is a factor as well. Sproles was lost for the season to a torn ACL and broken forearm in September.

LeGarrette Blount
Age: 31
Free agent

Prior to his stellar performance in the Super Bowl, Blount was showing signs of slowing down. Over the Eagles’ final eight games, including playoffs, he averaged 3.7 yards per carry — 2.9 if you subtract the Super Bowl. Blount is a volume back, and his touches diminished after the trade for Ajayi as well, but the late-season dip in performance is part of a larger trend for this particular aging back.

Kenjon Barner
Age: 28
Free agent

Re-signed after the injury to Sproles, Barner was primarily used as a specialist, lining up for only one offensive snap in the playoffs. Aside from earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors in his first game back, he was not an especially dangerous or reliable return man, either.

Previously: Quarterbacks

Mets pitcher records first MLB hit off Kingery, jokes on social media

Mets pitcher records first MLB hit off Kingery, jokes on social media

When someone gets a bloop single or a broken bat hit, they’ll often say “it looks like a line drive in the box score.” Does the same apply when your first major league hit came off Scott Kingery lobbing pitches over the plate?

Yesterday, in the midst of the Mets' 20-run victory, the Phillies used position players to record the final nine outs of the game. Roman Quinn pitched first and regularly registered in the upper 70s with his offerings, but Kingery on the other hand …

In the eighth inning, Mets reliever Jerry Blevins was called on to hit for just the fourth time in his 12-year MLB career and he delivered with an RBI single off the soft-tossing rookie infielder. 

After the game, Blevins took to social media to make a joke about his first hit.

Mets fans had some fun with the moment, too.

While Dodgers fans, just didn’t get it.

The Phillies went on to win the second game of the twin bill, aided by a solo home run from Kingery. The Phils also gained a half-game on the Atlanta Braves in the standings, so we can have a laugh at this one.

Congratulations, Jerry, it’s a line drive off Kershaw in the box score.

More on the Phillies

Eagles fan has plane with Super Bowl LII banner fly around Gillette Stadium

Eagles fan has plane with Super Bowl LII banner fly around Gillette Stadium

FOXBORO, Mass. — Eagles fans are still enjoying the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. So they’re going to gloat a little bit.

Especially against the team they beat.

Since the Eagles are facing the Patriots in Thursday night's preseason game, it seemed like a good time for one fan to rub it in a little bit. So he hired a plane and told it to fly around Gillette Stadium for an hour in advance of the game, as you can see in the video above.

The banner, of course, features the final score from Super Bowl LII: 41-33. The Eagles had their own fun with the score earlier in the day (see story).

For years, opposing fans would tell Eagles fans to let them know when their team finally won a Super Bowl. Now that the Eagles have actually done it, fans have let everyone know. Repeatedly.

Don’t expect Eagles fan to become quiet about it any time soon.

More on the Eagles