By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football Senior NFL Writer
You hate to pile on the Eagles at a time when Andy Reid is distressed, but a fan asked me to take on an assignment regarding the Eagles Contract Extension policy called “To Extend or To Not Extend?” I liked his question, because as a fan he was focused on what would it take to get the Eagles back to the Super Bowl and he knew that a good free agency signing period and draft were keys to the Birds improvement this off-season. The team definitely needs to make moves and he wanted to know if having only $8 Million under a $109 million cap in 2007 was good enough to entice key free agents like OLB’s Lance Briggs or Addalius Thomas to come to Philly, when the Birds didn’t have much cap wiggle room when giving contract extensions to underachieving players like Mike Patterson
To answer his question, I first started by taking a long hard look at the players who the Eagles restructured/contract extended. These players were targeted because they were “impact players” in the Eagles opinion. We all know the Eagles usually have a “We know more than you” mentality towards their fans, but the question was valid and needed to answered. Some at the Eagles believe their philosophy is the gospel and it has worked during the Reid tenure to a point (Regular Season wins with a good cap standing, but no championship), but their regular season success has clouded their judgment when evaluating their roster. Many quality players during the Reid regime have been Ray Rhodes leftover players (Trotter, Dawkins, T. Thomas, C. Lewis and others) and Free Agent pickups at their terms (John Runyan, T.O, Dorsey Levens, Brian Mitchell, and others). These players have been the backbone of this team, because of their draft picks have usually been disappointments (Too Many to list, but 1st Rounders Freddie Mitchell and Jerome McDougal are a good start).
In the past they have gotten mixed results after signing players to “sweetheart” contract extension deals. Good extensions have been given to Lito Sheppard, Brian Westbrook (Very Begrudgingly), and Brian Dawkins (Public Outcry), but most of the extended players they have been described as potential Pro Bowlers, who have not lived up to their contract extension signings (Patterson and Fraley). Usually the players that have signed these deals have done it in season after 11/1 and are “team players” (Liked by the organization, i.e. not Jeremiah Trotter, not Cory Simon, not John Welbourne). The extendees usually don’t have leverage from their playing career yet to see a good open market contract. Their low leverage is usually due to their short playing record (2 or 3 seasons) and originally being a lower drafted player (3rd or lower) or being an undrafted free agent. The players have to make the difficult choice of waiting to see if they could improve enough after their rookie deal is finished to get the “big free agent” dollars on the open market or sign a team leveraged contract for “good”, but not break the bank money (ex. Todd Herremans in 2006). The only problem is when you give too many of these long term “good” contracts it takes a mass effect on your cap when you make the wrong choices too many times with players that don’t produce. Sure you can cut them, but that also will affect your cap due to “dead money” from signing bonuses. A good example of a player not living up to the money from an extension was 2004 extendee DT Sam Rayburn, who signed a five year extension with a good signing bonus after producing 6 sacks in his second season and has produced 1 sack and 24 tackles in 2 seasons since the signing the extension.
Conversely the New England Patriots (3 Championships including one over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX) have only extended veteran championship worthy players like QB Tom Brady, DE Richard Seymour, LB Mike Vrabel, DE Jarvis Green, and LB Tedy Bruschi during this same timeframe. The Patriots extensions are always at the mercy of Coach Belichek, who is not known for being “open pocketed” just ask Ty Law and are usually done to help the team’s cap situation.
I will let the fans and you answer his question based on my article and the below list of Eagles extended players and non-players since 2003, but I think the evidence speaks for itself. In looking at the list it is funny that they have extended coaches and executives Banner, Reid, J. Johnson, Childress, Heckert, and Harbaugh while fighting Trotter, Hood, Simon, Emmons, and others before shooing them out the door.
List was compiled from the Eagles website.
12/30/06 Todd Herremans G re-signed to a Five-year extension through 2011
11/10/2006 WR Reggie Brown Signed to a contract extension through 2014
11/06/2006 DE Trent Cole Signed to a contract extension through 2013
11/02/2006 DT Mike Patterson Signed to a contract extension through 2016
11/07/2005 K David Akers Agreed to terms on a contract extension through 2010
11/06/2005 RB Brian Westbrook Agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension (Begrudgingly)
11/06/2004 CB Lito Sheppard Signed a five-year contract extension through the 2011 season.
11/06/2004 DT Sam Rayburn Signed a five-year contract extension through the 2011 season
11/04/2004 CB Sheldon Brown Signed a six-year contract extension through the 2012 season
10/29/2004 WR Greg Lewis Signed a five-year contract extension through the 2011 season. 04/16/2004 OL Artis Hicks Re-signed to a four-year contract extension
08/15/2003 WR Todd Pinkston Signed a six-year contract extension
04/28/2003 FS Brian Dawkins Signed a seven-year contract extension (Public Outcry, which caused them to do the deal for an over 30 player)
9/25/2002 Center Hank Fraley signed a five-year contract extension ($5.5 million over the course) through the 2006 season
04/21/2006 Extended the contract of team president Joe Banner through 2010 (Biggest extension in my opinion, because he controls the cap)
05/19/2005 Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson Signed to a four-year contract extension
02/11/2005 Offensive Coordinator Brad Childress signed a contract extension that keeps him with the Eagles through the 2008 season
12/24/2004 VP/Player Personnel Tom Heckert Signed to a contract extension to 2009
09/08/2004 Head Coach Andy Reid Signed to a four-year contract extension through the 2010 season
01/20/2004 Special Teams Coach John Harbaugh Promoted to special teams coordinator and signed a three-year contract extension