Eagles Wake-Up Call: Lane Johnson Hoping To Avoid Holdout

Less than two weeks before training camp, and Lane Johnson — the No. 4 overall pick and projected starting right tackle — is still without a contract.

That does not make him particularly unique.  According to NFL.com, 20 of the 32 first-round picks from April’s draft remain unsigned. Two of the top-five picks — Luke Joeckel and Ziggy Ansah — have put pen to paper, while Johnson, No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher and Dion Jordan are without deals.

The holdup in Johnson’s case is largely about offset language. What is offset language? PFT explains:

The contracts at the top of the draft are fully guaranteed.  In the unlikely event that the player is cut before the end of the contract and pass through waivers unclaimed, the players hope to keep the full value of the contract plus whatever they get as free agents elsewhere.  The teams want credit for whatever the player earns from a new team for the balance of the four-year deal.

The Eagles want offset language in the contract, the Johnson camp does not. Hence, no agreement yet. Ansah, the pick after Johnson, was reportedly able to exclude offset language. Same for Joeckel, the second pick in the draft.

“I’m just trying to get a similar deal to everyone else,” said Johnson in a phone conversation with Birds 24/7 Tuesday. “I just want to do what everyone else has done, the picks above and below me.”

The Dolphins are said to be insistent on including offset language in Jordan’s contract. Both the Eagles and Johnson seem to be waiting for the market to set further before moving from their respective positions.

So just how long could this drag on?

“I think it will be resolved, especially in the next week or two,” said Johnson. “I don’t want to hold out. I want to be there with the guys. I want to be with the team and I think something will happen in the next week or so.”

Evan Mathis invited Johnson  to work out with him in Arizona in between minicamp and training camp, and the rookie out of Oklahoma took him up on his offer. Johnson says that all of the vets on the line have been good to him like that.

The 6-6 Texas native played at 305 last season. The Eagles want him at 310, he said, and that’s about where he’s at right now.

Johnson is aiming to be the starting right tackle for Week 1 against the Redskins, and is generally pleased with his progress to this point.

“It’s going really well. I picked up the offense pretty quickly,” he said. “There are similarities to Oklahoma — it’s the same stuff, just different terminology. At minicamp and (OTAs) you could tell how much I was progressing. I think I’m happy where I’m at. Going through training camp, I hope to just get better and better every week.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Which Eagles vets are on the bubble?

Five things we’ll miss about training camp at Lehigh.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Field Yates of ESPN.com believes the scheme change could negatively impact Jeremy Maclin‘s production.

The foundation of Chip Kelly‘s Oregon offenses was an up-tempo rushing attack, as his teams were able to wear opponents down with speed on the ground. The Eagles have two very talented running backs and will likely do some of the same, which will invariably impact the passing game. Maclin had a quietly productive 2012 (including a strong finish), but expect this offense to feature the running game first. That could be a problem for Maclin, who isn’t a strong blocker. If he gets in the doghouse early, DeSean Jackson could see more passes.

Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com has the ground game on the mind as well.

Consider that Kelly’s teams at Oregon ran the ball 64.1 percent of the time during his four seasons as head coach. That’s an astoundingly high number, admittedly inflated by a different style of play in college and the not-so-occasional Ducks blowout.

But over that same four-year time frame, the average NFL team has run the ball about 44.6 percent of the time. That number has also decreased each of the last four seasons, as NFL teams ran the ball 43.9 percent of the time in 2012. The Eagles, meanwhile, have consistently passed more than the league average and are coming off a season in which they ran the ball only 40 percent of the time. That number is certainly set to increase under Kelly, but the mystery is just how much the Eagles will lean on a talented backfield that includes LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.

COMING UP

Twelve days until training camp.