A lot to get to, so let's just go topic-by-topic.
And thanks to Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post/ESPN for helping out with this one.
DESEAN ARRIVES... EXTENSION COMING?
DeSean Jackson couldn't have been any more positive during his press conference at training camp today.
He said he thinks everything will work out. And he said he's excited about the Eagles' Super Bowl chances with the many pieces they added this offseason.
The holdout? He said it's in the past. Jackson clearly wanted to make a point. I'm not sure if he did so with Eagles' management. But he said he'll leave contract negotiations to Drew Rosenhaus and Joe Banner going forward. And he wants to be an Eagle.
So we're all good, right?
Well, probably. But not just yet.
I get the feeling Jackson will get back on the field, make plays and not let his contract be a major distraction. But the sooner something gets done, the better. If this thing drags on well into the season, Jackson will be asked about it constantly.
Which brings us to...
MICHAEL VICK'S CONTRACT SITUATION
I asked Brandt if the Eagles are currently in position from a cap standpoint to extend Vick and Jackson. Here's what he said, via e-mail:
The Eagles have always stressed being able to have Cap flexibility for the present and the future. It was something I observed both with the Packers and when I consulted with them in 2009. Assuming they have the budget flexibility, they would have the Cap flexibility. The two contract situations are different. An extension with Jackson would dramatically raise his Cap number; one with Vick will likely reduce it significantly.
I asked him to clarify on how working out a Vick extension would affect the Eagles' cap:
It depends how they structure the contract but it could free up a lot of space from the high Cap charge of the Franchise Tag. We have just seen Peyton Manning and Lamar Woodley do extensions where they received more cash in 2011 than the Tag would have brought them but are costing the teams' much less Cap due to the signing bonus proration issue. If the Eagles have the Cap room, however, they wouldn't need to structure the deal in the same way the Colts and Steelers did.
This is a very important note, and I'll do my best to explain further.
Vick is currently on the books for about $16M with the franchise tag. The Eagles could actually reduce that cap number by giving him an extension, while at the same time paying him more in 2011.
Brandt talked about Manning and Woodley in the answer above. He expanded on those thoughts in today's National Football Post column. Manning's franchise tag hit was $23M. But he negotiated a five-year deal worth $90M. By doing so, his cap charge was reduced to $16M, but he's actually getting close to $30M this year.
How? The signing bonus is fully paid for cash purposes, but for cap purposes, it's prorated through the life of the contract (in Manning's case, five years).
However, that's not always the best way to do business, Brandt explains:
In my opinion, however, the less proration the better. I always tried to “pay as you go”, preferring high salaries and roster bonuses (not prorated) to contain Cap charges in the year of negotiation rather than building up unamortized charges into the future. More and more teams are trying to get to that consistent approach to roster management.
And the Eagles might want to go that route also. According to SI.com's Peter King, they are not looking to reduce Vick's $16M cap hit in 2011 when they renegotiate his contract. In other words, they'd like to minimize the amount of cap space Vick's contract takes up in future years if they can afford it.
If King is right, the Eagles already know what kind of cap space they are working with when looking at a potential Jackson deal. But if they decide to reduce Vick's cap hit when they rework his contract, they could do so and free up some more space for Jackson.
I made the case for the Eagles to keep Asante Samuel here and here.
The only reasonable explanation I could think of for trading him was if it was necessary to get Vick and Jackson extensions done.
But by all accounts, that's not the case. As I said above, the Eagles could reduce Vick's cap hit and then extend Jackson if they wanted to. Even that doesn't seem like it will be necessary, according to Brandt and King.
Yes, trading Samuel would free up a lot of cap space (a reported $9.3M), but it appears the Eagles can keep Samuel and still extend Vick and Jackson.
King, who previously advocated dealing Samuel, now thinks the Eagles will keep him:
I can tell you with certainty the Eagles are not planning to trade him, and likely won't seriously consider it unless they get an offer of a first-round pick for him.
SO, WHAT NOW?
The plan now for the Eagles should be to get Vick's contract done and then get Jackson's contract done.
Assuming they can keep Samuel happy, and he's seemed like his usual self the past few practices, the attention can then be focused on the field. We're still more than a month away from Week 1, but given the dramatic offseason changes (the Eagles could have six new starters on defense, plus a new coordinator), the team has a lot of work to do.
I asked Brandt how they were able to make so many offseason moves. His response:
They had a plan and pursued it efficiently. The compressed time frame of this period rewarded teams that had thought out their strategies well and stuck to them rather than reacting to the pressure of the time. All of these plans have been in place since February; I would find it hard to believe that some teams were caught off-guard.
King also did a good job explaining the Eagles' moves in his column today, showing that they will owe zero guaranteed money to Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Harris, Anthony Hargrove, Jarrad Page and Derek Landri beyond 2011.
Now that everyone's in camp, the Eagles' front office to-do list has been reduced to extending Vick, extending Jackson and maybe adding a linebacker.
The rest is up to Andy Reid and the players.
If you missed my practice observations earlier today, I focused on Casey Matthews.
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