So, I'm gonna level with you for a minute here.
Electrical engineering = Pretty smart.
General relativity = Pretty f***in' smart.
The Eagles giving up a fourth-round draft pick and swapping third-rounders with the Texans to acquire DeMeco Ryans?
You could read all the articles and takes on this, but the opinions will boil down to this:
I'm going to totally pretend that I'm a renowned expert on Achilles tears and I absolutely wrote this article about NFL players recovering from them. Farthest thing from a slam dunk that Ryans returns to pre-Achilles-shredding form from the beginning of his career.
Like everything in football, though, it's all relative. Mikey Vick isn't as swift as he was when he was 23, but he's still the fastest, most agile quarterback in football, and he's still quicker than most men in a defensive front seven. Defensive coordinators aren't preparing for games saying, "Hey fellas, relax, this Vick guy isn't as fast as he used to be, so no big deal, okay?"
Same goes for Ryans. Speed was never his schtick to begin with, even coming out of college (not that an Achilles tear only impacts a player's running ability. I KNOW GUYS SETTLE DOWN). Even so, Ryans in a merman costume trying to pedal a tandem bicycle on his own around the field is leaps and bounds ahead of what Matthews and Jamar Chaney gave them last year. The Houston Chronicle's Texans writer spent most of the night making sweet, sweet love to Ryans on Twitter if you're interested.
It's a lottery ticket. If he's solid, the Eagles have him through 2015 at $6.5 million a year. If he isn't, not a time of it is guaranteed after this coming year. It's the Ernie Sims and Will Witherspoon trades combined, but a zillion times better - and in terms of player type, he's Mitt Romney's version of Dan Connor, a guy the Eagles were linked to before.
Plus, Big Red's spent every evening the last month or so watching scouting tape of Fletcher Cox alone in his dark bedroom without pants on. With the mike locked up, now he can actually draft him in April.
Before we go, just wanted to let you know that the Eagles showing up on this list is the dumbest thing of all time.
While I took a breather for a few days, Howie Roseman continued to pay his own players large sums of money.
Technically, Evan Mathis wasn’t his player anymore, as he had the chance to visit with the Ravens too (who needed to fill the hole left by Ben Grubbs, who left for the Saints, who needed to fill the hole left by Carl Nicks, who left for the Bucs, who needed to fill the hole left by Jeremy Zuttah, who’s being moved to center to fill the hole left by Jeff Faine, who was released and is now auditioning for the return of Prison Break to television).
Roseman got him back all the same, though, bagging him for 5 years and $25.5 million, $7 million guaranteed. Mathis can make somewhere north of $31 million overall if he hits all the incentives in his deal.
Mathis has shown flashes of brilliance before, but he finally got a chance to start full time last year and was, by all accounts, a boss. One wonders if he can maintain that kind of play for another full season, seeing as he’s never really had to before, but since he hasn’t played a ton over his career, he still has plenty of tread on his tires – perhaps why the team was willing to give the 30-year old a 5 year deal.
The Eagles have all kinds of stability on the offensive line now, and getting Mathis was definitely their best option at guard, rather than signing a replacement-level player and letting him compete with the oft-deactivated Julian Vandervelde for the job. And with the average salary somewhere between $5 and $6 million depending on whether Mathis hits certain escalators, the deal puts him in the upper salary range of guards without paying an embarrassingly disproportionate amount based on actual quality of play (here’s looking at you, Buccaneers guards other than Carl Nicks).
With all of that wonderful stuff being said, the “line stability” argument leans heavily on the way the line played for the second half of last season – not exactly an enormous sample size. (If the Eagles as a team played at the rate they did the last four games of last year, they’d have gone undefeated – ohhhhhmaaaaaannnn!!!)
That’s a risky bit to bet on considering the middle of the line will consist of three guys with one full season or less of starting football under their belt, two of whom are rookies. If any of them regress, fail or get injured, you’re looking at Vandervelde, King Dunlap, or recently-signed Mike Gibson.
Still, even the prospect of offensive line stability is something most teams would love to have. It’s what made the Giants so tough to beat in the mid-to-late 2000’s. If the middle of the line plays as well as it did last season, the Eagles will actually have the best line in football (as opposed to that “best offensive line in the league” that counted on actual production from the Andrews brothers a few years ago). It’s just not as foregone a conclusion as some might think.
Other Eagles things…
· Because of the pending TV contract, conventional wisdom says the salary cap is going to balloon over the next few years. The Eagles aren’t counting on that, hence the multitude of long-term, relatively cap-friendly deals now, and they’ll benefit from it regardless of whether or not the cap goes up significantly – if it doesn’t, they’ve prepared for it, and if it does, they have oodles of extra cap to re-sign guys or pick up free agents. (Of course, the guys currently under contract then will probably also be aware of how able the Eagles are to spend and ask to get re-upped)
· Speaking of extensions, the Shady McCoy extension is still progressing, If/when this gets done, Jeremy Maclin has to be next on the list. His deal runs out after 2013-14. Big year for J-Mac – if he can make a big jump this coming season, as opposed to being the “Not DeSean Jackson” guy, he’ll have all kinds of leverage. If he posts another 60-catch, 850-yard year, though, the Eagles could be more eager to lock him up at a low value the way they did with Jackson.
· The Eagles didn’t sign Dan Connor because…let’s get real here. Now Dallas has him to pair up with fellow Penn State product Sean Lee. With those two between DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, in addition to the signing of very good No. 2 corner Brandon Carr, the Cowboys are a Mike Jenkins rebound season away from having an excellent defense.
Elsewhere in the NFL…
· The Giants signed Martellus Bennett because Eli Manning is a fan of jokes.
· Either Rex Grossman thinks that RGIII will sit on the bench while Grossman “help[s] out that guy get up to top speed,” or he’s willing to accept the backup quarterback job for the Racistnames. Whatever. John Beck knows he’s the best quarterback on the team.
· The Racistnames whiffed on Eddie Royal, which is a shame because they really like mediocre wide receivers. They also got Brandon Meriweather and Cedric Griffin. Cool.
· Not Matt Dodge received a five-year extension for not being Matt Dodge.
And Automatic Dave is gone too. Le sadness.
Quick show of hands – who else got a contract extension from Howie Roseman in the last 48 hours?
Roseman spent most of last year’s 35-second offseason signing guys who’d never played for his team before (or who played for it very briefly before leaving for a year and having a career season so Roseman could sign him the year after for astronomically more money), but he’s singing a different tune this year. Last offseason, he said, “won’t you be my neighbor?” to a half-dozen or so gran nombre free agents; this year, he’s reminding current players that they are STILL his neighbor, damn it.
Yesterday, it was Todd Herremans and Trent Cole receiving extended stays in Philly. Today, it was 2011-12 malcontent DeSean Jackson “earning” some major guaranteed moolah. And word on the street is Roseman and the front office are nearly finished a big-time contract-lengthening agreement for Owen Schmitt.
Er, Shady McCoy.
Provided the McCoy deal pans out, that’s a lot of long-term security for four pretty big pieces. Unless the Eagles guarantee McCoy $20 million a year for life or something, the deal I’m least pleased with is Jackson’s.
Dan Graziano breaks down Jackson’s deal well on ESPN’s NFC East blog, and certainly, there are plenty of advantages to the deal for the Birds. It also means they’re paying Jackson like a top 10 receiver, which he is decidedly not.
Jackson actually caught a career-best 56 percent of passes thrown his way in 2011, up from a dismal 49 percent the year before. That’s still mediocre at best, though, and his percentage would be significantly higher if he didn’t have a chronic case of alligator arms…or if he’d look back at his quarterback once in a while when open.
Look at traditional statistics, and you’ll see Jackson behind such gamebreakers as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Nate Washington in receiving yards last year. You’ll also find him 25th in yards per game, and you’ll also discover Big Brent Celek had one fewer 20+ yard reception than D-Jax this year. Look at more advanced stats, such as Football Outsider’s “Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement” (DYAR) and “Defense-adjusted Value Over Average” (DVOA), and you’ll find he may have played even worse last season than you thought.
Of course, his defenders will point out there’s “no doubting Jackson’s abilities as a playmaker,” as we’ll no doubt hear countless times in the days following this deal, because of the value he brings on special teams. However, Jackson’s return opportunities are likely to be reduced even more now with his new “I’m A Number One Receiver So Use Me Like One” contract, the way they’ve disappeared since his rookie year. And while you can never take the Second Miracle away from him, for every dazzling return Jackson pulls off, he has another where he runs backwards five yards before fumbling the unsecured football. (Call it the Dante Hall effect)
This shouldn’t be perceived as the DeSean Jackson Rip Session. Publically airing his “health” concerns hit a sour note with fans, but it makes sense for a young guy who’s already been concussed twice in four years. He’s supremely gifted and could easily bounce back to the form of his second and third years in the league.
Nevertheless, to live up to the megabucks his extension provides, he has to outperform the job he did in his first four seasons, and he’s done nothing to indicate he can improve off that. Maybe the Eagles wanted to repay him for past success, but this isn’t Derek Jeter we’re talking about here.
He has no excuses now. He has his money and (some semblance of) long-term job/financial security. If he doesn’t step up in the next few years, though, as Graziano said, the Eagles wouldn’t have much issue kicking him to the curb.
Lots of other Eagles moves today:
· The team tendered Antonio Dixon, who’s coming off a torn triceps. If Dixon’s back to full strength, that defensive tackle rotation is going to be the nastiest, even if they don’t bring back Derek Landri.
· The front office decided the difference between the 176th pick in the 2012 draft and the 161st pick was approximately one Winston Justice. He’s gone, and so is his $4 million cap hit (of which they'll actually save about $2.4 million). To commemorate his departure, we’ve compiled a tribute video highlighting his commendable charitable work in the community, as well as the highlights of his recent G20 keynote speech on the undesirable side-effects of austerity measures in Greece.
(Nah, here’s three minutes of Osi Umenyiora lighting him on fire. Dammit)
· The release of Jamaal Jackson is as much a mercy decision as it is a football one. Jackson’s been hurt so often the last few years that by the time he was relatively healthy this season, Jason Kelce had taken his job. Jackson gets a chance to start somewhere else, the Eagles get $2 million in cap relief for the next two seasons, and Kelce can resume antagonizing fans at practice knowing he at least has job security.
· Speaking of antagonizing fans, Kelce’s partner-in-antagonizing, Evan Mathis, hasn’t signed anywhere yet, but Carl Nicks is off the market, meaning the guard stockpile is down to Mathis, Ben Grubbs, the decaying Steve Hutchinson and a bunch of schmucks. And if the Redskins get Mathis I swear to the heavens I don’t even man just no damn it no.
· Staying on the subject of schmuck guards, the Eagles picked up one, too. Luckily, the Eagles’ official mouthpiece says acquiring said schmuck is not a reflection on their thoughts towards Mathis, so we can relax knowing the Eagles would never, ever acquire a guy as an eff-you to a player griping about his contract/potential departing player at the same position.
Elsewhere in the NFL…
· Too many Eagles things happened, so I don’t care.
· Oh hell, let’s laugh at the Racistnames some more. Dan Snyder knows he needs to have some good players to start with for the whole “use free agency to plug up holes” thing to work, right?
It would be the easiest thing in the world to make a bunch of Bruce Springsteen references about today’s Eagles news, seeing as the team “took care of their own” much like Bruce boasts about how “we take care of our own” in his new hit song. It would just turn into 600 “Born to Run” references, though, so we’ll save it for when it comes time for Shady McCoy’s big bonus.
In the meantime, at least we know the most versatile offensive lineman and their best defensive player are going to be around for a while longer.
Todd Herremans – Three more years, up to $21 million more
Trent Cole – 27 more years, at least $655 trillion more*
*-Cole’s extension is not official yet, so I plugged in what I believe are reasonable estimates.
Herremans is 29 and will be 34 when his deal runs out, right around the upper boundary of time the Reid-Banner-Lurie Eagles like to bid their players farewell. (Jon Runayn was 35 when the team let his deal expire without an extension; Tra Thomas was 34). Cole will be 56 when my projected extension ends, but presuming the Eagles sign him to a similar extension to Herramans, he will also be 34 at the end of his deal.
Herramans can play basically any spot on the line but center and play it well. He’s not an elite lineman, but he’s definitely upper-echelon, and he’ll be paid like it. The team doesn’t need to plug in a superstar at every spot.
All Cole does is get sacks on sacks on sacks.
With Cole and Jason Babin, who helped the Eagles to a tie with the Minnesota Calf-Ropers for most sacks in 2011-12, now both likely locked up past 2015 (not to mention the oh-so-studly Cullen Jenkins through ’14), the Adam Schefter and Jaws-fueled rumor putting the Eagles in pursuit of Mario Williams is…confusing.
For the Eagles to do that, they would have to:
· Trade Asante for a bag of peanuts to get rid of his $8.5 million cap hit
· Cut Darryl Tap and his $2.5 million hit
· Essentially give up on Brandon Graham after two injury-plagued seasons (it took them three to quit on Jerome McDougle, and they only did because they discovered he had an IQ of 48)
· Make Pro Bowl Dude Babin a bench/situational player – which you just can’t do, no matter how badly you think he plays the run.
· Give up on signing pretty much anyone else, like Mathis, a safety, or a linebacker like Dan Connor…oh wait.
Speaking of Connor, Pete Prisco is pretty sure Mr. Sort Of A Local Legend is coming home to Philly. Connor received playing time in Carolina last year because of the Jon Beason injury , and didn’t totally suck. In fact, he proved damn near proficient at stopping the run, which is all the Eagles care about, since they can pull him in nickel and dime packages and leave Jamar Chaney and/or Brian Rolle out in passing situations.
He won’t cost as much as Tulloch, Hawthorne, Lofton or Fletcher (mostly because he isn’t as good), but he’ll represent an upgrade, if not a substantial one. Plus, when he loses his job to Keenan Clayton or Greg Lloyd, he’ll know exactly where to locate the bench when told to occupy it.
Lastly, if the Eagles aren’t going to sign Evan Mathis, they’re definitely not going to get Carl Nicks. That is all.
Elsewhere in the NFL…
· Since the Racistnames coughed up the Herschel Walker Special to get RGIII, the least they could do is surround him with overpaid, mediocre weapons.
· Like Iggles Blitz writer Sam Lynch, I was worried the Racistnames had wrecked the market for wide receivers in a Davis-ian way. Then Marques Colston signed for less money than Pierre Garcon did, and now I’m just lost.
· Guys, don’t forget the Giants won the Super Bowl last year without their best defensive back.
· Peyton – “I’m gonna need about a week to figure out where to play.” Reggie – “Too long!”
· So, for real, the Bucs offense might be really good next year.
· I have absolutely no idea what the Dolphins are doing.
Here we go.
Hey guys, it’s Kaz here.
I’ll write about me later. A lot. Like, it’s going to be a memoir from here on out. You’re going to be so sick of me.
For now, though, football. And the Iggles. Happy Free Agency Eve, everyone.
The Birds enter free agency with their usual bazillion bucks (read: $9.8 million) in cap space, and there are opportunities to shave more. Sure, there’s Asante Samuel’s $8.5 million, but there are far more egregious offenders when you factor in production. (If you ever forget why DeSean Jackson spent the year listening to Linkin Park, just remember that Darryl Tapp made more than four times as much as him in 11-12)
Here’s a list of things the Eagles will not be doing with that money, no matter what you say or hear (in declining level of stupidity):
1. Signing a linebacker. After you get through reading articles like this, and this, and this, go back here and scroll through all the names under the “Linebacker” column. There there…it’s okay to cry. Go ahead. Let it allllll out. We good? Good. This is good practice for when Greg Lloyd is our starting middle linebacker come week 6 next year.
2. Getting a different quarterback. Come….on. Remember this? Whether or not Mikey Vick is going to see most of that big money himself, the Eagles sure aren’t, and they’re guaranteed not to see $40 of it anymore. He’s going nowhere.
3. Signing another receiver. Even though the Birds have proven themselves fairly adept at absolutely tanking the value of their players before trading them in the past, they won’t do it again with Jackson. His 2011-12 numbers weren’t far off from his career averages. He’s going to play out his tag year and play hard, now that he knows crying like a punk b***h won’t work.
With Jackson, Maclin and Avant, where in the world do you plan on putting Plax Burress? He’s not playing in the slot, and you can’t move Maclin there full time. Plax becomes a situational guy, and at that point, you may as well settle up with Vince Young’s best friend.
Here’s what they will do:
A. Re-sign Evan Mathis. Despite the fact that Grantland analytics guy Bill Barnwell doesn’t appear to know who he is, a lot of other people seem to have figured out that Mathis is a boss. He’s quick, he’s smart and he’s humble, not to mention he’s the team’s Twitter MVP. There’s no way even Brent Celek is filling in that kind of social media production. The Eagles line was actually really freaking good last year once they developed stability, and with everyone else on the line signed through at least 2013-14, they can’t afford to lose him.
B. Picking up a safety who isn’t LaRon Landry. Landry is exactly what the Eagles need. He’s in the prime of his career, he’s great in run support, he’s improved in pass coverage, and he has more pedigree than the Birds’ current group of safeties combined. He was also immensely overpaid in Washington and probably isn’t interested in taking a pay cut. And there’s that other thing where he’s totally ignoring everything doctors are telling him about his Achilles injury and refusing to get surgery.
The Eagles took a risk on essentially crippled Marlin Jackson a few years back because he was cheap, so when it turned out he was essentially crippled, it cost them little. LaRon Landry will cost them a few Jeffery Lurie yachts even if he stayed true to that bogus “I’ll sign a one-year deal in the prime of my career to prove I’m healthy” line. Instead, get ready for a big-time Mike Adams, O.J. Atogwe or Melvin Bulitt signing, because SOMEONE has to be around to get benched for Kurt Coleman midway through the year.
Also, here is your obligatory picture of LaRon Landry’s upper body. Nearly forgot.
C. Finally getting Albert Haynesworth. To play fullback, of course.
Elsewhere in the NFL:
· Back in 2010, the NFL told all its teams they were allowed to eat as many or as few cookies as they wanted to. The Redskins and Cowboys ate a ton of cookies. Today, the NFL punished them for eating too many cookies.
· LOLB #51 thinks RGIII is going to be good at football. So there’s that.
· Pretty-good running back Mike Tolbert thinks he would be a good replacement for Big Fat Brandon Jacobs on the Giants.
· The 49ers signed Randy Moss, giving them another big wide receiver for Alex Smith to not throw the ball to.
· Since the Colts are all done cutting their good players, their mediocre ones are now leaving.