Andy Reid Gets LeSean McCoy's Deal Done

LeSean McCoy

Big sigh of relief, everybody. LeSean McCoy signed a long term contract extension with the Eagles yesterday: five years, $45 million, and $21 million guaranteed. Rather than be a free agent next season, McCoy is locked up through age 29 — even if some of the money toward the back is likely to be restructured at best.

It’s a day to celebrate the Eagles keeping yet another valuable contributor — and not just retaining Evan Mathis, or making Trent Cole happy. This is a vitally important move on the field and in the locker room. DeSean Jackson’s situation last year was no fun at all, and it’s good to see that the front office learned from their mistakes and locked up McCoy before things got ugly.

That’s actually the biggest behind-the-scenes news of the day. Not the actual contract, but what it took to get there. As Les Bowen reports, Drew Rosenhaus made it clear that Andy Reid, not Howie Roseman, made this deal happen:

“When we we were working on this deal, coach Reid was sitting in on the meetings. It wasn’t so much that he was taking sides, he just wanted to see it get done. So I think coach Reid really was the difference.”

So much for “on the hot seat.” In what was apparently an unconventional move for him, Reid participated in the McCoy negotiations. There’s only one conclusion you can draw from such news — that Reid has actually consolidated power over Roseman this offseason, rather than relinquishing it.

It’s a common refrain that players like to play for Reid and think he’s on their side. Asante Samuel was the most recent example of this phenomenon: bashing the front office (Roseman and Joe Banner), while reserving only sweet words for his coach. It’s easy to break that down as players falling too easily into a good cop-bad cop situation, where Reid is just as cold-hearted behind the scenes but maintains a happy demeanor in the locker room.

Unless it’s actually true. Maybe Reid really does care more about his players, would rather give up a few million extra in contract talks than see things get acrimonious. Maybe he doesn’t need to feel like he “won” the negotiations, as Rosenhaus described Roseman yesterday.

One might say that’s weakness, and it is to a degree. But after all the drama the Eagles have gone through in the last year, putting free agents ahead of their own stars and reaping the rewards for that, it’s a weakness they could probably use a little bit more of.

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Shady Contract Dealings

Paul Domowitch:

In fact, last fall, McCoy fired Rosenhaus twice, before eventually rehiring him. According to a source close to McCoy, part of it had to do with the fact that Rosenhaus was doing nothing for the running back off the field as far as marketing and endorsement opportunities. But a much bigger reason was the fact that Rosenhaus tried to persuade the running back to accept a $6 million-a-year contract offer the Eagles were dangling in front of him.

Like the unnamed agent Domo talks to in this article, I perceive little leverage for McCoy now that DeSean Jackson signed a long term deal. The 2013 franchise tag is just waiting for Shady, and more importantly the short life span of a running back means he can’t afford to wait for guaranteed money. That said, I find it vaguely troubling that McCoy rejected a $6 million per year deal that Rosenhaus recommended back in October.

By waiting, McCoy unquestionably added to his value, propping up his stats closer to that of Arian Foster and his new $8 million per year deal. Still, back in October I projected that a six year, $32 million contract would have been perfectly reasonable. It makes me wonder what Shady thinks he’s worth now.

Making One's Own Bed

Geoff Mosher:

If your notebook never left the back pocket and your recorder stayed off, you could heard the gripes and complaints from some prominent, homegrown players who felt that the Eagles were more financially friendly to outsiders than their own.

It didn’t go over well years ago when millions were splurged on free agents such as Darren Howard, Stacy Andrews and Chris Clemons – guys whose performances never matched their paychecks – while Eagles-drafted players worked under modest long-term deals that paid out generous bonus money up front but looked outdated one or two years later when the market changed.

Without directly admitting it, the Eagles took a giant step toward diffusing what could have been an explosive locker room situation this season by extending the contracts of Todd Herremans, Trent Cole and DeSean Jackson on the first few days of free agency and then bringing back Evan Mathis.

The truth is that last year with Jackson and Asante Samuel, the Eagles already had an “explosive locker room situation” on their hands. This reversal (return?) is by far the biggest storyline of the offseason so far.

Inside Trent Cole's Contract Extension

Brian McIntyre has the details of Trent Cole’s contract. Here is the basic breakdown:

2012: $8 million signing bonus, plus original $3 million salary now guaranteed.
2013: Original $3.5 million salary now guaranteed.
2014: New $5 million salary (plus $500,000 $ack$-based bonus).
2015: New $10 million salary.
2016: New $11 million salary.
2017: New $14 million salary.

Cole turns 30 this year, which should give you a sense of which years are more or less fake money. To my eyes, the last three years all look unlikely. The Eagles gave Cole a lot of security by guaranteeing the final two years of his old contract and handing him a signing bonus on top of it. The 2014 additional year also looks attainable and very reasonably priced. After that, I don’t see the Eagles paying $10 million or more per year for a 33-year-old and up.

Still, don’t let that detract from what the deal really means. It’s not intended to purchase many more years of performance, but rather to serve as a thank you gift, a reward for Cole’s quiet excellence over the last few years. And in many ways, that’s more important.

Analyzing DeSean Jackson's New Contract

DeSean Jackson

Two weeks ago, I speculated that the Eagles franchise tag and DeSean Jackson’s acceptance of it could help bring the two sides together on a long term deal. With the threat of separation and the lack of respect behind them, it appears that’s exactly what happened. Reports differ on whether Jackson actually signed the tender or not, but regardless they were able to find common ground before it came to that.

From looking at the details of the contract, as reported by Pro Football Talk, it seems that both sides compromised somewhat. The Eagles came up from their absurdly low $6 million per year reported offer, and in exchange Jackson didn’t extract the maximum guaranteed money he likely could have received on the open market.

As it stands now, the deal (before Pro Bowl/Super Bowl escalators) looks like so:

2012: $10 million signing bonus plus $1 million base salary/workout bonus.
2013: $7 million salary/workout, $4 million fully guaranteed with rest for injury only.
2014: $10.5 million salary/workout.
2015: $10 million salary/workout.
2016: $8.5 million salary/workout.

What it comes down to, as far as I can tell, is basically a guaranteed two year, $18 million contract with three team option years in which Jackson’s paid very well in base salary but the team can move on from him if necessary.

It clearly helped to have other wide receivers signing long term deals recently. Look at the guaranteed money those players received:

Stevie Johnson, Bills: $18 million.
Marques Colston, Saints: $19 million.
Pierre Garçon, Redskins: $13-18 million.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs: $26 million.

DeSean didn’t get Vincent Jackson money, but he slots in quite comfortably among the other top wide receivers. DJacc’s full contract over five years is bigger than the other guys, but the money at the end isn’t guaranteed, making it somewhat of a “prove it” deal for the wide receiver. If he keeps his head on straight and plays up to his potential, Jackson could make more than most of the rest of them over the life of the deal.

All in all, it’s a happy day for Eagles fans. You simply don’t win in the NFL without retaining your top talent, and the Eagles came perilously close to not doing so. Now the nearly two year drama of Jackson’s status is over, and with any luck he will take to the field with a renewed purpose, showing us that his best years are yet to come.

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Lessons From the First Day of Free Agency

Todd Herremans

Day one of free agency is in the books, and it was an interesting, if not groundbreaking day for Eagles fans. Let’s break down what we’ve learned so far.

* * *

A rebirth of the old Eagles way? The team took the first day to negotiate extensions for two of its longest-tenured players, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole. It was a nice return to the days pre-2009 when the Eagles built mostly from within. It’s also an important precedent to set with the players. Basically since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were unceremoniously dumped, the front office and the players have had a relationship built on animosity and mistrust. Young players like DeSean Jackson have battled with the organization rather than sign mutually-beneficial long-term deals.

Jonathan Tamari has the money quote from Todd Herremans: “The Eagles have been known for a while as a team that doesn’t take care of their draft picks and pays everyone else’s as picks and players. I think they’re trying to change that stigma that they have.”

By showing that you can get more money by playing the good soldier and dealing with your contract issues behind the scenes, the Eagles made a big step toward repairing that relationship and establishing veteran role models for the less experienced players to look up to.

* * *

Wide receivers are getting paid. Three of the best wide receivers on the market signed yesterday. Vincent Jackson went to Tampa Bay, getting 5 years, $55.55 million, with $26 million guaranteed. Marques Colston stayed with the Saints at the last minute, for 5 years, $40 million and $19 million guaranteed. Finally, Pierre Garçon stole 5 years, $42.5 million and $21.5 million guaranteed from the Redskins.

Seem of these numbers are artificially inflated in the final years, but DeSean Jackson and Drew Rosenhaus have to be looking at those guarantees and salivating.

* * *

Free agency for the Eagles is 85% about linebacker. And nothing happened on that front yet. Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, and David Hawthorne are all still available, and until those dominos start falling we won’t be able to judge the Eagles front office one way or another.

* * *

If I ever became an NFL general manager, I would have to remember one thing: don’t sign second-tier free agents on the first day. If you need to move fast on the biggest name out there, that’s fine. But don’t throw big money at guys who aren’t major difference-makers. That’s known as the Redskins’ strategy.

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DeSean Jackson, the Franchise Tag, and Respect

DeSean Jackson

So, what did we miss? Just a few weeks ago Eagles fans were collectively doom and gloom about the DeSean Jackson situation. Many expected the Eagles to let him walk in free agency, others saw a long holdout in store. Instead, yesterday the team used its franchise tag on Jackson and immediate reports were that the wide receiver would sign the one-year tender as soon as possible.

I wrote a few weeks back why I thought Jackson would be wise not to fight the franchise tag, and I still think many of those reasons apply. Coming off a poor season both on and off the field, his leverage wasn’t as great as it once was. The Eagles could have eventually forced him to report unless he wanted to sit out the 2012 season.

However, there’s one factor I missed that both played a large role in Jackson’s decision to sign and gives me further hope that a long term deal can eventually be worked out. The factor deals with exactly why Jackson was angry last year. He wasn’t, I now believe, miffed because he didn’t have long term security. None of his statements suggested that he was hesitant to put his body on the line for the team because he thought that he could get hurt and never get that second payday.

Not to cherry-pick a single quote, but after the final game last season, Jackson told reporters, “I can’t really get frustrated over contract situations or if I’m not paid how I think I should be.”

For Jackson, it has always seemed to be about that perceived slight. He was mad because the Eagles went out and gave money to players like Steve Smith instead of to him. Jackson was one of the best players on the field and simultaneously one of the lowest-paid players off of it.

That’s why Jackson has never had a problem with the franchise tag. His immediate reaction after the season suggested that he would be happy with it, and so did his response to the tag actually being applied yesterday: “I am honored that the Philadelphia Eagles organization perceives me as a franchise player.” Jackson also said he is “Enjoyin My Life!!” and “Humbled moment!!”

Instead of being annoyed that he couldn’t seek a long term deal, DeSean seems happy — both in his offical PR and off-the-cuff tweets. Jackson’s happy because in his eyes he’s finally being recognized and paid like the player he knows he is. It may be only for one season, but that’s enough for now, and it gives me hope that the two sides will have an easier time coming together.

Insult is off the table, so hopefully real negotiations can now take place.

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Priority: Lock Up Rodgers-Cromartie Long Term

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Looking at the Eagles roster as it stands now, cornerback sticks out as a position in flux.

There are eight players signed. Three of those — Nnamdi Asomugha, Joselio Hanson, and Asante Samuel — have crossed the 30-year-old mark, so their football clocks are ticking. Samuel, as discussed yesterday, likely won’t be around in a few months anyway. There’s also a quartet of unproven youngsters who Eagles fans have varying degrees of hope for — Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley, and DJ Johnson.

Then there’s DRC. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the soon-to-be 26-year-old cornerback whom the Eagles received as part of the Kevin Kolb trade. A former first round pick and one-time Pro Bowl selection, Rodgers-Cromartie was supposed to pair with Asomugha and Samuel to make a fearsome trio of starting corners. Things didn’t work out as planned, partially because the young newcomer struggled in his new role as nickel corner.

I posted Rodgers-Cromartie’s 2011 outside/slot split before, but it’s worth another look:

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 2011 Coverage Stats

Once again, Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL when playing in the slot, and one of the best when playing his natural position outside. That was part of the problem in 2011, but with Samuel headed out the door, DRC has the potential to be one of the best players on the Eagles defense. That’s only potential, of course, and his inconsistent play was one of the major reasons the Cardinals were willing to part with him a year ago.

More important, however, are two factors: his age and contract status. Rodgers-Cromartie is the only proven cornerback on the Eagles roster who still has at least half a decade of NFL playing time ahead of him. If he can maintain a high level of play as a starter, he could be not only an answer for 2012, but also a long term solution to pick up the slack when Asomugha begins to fade.

The problem is, Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t signed past this upcoming season. If the Eagles let him play out his contract and he does well, they will have to franchise tag him or compete with other teams on the open market. The alternative, of course, is that they could extend him this offseason — and perhaps pick up a discount in the aftermath of DRC’s sub par 2011.

There’s a long list on Howie Roseman’s desk of Eagles players deserving new contracts and Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t at the top. Still, for the sake of the vital cornerback position, extending him this offseason should be a priority.

Photo from Getty.