What Would a New Contract For DRC Look Like?

I’ve opined before on giving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a contract extension, going as far as to call it an offseason priority. With Nnamdi Asomugha aging and only unproven recent draftees behind him, locking up Rodgers-Cromartie would go a long way to preserve continuity in the defensive backfield. Obviously, whether you want to extend him also stems from your impression of him as a player. If you’ve been following along, you know that I think DRC’s stellar play on the outside at the end of 2011 after he languished in the slot for most of the year suggests big things could be in store for him. (And reports out of training camp are stellar so far.)

But unless Howie Roseman is discussing things behind the scenes during training camp, it doesn’t look like he agrees, with either Rodgers-Cromartie’s value or his skill. Let’s go deeper and see what the difference in money might be based on letting DRC play out this contract year. Here’s a table of recent top cornerback contracts given out for players in his age range. Financial details are on the right and on the field stats are on the left (Pro Bowl appearances, games started, yards per attempt, interceptions):

Looking at the finances first, you can see there are different measures for large contracts. The total millions is a nice overall number, although it tends to overstate the “real” value of the deal (with fake years at the end). The yearly figure and guarantee may give a more accurate accounting of the contract.

It’s interesting to look at how the deals were structured and how they turned out. DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson got massive contracts that turned out to be bad for their teams—although you can see why the Redskins and Falcons, respectively, were willing to dish out that kind of dough. For example, Hall was young, even for this group, and already had two Pro Bowl appearances and 22 interceptions.

The following year, Antonio “Headcase” Cromartie received a smaller contract than his number stats warranted because of his off the field problems. Leon Hall got a slightly larger and slightly longer deal. Johnathan Joseph made out like a bandit, with nearly $10 million a year and $24 million guaranteed.

This offseason, Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan both just bested Joseph’s contract. Eric Wright has had an up-and-down career, most recently in Detroit, and he signed a more modest five-year free agent deal. Meanwhile, Lardarius Webb, who had a stellar 2011 season with the Ravens, got the largest total amount. That figure is inflated by an extra year though; as you can see the guarantee is less than some of his peers.

So, where does Rodgers-Cromartie fit in? At 26 years old, he has fewer games started than anyone other than Webb, although his other stats are better than average. He has a low yards per attempt figure and a high interception rate. Even with his atrocious play in the slot last season, 2011 was much more in line with his first two seasons in the league. DRC’s 2010 letdown that prompted him to be traded might have been an outlier.

The question becomes what Rodgers-Cromartie would command in today’s market. Given his perceived inconsistency, lack of physicality, and a deficit of experience compare to his peers, DRC probably wouldn’t be in line for a Carr or Cortland-sized contract. Wright’s deal this year and Hall’s in 2011 look like better comparables: perhaps 5 years, $40 million, $16 million guaranteed.

Let’s say though, that Rodgers-Cromartie plays out this season, putting up his career averages, and enters the market in 2012. At that point, with 60 games started, 7.2 yards per attempt against, and 16 or so interceptions, he could make the case that he’s better than Carr or Finnegan. DRC would probably received $25 million guaranteed and upwards of $10 million per year on the open market—a substantial upgrade from his current value.

By not re-signing his second cornerback now, Roseman risks the price going up next year. He may be making one of a few calculated bets, though. Perhaps he thinks DRC simply isn’t worth a long term contract. He’s betting that Rodger-Cromartie will show that he’s not worth top money. Or Howie’s looking at the other backups and assuming that someone like Curtis Marsh will be able to slide in a year from now. Or maybe Roseman is willing to use the franchise tag (at enormous one-year cost) as necessary to keep DRC on hand in 2013.

Looking at the state of the defensive backfield and the market for cornerbacks as it stands now, I would buy into DRC long term. The potential rewards, both financially and on the field, are great, and the downside to not paying him could be severe next offseason. Get it done.

Photo from Getty.

Willing to Walk Away?

Jonathan Tamari pens an excellent mini-profile of Trent Cole:

"I might play into another contract," Cole said. He added that he hopes to finish his career as an Eagle - "When they cut me, I’m, ‘OK. I’m ready to retire,’ " - but then hedged when asked if he could ever play elsewhere.

"No," he said, "unless the money’s right, for real."

That’s a strange quote Tamari picked up, about being willing to retire when the Eagles let him go. Cole gives the money qualifier after, but it’s still an odd insight into the mindset of the Eagles’ stellar but typically reserved defensive end.

How Does LeSean McCoy’s Contract Stack Up?

Running Back Contracts

Exact McCoy details: 6-year, $45.615 million contract with $20.765 million guaranteed (first three years base salary plus $8.5 million signing bonus).

2012: $615,000
2013: $3.25 million
2014: $8 million
2015: $10.25 million
2016: $7.15 million
2017: $7.85 million

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.

Photo from Getty.

Bungling the Asante Trade From Start to Finish

Depending on which report you believe, the Eagles could have traded Asante Samuel before last season for either a second round pick or two third rounders. Now the Eagles look like they will have to get lucky just to pull out a fourth round pick in this inevitable deal.

What happened?

I don’t agree with some of the reporters who have suggested that the price drop is due to Samuel’s age or contract. He hasn’t gotten significantly older or more expensive in the last few months. His contract does go up, and he’s now 31. That’s true. But neither Samuel’s salary nor his age are prohibitive factors at this point. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and $10 million is reasonable for a top cornerback.

This is the point where people start to bring up Asante’s flaws as a player: he freelances too much, doesn’t know how to tackle, blows coverages more than you would like. For the most part, you wouldn’t be wrong to make that argument. But Samuel has demonstrated those same deficiencies his entire career. Before he ever arrived in Philly, we knew he couldn’t tackle, couldn’t resist gambling for interceptions — and you can bet that Detroit and whichever other teams inquired after him in 2011 knew those things as well.

Moreover, there’s little evidence to suggest that Samuel has fallen off since a year ago. His interception rate did drop, which has a lot to do with luck. His targets increased, but so would yours if you went from playing across from Dimitri Patterson to Nnamdi Asomugha. On a per target basis, Samuel was every bit as good in 2011 as he was in 2010 — and with an utter failure of a defensive coordinator to boot.

What has changed in the last few months is that the Eagles’ leverage in negotiations has evaporated. Having bungled the 2011 trade and alienated Samuel permanently, then installed a defensive coordinator who was completely unprepared to utilize three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, the front office created a buyer’s market for Asante. Everyone knows the team can’t afford, in the books or on the field, to keep Samuel for another year. He’s worth less to the Eagles than anyone else and they have no choice but to get rid of him.

Howie Roseman has largely been hailed as a great deal maker (often as an antidote to poor drafting results), but this whole Samuel situation was terribly handled, and it has and will continue to cost the team.

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.

Photo from Getty.

Kolb Signs One-Year Extension, Gets Filthy Rich

Kevin Kolb Contract Extension Philadelphia Eagles

Yesterday Kevin Kolb got a one-year extension on his original rookie deal that would have ended after the upcoming 2010 season. You can read all about the 30%-rule in the CBA that prevented a long-term deal from happening over at IgglesBlog with Sam. But here I’m just interested in the implications of the deal.

According to Adam Schefter, the extension is worth $12.25 million — completely guaranteed. You can take this different ways. Adam Caplan says Kolb went from the lowest-paid quarterback starter in the league, to the highest-paid per year. Kolb’s agent Jeff Nailey, not one to diminish an accomplishment, portrayed the deal as one that will pay his client “seventh or eighth among the best-paid quarterbacks in the NFL this season.” Both agreed that Kevin would make more per year than Donovan McNabb.

My first thought was, wow, that’s a lot of guaranteed money for a guy who’s only started two games. And it is. But on the other hand, this is really a two year deal — to raise Kolb’s salary this year (from a paltry base pay of $550,000), and then extend him for one more. That wouldn’t place the per year money as high as either Caplan or Nailey suggests. Either way, as Joe Banner said, neither side wanted to “put Kevin in the position where he was playing this year as one of the lowest-paid players on the team.” Or, as Tommy Lawlor writes, let Kolb play with less than his new back-up Michael Vick, which could have been a pain.

This also marks the beginning of a fruitful Kolb-Front Office dynamic. Both Banner and Kolb were talking in the same language about how this deal allowed them to “bridge the gap” to a long-term contract. Of course, it’s easy to be buddy-buddy when you go through a pretty easy negotiation. Kolb had all the leverage once the Eagles sent McNabb to the Redskins, and achieved about as much as he could have asked for. He must be happy if his agent is willing to go on record with thoughts like:

"They have no chance of losing him after this year. Kevin had no desire to go anywhere [else] after this year."

Let’s see what gets floated to news outlets a year or two from now when both sides are working out a long term deal.