Eagles Wake-Up Call: Ranking the Assets
For your mailbag question to be considered, complete the form at the bottom of this post.
How do you rank the top longterm players on the Eagles? -Terry
NFL teams unexpectedly cut and trade players all of the time, but one thing Howie Roseman has brought to the Eagles this offseason — at least for the near future — is clarity. By giving out twice as much guaranteed money as any other team since the beginning of the calendar year, it’s clear who the team values and wants to build around.
But one of the biggest question marks with Roseman has never been his salary cap management — it’s talent evaluation. So this is an interesting mailbag question to consider, and although the Eagles made a big trade to acquire a guy they think could be a franchise quarterback, they are building around a core group of players who went 7-9 last year and were on a team which often appeared worse than their record suggested.
Is that a nucleus you can win a Super Bowl with?
“Well, I think that’s a fair question,” Roseman said. “The honest answer is we were 7-9 and we’re not sitting here and talking about being the ’85 Bears that were this dominant team. But when you look at the teams that are really good teams and have a chance to be great teams, it’s because they have a core group of players that they keep together. And when you’re changing guys in and out and you’re losing good players that you invested draft picks, it’s hard to build anything. It’s hard to sustain anything, and so we know we have a lot of other areas that we have to improve.”
The answer to that $280 million question will take years to figure out, but here’s how I’d value the Eagles’ assets going forward among the guys they committed a lot of resources to this offseason.
(All contract figures are courtesy of Spotrac.)
5. Zach Ertz
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are both right behind Ertz, but the tight end is who Doug Pederson’s offense will be built around for the foreseeable future (along with Jordan Matthews). Ertz is three years younger than Jenkins, and he got $7.5 million more than McLeod in total money and $4 million more in guarantees. Jenkins is currently the best player among these three and McLeod projects to be a potential Pro Bowler, but Ertz is expected to play a pivotal role in this offense.
4. Vinny Curry
Curry has the third-biggest contract on the team in terms of total money ($47.25 million), and fourth-biggest in guarantees ($23 million). Giving Curry his five-year deal is one of the bigger risks the Eagles’ took this offseason because of his small sample size to base expectation off of. Due to positional value and Curry’s potential to evolve into one of the best pass-rushers in the league, he’s one of the most valuable guys on the team.
3. Lane Johnson
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Curry, Ertz and McLeod all have better careers than Johnson, but the Eagles made it clear that they expect Johnson to be their left tackle of the future when they signed him to a five-year deal worth $56.26 million, including $35.5 guaranteed. He wasn’t overly impressive in his limited left tackle snaps last year, but we’ll wait to judge his prowess on the other side when he actually plays the position full time and has more time to prepare for the role than just a few days.
2. Fletcher Cox
The defensive tackle is unquestionably the best player on the team, and he’s ranked near the top of his position around the league. His six-year, $102.6 million deal includes the most guaranteed money ($63.299 million) for a non-quarterback in the NFL, and he’s about as untouchable as you can get in terms of the Eagles’ willingness to trade him.
1. Carson Wentz
Even if all of Roseman’s other contracts work out, does it matter if Wentz isn’t a franchise quarterback? Few expect him to be better than Cox, but positional value makes this ranking extremely easy. Wentz will ultimately be the guy whom Roseman’s career is tied to, and he’s also the Eagles’ top asset.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“You want to be deep at all positions. It’s hard to do that in the NFL in this day and age.” NFC East Roundup.
“So the X’s and O’s have evolved over the past 30 years, but the guiding principle — get to the quarterback — has remained the same.” Weekend Reading.
With Fletcher Cox re-signed, we consider who may get the next extension.
“The longer that we wait on contracts for players, the closer they get to free agency, the more it’s going to cost us.” Howie Roseman on strengthening the team’s core.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Roseman is building for the distant future, writes Bob Ford of the Inquirer.
Just don’t expect too many layers to be added to the cake this season. It’s going to be more of a sheet cake in 2016, and don’t get your hopes up about the frosting, either.
When you cut through the chatter, that is one of the important messages the organization is sending out to fans, and Roseman was very clear about it when he discussed the crown jewel of offseason signings, the six-year, $103 million contract extension for defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The front office really hopes the team is better this season than the disjointed bunch that went 7-9 a year ago, but that hasn’t been the first priority. If there is a step back taken in order to march ahead for years to come, that’s a bargain the team accepts.It’s hard to argue with the philosophy, unless you happen to be Sam Bradford, who won’t reach the Promised Land because it has been promised to someone else now. Everything Bradford and his agent supposed when the team moved up to draft Carson Wentz – sending off usable parts and ignoring other needs in order to do so – has come true. The same will hold for other veterans who also won’t make it to the ends of their contracts as the Eagles pay for their recent purchases over time.
That’s a bit of a complicated question. The simple answer is yes, the Eagles should talk to Tulloch. The problem is that they need him as a backup and Tulloch sees himself as a starting LB. After looking at some depth charts, there are teams out there who could offer Tulloch a chance to start.
The Eagles could tell Tulloch he would be competing for a starting job here (and mean it), but it doesn’t take a genius to know the team wants Hicks on the field. Finding MLBs who can make plays isn’t easy and Hicks showed that ability as a rookie, coming up with a FF, 3 FR and 2 INTs. Hicks is also young and cheap so the team wants him to be the MLB.
Tulloch is 31 and about to play his 11th NFL season. He suffered a knee injury in 2014 and that affected his play into last year. The Lions took him out on passing downs and had Tulloch focus on run defense. That (and time to fully recover) helped bring out the best in him in the second half of the season. Tulloch is still a good 2-down LB. He diagnoses plays well. He can shed blocks. He is disciplined. Tulloch still tackles well and has some pop when he hits runners. Between the tackles, Tulloch is just fine.
We’ll help you get your Eagles fix.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.