An Eagles Fan Asks the Question “To Extend or To Not Extend?”

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.

 

Players Extended

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

Non-players Extended
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

 

Senior Bowl Review

Every year the best place for Scouts and NFL Talent Evaluators to view players “in pads” is at the Senior Bowl (remember football is not played in t-shirts and shorts).  The week long event is the real first leg on the road to the NFL Draft for many prospects.  Many draft experts that I talk to put more credence in this All Star game, because usually top players choose to participate (sorry agents), there is “live” competitive one on one drills, and NFL coaching staffs are in charge of the teams.   You can have the lesser All star games (East-West Shrine, Hula Bowl, “Favor of the Year” All Star game) and the combine, because the Senior Bowl is the place “football” players get to show their skills off in front of scouts, coaches, and general managers.  

This year’s group like in years past has good overall talent.  Several scouts have indicated that this senior group is a little lower in talent than last year’s stellar group (D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Jay Cutler, and others). We will have to wait and see if they can match the 14 first-round picks from last year’s game.

As for the game, the early talk of a “revenge” rematch of BCS quarterbacks Ohio State’s Troy Smith and Florida’s Chris Leak never materialized.  In front of a sell out crowd of 40,646 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Troy Smith outplayed Florida’s Chris Leak leading the North to three scores and a 27-0 win over the South.  Smith’s numbers (5 of 15 passes for 52 yards w/ TD) weren’t spectacular, but considering that it was a cold, rainy day he performed well. Smith let Leak (5-of-9 passing for 23 yards) make the mistakes as he had a crucial fumble that led to a North touchdown after being blindsided by Nebraska DE Jay Moore at his own 26.  .  In my opinion neither of them did enough in practice or in the game to overtake non-attendees Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn (Injured Knee) or LSU’s JaMarcus Russell (Junior) on the draft leader board.

The real star of the game was Penn State RB Tony Hunt.  Typically All-star games are not good venues for RB’s, because of the sharing of carries and not being able to establish a rhythm.  However Hunt a 239-pounder with good speed defied the odds winning the MVP after rushing for 38 yards on eight carries with a 7 yard touchdown.  With the performance he solidified his place in the late 1st or early 2nd round part of draft behind Kenny Irons of Auburn, Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, and Cal’s Marshawn Lynch.  Hunt will be fighting with Michael Bush of Louisville for a place in the NFL for a “big” back.

Now that the weighing, practicing, questioning, and playing is over for the Senior Bowl, we have some observations, news, and notes from the 2007 Event.

Event Risers – These were players that we believe increased their value in at the Senior Bowl.
 
o WR – Dwayne Bowe, LSU: Looked like the next “baby T.O” measuring in at 6’2 and a solid 200 plus pounds.  He was by far the best pass catcher in Mobile and he was very fluid in his downfield blocking. The big pass catcher separated himself from the rest of the WR group and distinguished himself as the top senior receiver in the country.

o DL – Amobi Okoye, Louisville: Okoye was the talk of the practices this week. He weighed in at a chiseled 287-pounds and displayed the quickness and athleticism needed at the next level. The truly great part about Okoye is that he a prospect that will grow even more, because he is only 19-years-old.  Came off as a bright and polished speaker when interviewed. 

o RB – Lorenzo Booker, Florida State:  Before the Senior Bowl he was considered a scat-back, who was often injured in college.  Booker never lived up to his recruiting hype at FSU and looked like a Day 2 – 4th Round Pick at best.  Booker in Mobile showed the explosiveness and hands that gets a player noticed.  He displayed the best hands of any of back.  He now looks like he could be a 2nd or 3rd Round player in the mold of Brian Westbrook.

o LB – Patrick Willis, Mississippi:  In practice looked like the next Jeremiah Trotter, a big physical MLB, who can take on Guards plus have a nose for the ball.  He lead all defenders with 11 tackles and was named the South’s defensive player of the game.  Does need to work on making plays out to the sidelines.

o Alabama FB Le’ron McClain, a bruising 264-pounder who was also very smooth catching the ball.

o Nebraska DL Adam Carriker: Another front four player who was tough to block, Carriker elevated his draft stock significantly. Displayed a combination of strength and intelligence, he also came across well during interviews.

o C- Ryan Kalil, USC: An extremely tough battler in the pivot.  Looked great in one on one drills while displaying a solid anchor in blocking. Held his own against bigger opponents, he showed a lot of unexpected skill blocking in motion.
Event Maintainers – These were players that we believe were solid and did not hurt their value at the Combine.

o S – Michael Griffin, Texas: Displayed an array of talent in deep coverage. Griffin made an impact every practice. His ball skills in coverage were outstanding as was his play defending the run.

o QB – Troy Smith, Ohio State: Displayed a strong arm to the sidelines and showed good leadership in the huddle.  Was accurate with his short and intermediate passes, but his long throws were off.

o FB/RB – Brian Leonard, Rutgers:  We are not sure if he is big and physical enough to be a full-time FB at the next level or fast enough to be an every-down RB. He did display though that he is one tough football player who can catch, block and isn’t afraid to go downfield on special teams.

Event Crashers – These were players that we believe hurt their value at the Combine and will need to make up ground going into the draft.

o DE – Quentin Moses, Georgia: The Bulldogs pass rusher checked in much lighter than expected at 249 pounds and was handled all week by blockers. During interviews, Moses did not come off as a confident individual.

o OL – Ryan Harris, Notre Dame: Continuing what was a poor senior season, Harris was beaten regularly in Mobile. At one point he was chastised by Jon Gruden for allowing a sack on Thursday.

o DB – Marcus McCauley, Fresno State: Another who struggled in the 2006 regular season.  He is not as physical or fast as former teammate and high draftee last year Richard Marshall. McCauley was beaten with regularity all week. His performance during Thursday’s no pads practice was not good, with him being beaten over and over in drills.

o QB – Jordan Palmer, UTEP:  His brother Carson got all the “arm” in the family as Jordan was weak on out patterns. He also did not seem to take command of the huddle.
Miscellaneous Notes

o WR’s are Deep – The deepest position in the 2007 draft class seems to be the WRs.  The group is led by underclassmen Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Jarrett and others. In Mobile the aforementioned Bowe and other WR’s Aundrae Allison of East Carolina, Johnnie Lee Higgins of UTEP, Chris Davis of Florida State and Rhema McKnight of Notre Dame accounted well for themselves.

o DB’s were unimpressive – Pro scouts probably left Mobile scratching their heads just a bit about the CB play. Michigan CB Leon Hall, one of the top-rated players at any position coming into Mobile, was physical and aggressive, but gave up way too many completions for a player expected to go in the 1st round. Cal DB Daymeion Hughes also was only okay before being hurt and missing the last part of camp.  South Carolina DB Fred Bennett looked stiff before missing some time with a leg injury.

o The Senior Bowl is the place where the unemployed come looking for job interviews. Several coaches looking for work were chumming it up with coaches looking to fill out their staffs.  One of them was Larry Coker, the recently released coach from the Miami Hurricanes, was at practice all week hoping to catch on with an NFL team.

That is a wrap and BIGPLAY will definitely be there next year to cover the Senior Bowl, which is now a major happening.

See BIGPLAY Football Writer Lloyd Vance in ESPN “Third and a Mile” Documentary

I wanted to send a program alert that I will be featured in the ESPN Documentary “3rd and a Mile” chronicling the history and journey of the African American QB.  The program will air Sunday February 11th at Noon on ESPN 2 and throughout the month of February on ESPN Classic.

Along with myself, other featured speakers on the show will be Bill Rhoden (NY Times), Warren Moon, Doug Williams, James Harris, Marlin Briscoe, Joe Gilliam Sr, Vince Young, and others. The program is an hour long and tells the story from Fritz Pollard to Vince Young.  It will definitely give everyone a sense of the history, journey, obstacles, and triumphs of the African American Quarterback in the NFL.

Historical Book “Third and a Mile” Released by ESPN

I recently returned from Miami where I was part of the celebration and events surrounding the release of the book “3rd and a Mile” by Bill Rhoden (NY Times).  The book, which I contributed to (See Page 216 and Acknowledgments) chronicles the history of the African American QB through first hand stories from The Field Generals (Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Marlin Briscoe, and James Harris) and others. 

We have been working with ESPN on this book for about 2 years and now it is in print !!.  It truly has been a rewarding experience. 

Please pick the book up at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Third-Mile-History/dp/1933060115/sr=8-1/qid=1156961584/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-9592369-9096041?ie=UTF8) or at your local book store.