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Tight end will be a big need for Eagles this offseason

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USA Today Images

Tight end will be a big need for Eagles this offseason

The brilliant play of Zach Ertz aside, expect the Eagles to be on the lookout for tight ends this offseason.

In fact, tight end just may be the most pressing need on the roster for 2018. Trey Burton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and based on current projections, the Eagles are already over the salary cap. Brent Celek has given no clear indication one way or the other as to whether he intends to return for his 12th NFL season.

Ertz is probably one of the top two or three tight ends in the league these days, but he can’t go it alone. His blocking could use work. He’s good for missing a game or two due to injury. The Eagles like to use multiple tight ends.

A hole is opening on the depth chart, and even if Celek returns, the Eagles can’t afford to wait to begin filling it.

The assumption is Burton will depart. Even if the Eagles unearth some money, the team has more immediate priorities than the No. 3 tight end. And Burton is going to get paid. He’s a weapon in the passing attack, with 60 receptions for 575 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons, and outstanding on special teams as well.

As for Celek, he artfully dodged questions about potentially retiring all season long, but never denied it was on his mind. He also has one year remaining on his contract, which carries a cap hit of $5 million. The Eagles can’t be certain of his status for 2018, let alone beyond.

The Eagles wouldn’t exactly be deficient at tight end, thanks to Ertz – but they’ll still need people to fill those other roles.

There is one intriguing prospect in the pipeline in Billy Brown. Undrafted out of Shepherd University, Brown spent his entire rookie season on the Eagles practice squad after turning heads in training camp. Listed at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds with 4.7 speed, he certainly looks the part of an NFL tight end.

Brown could very well be in line to earn a roster spot in ’18 after signing a futures contract last week, but the Eagles shouldn’t necessarily count on it. Regardless, that would only fill one of two eventual openings.

Replacing players of the caliber of Celek and Burton won’t be easy, but for the Eagles, that task is as pressing as it is inevitable.

TIGHT ENDS BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Zach Ertz
Age: 27
2018 Cap Hit: $10.595 million

It finally happened. This was the “breakthrough” season everybody was waiting for from Ertz. Well, sort of. The Pro Bowl was a first, and eight touchdowns a new personal best, but he actually bested his 74 receptions and 824 yards receiving in previous seasons. Ertz tacked on 18 catches, 192 yards and the game-winning score in the Super Bowl during the Eagles’ magical postseason run. The only debate now is how many tight ends are better than Ertz? Can’t be more than one or two.

Brent Celek
Age: 33
2018 Cap Hit: $5 million

The Eagles approached Celek about taking a pay cut last offseason, and could do so again in ’18 if he intends to play. His outright release would save $4 million, though it’s difficult to imagine the organization treating Celek that way. If he comes back, you have to think they’ll find a way to make the cap hit slightly more palatable.

Trey Burton
Age: 26
Free Agent

Destined to be a free-agent commodity from the start, Burton earned a bigger payday with his performance against the Rams in Week 14. Filling in for Ertz, Burton racked up career highs with 71 yards receiving and two touchdowns. His career totals are nothing exceptional, but few No. 3 tight ends have large roles. Plus, his versatility is unparalleled at his position. Burton has taken carries, been a lead blocker, plays special teams and just threw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. He’s going to make a lot of money on the open market.

A first look at the old Vet Stadium Liberty Bell now outside of Citizens Bank Park

A first look at the old Vet Stadium Liberty Bell now outside of Citizens Bank Park

It was 15 years ago today that Veterans Stadium went crumbling to the ground. But a piece of Vet Stadium history has risen from the ashes for a second life at Citizens Bank Park.

The giant 19-foot Liberty Bell that stood high atop Vet Stadium has been refurbished from storage and placed near the Pattison Avenue and 11th street entrance of the ballpark, next to the new Pass and Stow area that will feature a beer garden and some great new food options. The Pass and Stow name is in homage to John Pass and John Stow who re-cast the original Liberty Bell in 1753. Their names can be found on the original, slightly more famous bell with a crack in it across from Independence Hall.

With opening day just a week away, fans passing the ballpark on Thursday got their first glimpse of the bell’s new placement. The bell was installed today.

It’s hard to miss and will surely make a nice new photo opportunity for Phillies fans and out-of-towners looking to capture a memory.

The bell you see today was actually the "second and final bell that was displayed at Veterans Stadium," according to the Phillies. It was installed on the Vet's catwalk prior to the 1983 season and remained there before being removed prior to the Vet's implosion in 2004. It is made of steel and aluminum, weighs more than 5,000 pounds and contains over 300 light bulbs.

The new (old) bell outside the ballpark will make a nice complement to the bell inside the park that lights up and rings whenever a Phillies player hits a home run. In a nice twist, this season the Phillies' team Twitter hashtag will be #RingTheBell. Brett Brown likely approves.

As you can see from the short video of the bell above, the weather in South Philly today was wet and dreary. The forecast for opening day next Thursday when the Phils host the Atlanta Braves is much better, with no rain currently in the forecast and highs in the upper-50s. Not exactly hittin’ weather, but not bad for the first day of baseball either.

We can't wait.

*

Here's a look at the Vet going down 15 years ago today. Miss that dirty old place.

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Joel Embiid hangs with Steph Curry, talks about being 'tired of The Process' nickname

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Unanimous Media

Joel Embiid hangs with Steph Curry, talks about being 'tired of The Process' nickname

Joel Embiid was kind enough to grace Steph Curry with at least five minutes of his time when the Sixers traveled out to the Bay Area for their game against the Golden State Warriors back in January.

Joel joined Steph on his series called "5 Minutes From Home" in which the duo sit in the back seat of a car and chat on the way to Mrs. Curry's restaurant. Curiously, the clip lasts over 8 minutes.

Somehow, the two of them didn't mention their sneakers.

There's not a ton of new ground covered in their chat -- Joel talks about his journey onto the basketball court again -- but they do discuss Embiid's desire for a new nickname.

"The Process is never gonna be over. You gotta win a championship. When you win a championship, it starts over."

"I do like [the Process nickname]. Mainly because of the history of how we got here. That's why I like it. I'm actually thinking about creating something else. I'm tired of 'The Process.'"

Any suggestions, Sixers fans?

Embiid and Curry finish their trip with a meal at Steph's wife's restaurant.

The waitress jokes that the burrata appetizer they eat will be the key to the players dropping 50 points in the game the following night.

Almost. Steph went off for 41 but the Sixers got the win.