Continuity has been a staple of the Doug Pederson era since it first began in 2016. Long-term contracts were given to cornerstone players, starting with the stars in the trenches. Now in year four, the aim of the game remains the same, but contracts that were once cheap are escalating and crossroads are approaching.
There were murmurs of three players who were subtly hinting that they wanted new contracts this season, but Howie Roseman has put his money in different places for now.
K Jake Elliott, LS Rick Lovato, and RG Brandon Brooks have all deservedly received new deals this season, with Doug Pederson saying the following about the contracts on Friday:
“First of all, I’m excited for these guys with [G] Brandon Brooks and now Jake and the opportunity to extend them and keep your players here. I think it’s something that you want [to do] the best you can. We know this business is tough and guys sometimes try to move on and find other spots.
To be able to take our own guys and extend them and have that consistency for the next four or five years – especially with the type of player that he [Elliott] is and the type of person that he is — it just helps your team. It helps your team. I’m excited for him and his family. Excited for the Eagles.”
With three important players having their long-term future secured, who’s next?
The urgent decisions
The Eagles have quite the free agency ahead of them. There are some key players currently in their contract year. Two starting cornerbacks, a starting Safety, a project quarterback, and some important depth players are among them. You can’t keep everyone, and Howie Roseman will have a tough time trying to figure out who to bring back in 2021, but there are a few names that stick out.
The veteran safety is on-pace for a career year. After his contract was drastically altered following a heartbreaking injury that ripped him of his 2018 campaign, McLeod has been a consistent tone-setter on the backend and has played at a high level throughout. If the Eagles are still unsure about paying Malcolm Jenkins, locking down the services of at least one safety early feels like a no-brainer. Especially when that Safety has done nothing but make big-time plays in key moments all year long.
He’s not quite a shutdown corner, but it’s hard not to look at the tape of Jalen Mills and see development. Since returning from his foot injury that kept him sidelined for an entire offseason and half of he 2019 campaign, Mills has looked more composed than ever. His tackling has been as sound as it always has been, but we’re seeing a corner who is more disciplined in his play, meaning we see less of the ‘toasted’ double-move routes, and more plays around the catch-point. There’s a long way to go, but Mills at the very least is a leader on the defense and a serviceable backup behind an elite talent if Howie goes window shopping this offseason.
I’d be stunned if Elliott and Lovato receive new deals, but iron-leg Johnston does not.
The smart decisions
His cap hit jumps from around $6M to $12M next season and although the Eagles do have a potential-out after 2021, it would make sense to jump a little early here and pay Ertz the money he deserves. George Kittle is entering his contract year next season and will undoubtedly raise the stakes for every other tight end in the league, while Travis Kelce is in a similar position to Ertz.
We don’t need to harp on about stats when it comes to the star out of Stanford. He just breaks every record he feasibly can and still ends up as one of the more underrated at his position. Most recently, he became the first player in Eagles history to have 3+ games in a row of 9+ receptions. That kind of speaks for itself, and snapping him up before the market jumps is a very Roseman’esque move.
Johnson is in a similar spot to Ertz. His cap-hit almost doubles next season and although he’s contracted for another two years, striking while the iron is hot would make sense given that his value as arguably the best right tackle in football is only going to sky-rocket.
The tricky decision
By this point, it’s difficult to understand why the Eagles haven’t paid their veteran Safety, who was knocking on the door for a new contract all offseason. Jenkins has had a mid-season resurgence after some wobbles early on, but continues to be one of the more integral pieces to this scheme. Keeping Jenkins around makes plenty of sense and it’s easy to forget that for a second, it felt like the team were going to let Brandon Graham walk as well. The team haven’t drafted or even signed anyone who is capable of playing at his level to justify letting Jenkins walk just yet. One last extension makes plenty of sense to ensure he ends his career in Midnight green.