Over-Paid and Under-Played for the Eagles

Michael Vick was re-signed by the Eagles to reduce his cap number. Who else doesn't deserve a massive contract?As the curtain fell on the nightmare that was the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2012-2013 season, Andy Reid walked his green mile, and the proverbial axe fell to end the most successful era in Philadelphia football history. After the worst season in Reid’s tenure ended, Jeffery Lurie made good on his promise that “eight losses was not good enough” and Reid was out in Philadelphia. The fat lady sang his last song in Eagle green, and quickly landed a new job in Kansas City, yet somehow managed to be out of work for less time than Rob, 5 minutes, Ryan. The Eagles coaching search was long and arduous, but Lurie finally settled on Chip Kelly of Oregon to begin a new era on the gridiron for Philadelphia. Kelly inherited a team ripe with potential and talent, just stuck in the murk of mediocrity. Only time will tell if lack of talent or improper schemes spelled the end of Andy Reid’s tenure, but the team Chip inherited from the winningest coach in Philadelphia football history has the makings of a contender, but only if the right pieces fall into place.

Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly, Tom Gamble and company will look to the draft in the hopes of putting a contender on the field next year, and will have a great chance to do so as their franchise has numerous value picks throughout the draft. Starting with number four overall, the Eagles will draft 35th, and will pick at least once in every round, including twice in the seventh. Unfortunately, the Eagles have areas of need at almost every position on both sides of the ball, and with just eight picks in the 2013 draft, help will almost certainly have to come from free agency as well. Getting help from the free agent market will not be as easy as it seems because of the Bird’s previous high-spending tendencies have left the team with multiple contracts that are bloated and hard to move via trade. With just a few tweaks of the roster, and a possible scheme change on both sides of the ball the Philadelphia Eagles could return to the playoffs in 2014, but only if the “dream team” decides to play intelligent football.

Fortunately, GM Howie Roseman has been actively trying to fix their financial issues, starting last week by restructuring the contract of “franchise” quarterback Michael Vick. Fans across the city of brotherly love had called for the head of Vick to be placed on the proverbial pike alongside Andy Reid’s, but Roseman deftly decided to re-sign the beleaguered quarterback for a fraction of his original contract’s value. Vick’s one year contract is worth up to 10 million dollars in incentives, but the likelihood of Vick playing every game, and the Eagles winning the super bowl via his arm is slim to none. The former Virginia Tech, Atlanta Falcon, and correctional facility QB was scheduled to make $17.9 million in 2013, so Roseman’s wheeling and dealing likely saved the franchise almost $12 million. Vick’s contract is not the only area of financial woe on the offensive side of the spectrum, as DeSean Jackson is scheduled to make 9 million dollars in the upcoming season, and has never produced well enough to warrant such a contract.

Jackson only played in 11 of Philadelphia’s 16 regular season games in 2012, and his best season was way back in 2009 when he had just 62 receptions on 117 targets which resulted in 1,156 yards and 9 touchdowns. Jackson has never eclipsed any of those statistics since; in fact Jackson’s productivity has decreased in each of the four seasons since 2009. Paying DeSean $9 million is not an ideal situation, as his peer Jeremy Maclin will make fewer than three this year, and fellow WR Jason Avant is scheduled to make just $2.71 million. Jackson’s $9 million dollar price-tag must be addressed this off season, unless Philadelphia makes different moves regarding cap space.

In the same vein, Brent Celek is scheduled to make $4.5 million this season, which is a ton of money to allocate to a non pro bowl caliber TE. The offensive line was another huge question mark for the birds this past season, and Roseman wasted no time in cutting the unimpressive Demetress Bell, while saving $9.6 million, just after the season ended. The Eagles hope Jason Peters will return to his pro bowl form in 2013, and if he does, Peters will be well worth the $10 million price tag. Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans are other integral pieces of the Eagles offensive line, and together will make less than 10 million in the upcoming season. If they return healthy in 2013, the Eagles line could be a formidable force again, especially blocking for former pro bowl caliber RB, LeSean McCoy.

Philadelphia may look to cut second year RG Danny Watkins, whose $2.17 million price tag may be too much for the Eagles to match assuming they intend to sign or draft another starter on the OL. Regardless, the offensive financial misappropriation is being addressed by Roseman and staff, but the economic difficulties on the offensive side of the ball pale in comparison to the bulbous contracts given to players thought to be defensively elite.

The offense looks to be about set for Chip Kelly’s team, yet the largest problem area for the Birds over the past few seasons was the defense. Coach Kelly intends to switch the Eagle’s defensive scheme from a 4-3 base to a 3-4, and with five defensive linemen scheduled to make more than 2 million in 2013, there is no way that all five players will be on the team next season. Fletcher Cox was the Eagles best lineman last year, and was named to the all-rookie team, so there is no way Cox won’t be in Eagle green in 2013. Trent Cole ($5.35 million) and Brandon Graham ($2.95 million) will surely start at left and right end respectively next season, which leaves Cullen Jenkins ($5.5 million) and Mike Patterson ($4.06 million) as the odd men out. Clearing that 9 million in cap space would give the Eagles a chance to address their biggest problem area from last season: the safety position.

With numerous high-quality safeties available, and perennial pro bowlers Ed Reed, LaRon Landry, William Moore and Jairus Byrd on the free agent market this off-season, look for the Eagles to sign a big name safety in the coming months. While Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman will make less than $2 million in 2013, neither is an NFL quality starter, and Chip Kelly will have to look to replace both of them if he is counting on a quality unit in his secondary. DeMeco Ryans was a pro bowl snub last year, and there is no way the Eagles can cut him and expect to win next season. Furthermore, the rest of Philadelphia’s line-backing core (Mychal Kendricks, former Oregon LB Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney and Jason Williams) will make less than 1 million dollars each next season.

The Eagles will take a hard look at Georgia standout linebacker Jarvis Jones with the number four overall pick, in addition to giving Nick Barnett a hard look on the free agent market. The most glaring of Philadelphia’s misappropriation of funds regarding the ratio of money to talent comes in the form of veteran CB Nnamdi Asomugha, who will make just over $15 million in 2013. Asomugha must restructure his deal or be released, as there is no way his level of play justifies such a large paycheck in the coming year. On the other side of the Eagles secondary is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

DRC reportedly will not be franchised by Philadelphia and his next deal could command close to $10 million in 2013, though Roseman and company will take a long hard look at the draft and the free agent market in an effort to find better talent on the cheap.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln the play was alright, but Philadelphia has a lot of work to do in the front office this off-season before even contemplating the possibility of contending in the NFC east next year. The restructuring of Michael Vick’s contract is a move in the right direction, but the Eagles must continue to make changes and adapt their roster if they hope to eclipse the four meager wins they achieved in 2012. If the Birds cut the right players, sign playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, get healthy on offense, and adapt well to Chip Kelly’s new scheme, Philadelphia could return to the playoffs in 2014. Unfortunately, that may be a few too many “ifs” to overcome.

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Benjamin Haley

Ben Haley is the Sports Director for 91.3 FM WVUD. Ben also serves as a sports broadcaster for the University of Delaware. . He is the main Philadelphia Eagles contributor for HighPhive.com! You can follow him on Twitter @BenHaley11.