Contract Structure of Philadelphia Eagles’ 2015 Free Agent Acquisitions Gives Team Flexibility

Sorry for the long hiatus Eagles fans! It’s been a busy Summer with my real job and a couple of other projects I’ve been working on. Hope you’ve all enjoyed the All-22 highlight films I put together during the off-season. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, I highly recommend you scroll down this blog and do so. It’s back to business now as the Eagles officially kicked off training camp today, and with that comes a new blog post from yours truly.

The Philadelphia Eagles went on a bit of a splurge this off-season, cashing in on the $40+ million of cap space they had at the beginning of the free agency period. Between the signings of DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, and Brandon Graham, the Eagles handed out a total of $129 million with $53 million of that money being guaranteed. At first glance of looking at the overall numbers, the amount of money in these contracts looks like the type of money that ends up handcuffing teams down the road, causing bad cap implications if the team ends up having to move on from a player that didn’t perform at the level he was expected to. However, upon further review, the exact opposite is true.

Teams can find themselves in trouble when they sign a player to a big contract who doesn’t end up living up to the billing. They may want to move on from that player two to three years down the road, but there is one big obstacle in their way: dead money. Dead money in the NFL is the guaranteed portion of a contract that hasn’t been accounted for yet in the salary cap. Most of the time, this is in the form of the remainder of a signing bonus proration.

The NFL salary cap rules allow teams to hand a player a lump sump of money in the form of a signing bonus, but prorate this money out over a period of the length of the contract up to five years when it comes to accounting purposes for calculating that players salary cap value. On one hand, this is great for teams because they can give a player a $15 million signing bonus, but instead of having that $15 million be charged to their salary cap in year one, they can spread it out over five years to be a $3 mil cap charge each year. However, what happens if after three years, the player is not playing at a high level and the team feels he’s not worth the contract he’s being paid? There’s still $6 million left in signing bonus prorations to account for, so if the team decides to cut or trade that player, they will have to take on $6 million in dead money. So even though that player will no longer play for them, they will still have $6 million of their salary cap accounted for by that player. As a result, the team may be forced to hang on to the player for one more year if they don’t have the cap space to be able to take on the dead money for a player who is no longer contributing to the team.

That brings us to the contracts that the Eagles gave to Murray, Maxwell, and Graham. As they had a lot of cap space this year, they didn’t need to hand out large signing bonuses and do a lot of contract voodoo in order to fit those guys under their salary cap. Murray received a $5 million signing bonus, Maxwell a $6 million signing bonus, and Graham a $4 million signing bonus. Those are very small signing bonus numbers compared to other players of similar skill and age. The rest of the guaranteed money for these three players came in the way of guaranteed base salaries for their first two years, and $2 million of guaranteed base salary for Murray in year three.

Of the $53 million in guaranteed money the Eagles gave to this trio, $36 million of it is in the form of guaranteed base salaries in years one and two. Well these three players are pretty much locks to be on the roster for the next two years anyway, so basically the Eagles slapped a guarantee on a portion of money that these guys were already 99% guaranteed to make regardless. As a result, there is relatively very little dead money left on these players’ contracts after three seasons, as you’ll see below. Here’s a breakdown of each of Murray, Maxwell, and Graham’s contract from

DeMarco Murray
Murray contract

Byron Maxwell
Maxwell contract

Brandon Graham
Graham Contract

As shown in the contract breakdowns, after three seasons Murray will have $2 million in dead money left in his contract, Maxwell $2.4 million, and Graham $1 million. This gives the Eagles great cap flexibility heading into the 2018 season if they need to move on from one, or all, of these players or if they need to restructure their contracts to lower their cap numbers. But for argument’s sake, let’s just say that after three seasons, Murray, Maxwell, and Graham all hit a wall and are no longer playing at a level that justifies their contracts. If the Eagles were to cut all three players heading into the 2018 season, they would take on a total of $5.4 million in dead money. As a comparison, cutting Trent Cole and Todd Herremans alone this off-season resulted in $5.6 million in dead money.

Here are some more comparisons: The Buffalo Bills gave LeSean McCoy a $13.125 million signing bonus when they restructured his contract this off-season. As a result, if they cut or trade him after three seasons, they will incur $5.25 million of dead money. The Kansas City Chiefs handed Jeremy Maclin a $12 million signing bonus this off-season, leaving the Chiefs with a dead money hit of $4.8 million if they move on from him after three seasons. Cameron Jordan received a $16 million signing bonus from the Saints upon signing his five year $55 million deal. If the Saints move on from him after three seasons, they’ll incur $6.4 million of dead money.

Upon further review, the contracts the Eagles handed out this off-season look very safe and team friendly compared to some of the contracts handed out by their competitors. Hopefully, three years from now Murray, Maxwell, and Graham are all still playing at a high level and there’s no need to do anything but continue to pay them their salaries. But it’s nice to know that if a couple years down the road the team feels that it’s in their best interest to move on from a player, that they can do so without making a significant impact to their salary cap.

Connor Barwin 2014-15 Season Highlights

If you could pick one player that epitomizes what it means to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, Connor Barwin would be that player. Barwin can do it all. He can rush the passer, he can drop back in coverage, he can set the edge against the run, and he can spy the quarterback. But this isn’t a case of “jack of all trades, master of none”. Barwin is a master tradesmen who excels at pretty much everything he does.

In 2013, as his fellow linebackers Trent Cole and Brandon Graham were transitioning to their new roles and still getting used to having to drop back in coverage, Barwin’s pass rushing skills weren’t able to be showcased to their fullest extent. Those skills were on full display in 2014 however as he racked up 14.5 sacks on his way to his first ever AP NFL All-Pro selection, being named to the AP Second Team defense.

The Eagles rewarded Barwin for his spectacular season by restructuring his contract, fully guaranteeing his $6.4 million base salary for 2015 and guaranteeing $3 million of his $6.75 million base salary for 2016. The Eagles also gave him a pay increase of $750K for the 2016-2018 seasons.

Below is collection of highlights I put together showcasing Barwin’s All-Pro Season.

Fletcher Cox 2014-15 Season Highlights

Fletcher Cox has been a very good player for the Philadelphia Eagles ever since his rookie year in 2012. He took his game to another level in 2014 however, cementing himself as one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. That’s quite a feat too considering that he entered the NFL as a 1-gap 4-3 defensive tackle and was asked to take on a new role under new head coach Chip Kelly in 2013. Cox is so talented though that not only was he able to handle a new role in a new scheme, he was able to dominate in that new role.

Cox got the accolades he deserves when at the end of the season, he was named to the AP NFL All-Pro Second Team. Only three defensive ends, J.J. Watt, Mario Williams, and Calais Campbell, received more votes than him.

The Eagles exercised their fifth year option on Cox, which guarantees that he’ll remain an Eagle through the 2016 season. The next step will be signing him to a long term contract. Upon hearing the news that Cox had been snubbed from the pro bowl, Kelly was taken aback, insisting that Cox “may be our most valuable player”. Hopefully that’s a sign that the Eagles intend on giving Cox a contract that will ensure that he remains an Eagle for the foreseeable future.

Below are highlights I put together of Cox’s All-Pro 2014-15 season. The power and force he plays with is nothing short of amazing. He pushes around 300+ pound grown men as if they’re college freshmen.

Bennie Logan 2014-15 Season Highlights

Bennie Logan, nose tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, was the 67th pick of the 2013 draft. He started his NFL career off behind veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. He didn’t stay a backup long however, as he showed enough promise midway through his rookie season to give the Eagles enough confidence in him to trade Sopoaga and make Logan the starter.

Entering his second season in the NFL, there were some questions about whether he could be a true fit as a nose tackle in a 2-gap 3-4 defense. Watching film on him throughout the season, it didn’t take long to realize that he was making serious progress as a player in the NFL. His 2-gap technique was great this year, and he displayed explosive power that made him a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the Eagles’ defensive front.

While Logan may not be a household name, there is no question that he played a huge part in the Eagles run defense being one of the league’s best. And there is no doubt in my mind that as more and more people study tape of the Eagles’ defense, they’ll give Logan the proper recognition he deserves.

Below are highlights I compiled of Bennie Logan’s 2014-15 season. Take note of his 2-gap technique on run plays. Look at how he controls the offensive lineman with his hands, peaking around from side to side to see which gap the running back is going to hit, and then at the last second tossing his man to the side to close the gap and shut down the play. His lateral quickness on outside stretch runs is also quite remarkable for a man of his size.

Evan Mathis 2014-15 Season Highlights

Evan Mathis might be one of the oldest starting guards in the NFL, but don’t let his age fool you. Mathis, 33 years old, is still one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Mathis missed half the season after suffering a sprained MCL to his left knee during the Eagles’ week one game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mathis returned week 10 against the Carolina Panthers and picked up where he left on in 2013. Despite only playing half the season, Mathis earned his second straight pro bowl bid, and it was well deserved.

The following highlight video showcases some of his best blocks and biggest hits of the season. I’ve never seen an offensive linemen take his defender to the ground as often as Mathis does. It is certainly a testament to the great power and technique that he plays with week in and week out.

Jason Kelce 2014-15 Season Highlights

Jason Kelce continued to prove that he is one of the best centers in the league this year, earning a pro bowl bid despite missing time this season due to a sport hernia injury.

Kelce has an extremely well rounded skill set. He has the ability to get to the second level quickly on runs and screen passes like no other center in the league; and while he may be relatively undersized, he can control the middle of the line and handle big nose tackles on inside power runs.

This highlight video shows some of his best blocks of the season and shows off his skill set.

Jason Peters 2014-15 Season Highlights

Welcome to the off-season Eagle Nation. As we typically do here during the off-season at Inside The Eagles, we are in the process of putting together highlight films of players, using the NFL Gameday Rewind’s end-zone view camera. First up this off-season is Jason Peters. Peters had a great season, culminating with AP All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections. This marked the seventh time he was selected to the Pro Bowl and sixth time he was selected to the AP All-Pro team.

This video highlights some of his best blocks of the season. Enjoy!

All-22: Philadelphia Eagles Fletcher Cox and Benny Logan Anchoring the Line

The Philadelphia Eagles lost more than just a football game this past Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. They also lost the ability to control their own playoff destiny as the season winds down to the final two games. Plenty of negative things happened Sunday night which caused the Eagles to lose, but instead of focusing on the negative, I figured this week I’d focus on a positive. That positive was the excellent job Fletcher Cox and Benny Logan did against the Cowboys’ offensive line. Logan and Cox have really been playing great all year. Cox should be a sure-fire lock for the pro bowl, and has a good chance of being voted to the AP All-Pro team. If Benny Logan doesn’t get voted to the pro bowl this year, it will only be because of lack of name recognition, as he’s had a great year playing the nose tackle position in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense.

The Eagles rushing defense has allowed 3.8 yards per carry this season, which places them at 6th in the NFL. They’ve done this while having to face DeMarco Murray (1st in rushing yards) twice, Marshawn Lynch (3rd in rushing yards), Arian Foster (6th in rushing yards), Alfred Morris (8th in rushing yards), and Eddie Lacy (9th in rushing yards). So they’ve seen no shortage of top running backs this season.

This past Sunday against the Cowboys and DeMarco Murray, Cox and Logan continued to lead the way for the front seven of their defense as they held Murray to 81 yards on 31 carries, for a season low average of 2.6 yards per carry. Before Sunday night, Murray had been held to under 4 yards per carry only one other time this season, and it was on Thanksgiving day against the Eagles.

So let’s get into the film and break down how Logan and Cox were able to cause trouble for the Cowboys’ offensive line.

Fletcher Cox uses a nice swim move on this play to get into the backfield to tackle Murray for a two-yard loss. He displays excellent technique on this move as he uses his left hand to club and then swings his right arm over and through to be able to get by right guard Zack Martin.

Benny Logan display textbook two-gap technique on this play as he is able to stop Murray at the line of scrimmage. He extends his arms out at the point of attack to control left guard Ronald Leary, peaks into the backfield to see which hole Murray is going to attack, and then at the last second pushes Leary aside and makes the tackle on Murray.

Fletcher Cox sacks Tony Romo on this play on third down, but unfortunately the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty on corner back Cary Williams. Cox again displays excellent technique on this play. He starts off with a chop with his left hand to prevent Leary from being able to get a hand on him, follows it up with a club with his right hand, and finishes up with a rip move with his left arm, which prevents Leary from re-gaining any leverage on him.

Cox and Logan team up for a stop on Murray on this play. Cox explodes off the line at the snap of the ball, gaining positional leverage on center Travis Frederick. This forces Murray to have to make a cut to his right, where Benny Logan is waiting for him as he sheds the block attempt from fullback Tyler Clutts.

Cox gets pressure on Romo on this play, forcing Romo off his spot and to the left. Romo eventually trips over his own lineman as he’s trying to get away from Cox. On this play, Zack Martin is able to get his hands to Cox’s chest, but Cox does a great job of shooting his own hands up underneath Martin’s arms to knock them away which allows him to get positional leverage on him and get into the backfield.

Logan shows patience and great technique on this run play as he stops Murray. Watch as he keeps his shoulders square as he moves down the line of scrimmage, and then when Murray tries to cut back inside, he throws Ronald Leary to the side and tackles Murray.

Logan is an anchor on this play on third down with one yard to go. Zack Martin and Travis Frederick initially double team Logan, but he doesn’t budge an inch. He ends up stuffing Murray with the help of linebacker Connor Barwin.

Logan uses a rip move to get leverage on Frederick on this stretch run play, which forces Murray to cut back inside into linebacker Brandon Graham for a stop.

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line finally did find a way to contain Fletcher Cox. It’s a new blocking technique I’d like to call the “Hug and Hold”. Here’s a picture of them perfecting this technique.
screen shot of cox being held

That wraps up this week’s All-22 breakdown. The Philadelphia Eagles travel to the nation’s capital Saturday to face the 3-11 Washington Redskins in a game that has huge playoff implications for the Eagles. A win for the Eagles coupled with a loss by the Cowboys puts the Eagles back in the driver’s seat for control of the division.

All-22: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Philadelphia Eagles were dealt a 24-14 loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks as the visiting birds from the northwest stifled the Eagles’ high powered offense. The Eagles were held to a season low 139 yards and only gained nine first downs in the entire game. Since Mark Sanchez has taken over at quarterback for the injured Nick Foles, the Eagles have made a living in the middle of the field in the passing game. The Seahawks seemed intent on clamping down the middle of the field and forcing Sanchez to make plays elsewhere, and it paid off for them as they were able to hold Sanchez to under 100 yards passing on the day.
Seattle is a great defense and in order to have success against them in the passing game, an offense has to be able to rack up completions on a diverse array of routes. As they showed in the Superbowl last year (and as I broke down in my All-22 recap for NFL Spinzone), they have the ability to shut down an offense that isn’t utilizing every inch of the field.
In this post, I’ll break down five plays from the offense that could have made a difference in the game.

This first play comes on third down with nine yards to go. Sanchez ends up throwing a shallow crossing route to a well covered Jordan Matthews that goes incomplete. Even if it had been completed, it would have been well short of the first down marker. Tight end Zach Ertz was matched up against safety Kam Chancellor and is running a corner route. Jeremy Maclin is on the far right side of the field running a square in against man coverage. Since Kam Chancellor has inside position on Ertz, and since Maclin is in man coverage, this leaves a large opening for Sanchez to lead Ertz into on the corner route. A completion to Ertz here would have moved the chains and put the Eagles in scoring position.

This next play comes from the end of the first half. It’s third and six and the Eagles get a four yard gain on a crossing route to Riley Cooper. The Eagles end up punting the ball with enough time on the clock for the Seahawks to run their two-minute drill and put three points on the scoreboard before half. Now, it’s the defense’s responsibility to prevent the Seahawks from scoring, but the offense didn’t do them any favors by going three-and-out here. Ertz once again is going to be matched up against Chancellor, and once again he gets open, this time on a curl route which would have gone for a first down and kept the Eagles’ drive going.

This next play was similar to the first play shown in this post. It’s third down with three yards to go, and once again Ertz runs a corner route against Chancellor. He gets open as there is no underneath help and Chancellor is playing him far to the inside. Sanchez ends up throwing incomplete downfield to Maclin and the Eagles punt. A completion to Ertz here would have been another 20-yard play and kept the chains moving.

On this play, the Eagles are faced with third down and 13 yards to go from their own fifteen yard line. Sanchez does a good job initially on this play of rolling out to his left to buy himself and his receivers some time and does a good job with his mechanics, resetting his feet to throw downfield. However, his pass ends up sailing on him and goes over the head of Ertz. He also didn’t see that Jeremy Maclin was left uncovered in the middle of the field. This would have been another big play for the Eagles and would have kept their drive alive.

The last play of this breakdown is the interception thrown by Sanchez in the direction of receiver Riley Cooper. Cooper begins this play on the outside with Matthews in the slot. They are going to criss-cross with Cooper running a deep post to the middle of the field and Matthews running a wheel route down the sideline. Cornerback Byron Maxwell initially begins the play in front of Matthews, but leaves him to cover running back Darren Sproles in the flat. This leaves Matthews completely uncovered streaking down the sideline. Sanchez doesn’t see Matthews and instead opts to throw towards Cooper. However, as Sanchez steps up in the pocket, instead of sliding forward and keeping his feet in a proper throwing stance, he runs forward and attempts the throw on the run without resetting his feet. This causes his pass to fall short of where he intended it to go. The result is an interception.

The Eagles have a huge matchup this week as the divisional rival Dallas Cowboys come to Philadelphia on Sunday night. The winner of this game controls their own destiny to win the division and obtain a playoff berth.

All-22 Review: How Chip Kelly Tailors the Offense to Mark Sanchez

The job of any head coach is to put his players in a position to be successful. The ability to consistently do this is one of the many reasons why Chip Kelly has had success at every level that he’s coached at. People often try to define Chip Kelly’s offense as if it’s something that can be put into a box. When pressed for what makes up the “Chip Kelly” offense, Kelly typically responds by dispelling the myth that a “Chip Kelly” offense exists in the first place. As Kelly said in his press conference after the win against the Houston Texans, “I don’t have an offense.  I’ve said that since day one. Our offense is directed around our quarterback. So tell me who is playing quarterback and I’ll tell you what our offense is going to be and how it’s going to look because we can always cater it to the skills of our offense.”

Enter Mark Sanchez. Despite his pedestrian 55.2% completion percentage he’s averaged for his career, that 55% is not equally spread out all over the field for all types of throws. He’s actually pretty accurate when it comes to making throws in between the numbers. He also has good athletic ability and coordination to throw accurately while on the move. However, where he can struggle at times is making throws to the sideline on out patterns and comeback/hitch routes. In this case, catering the offense to Sanchez means trying to create as many opportunities in between the numbers while limiting the amount of times he has to make throws to the sideline. Doing this allows Sanchez to play towards his strengths and allows the offense to have the most success possible while he’s the quarterback.

Since taking over for the injured Nick Foles, Sanchez has had 59 pass attempts. Out of those 59 pass attempts, only six of those have been to the sideline on out and comeback patterns. Of those six attempts, he’s completed only one of them for eight yards. That’s about as ineffective as you can get. However, now onto the types of throws where Sanchez excels. Ignoring screens and dropped passes and looking at throws made in between the numbers and throws where he’s rolled outside of the pocket, Sanchez is an outstanding 25/31(81%) for 413 yards (13.3 yards per attempt), 3 touchdowns, and one interception. Contrary to the results of the sideline routes, you can’t get much more effective than that.

Here are a few plays (all to rookie receiver Jordan Matthews) where the Eagles were able to get some significant yards over the middle.

The first play is a simple crossing route to on third down with 10 yards to go. The Panthers are in man coverage. Receiver Riley Cooper is on the left sideline and is going to take his man deep downfield, giving Matthews plenty of open space in the middle of the field to work against safety Colin Jones. Sanchez is able to hit him perfectly in stride which allows Matthews to pick up an additional 15 yards after the catch.

One play later, Kelly calls a play to take advantage of Sanchez’s athletic ability as he has him rollout to his left. Sanchez rolling out on this play makes it nearly impossible for the defender to get an angle on the pass to Matthews. Instead of making the throw from the middle of the field, which could potentially give an opposing defender an angle to make a play on the ball, Sanchez is near the left side of the field and the throw ends up being a straight vertical line from Sanchez to Matthews. Sanchez does a great job of quickly resetting his feet to get into proper throwing position and leads Matthews to the open space for the touchdown.

Later in the game, the Eagles are faced with another third and long. Kelly dials up a double stacked slant play to Matthews and the result is a 33 yard gain. Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews are lined up on the right side of the field, and they both are going to be running slant routes. However, Ertz is going to run his route a few yards deeper downfield than Matthews, and basically acts as a lead blocker for Matthews on this play. As shown in this clip, the defender covering Matthews is completely out of position and can not get around Ertz to make a play on the ball. Again, Sanchez does a great job of hitting Matthews in stride to allow him to pick up additional yards after the catch.

The last clip in this breakdown is another crossing route to Matthews. Safety Colin Jones, who is lined up over Matthews, is going to come on a blitz. This leave safety Thomas DeCoud to cover Matthews. However, DeCoud is over 10 yards away from him and has no shot at preventing a completion. The result is a nice open space for Sanchez to lead Matthews into, and Sanchez executes, hitting Matthews in stride for a 14 yard gain.

That’s what tailoring an offense to the strengths of your players is all about. Even though the passing offense of the Eagles has been largely relegated to staying in between the numbers and ignoring the sideline routes over the past two games, they’ve still been able to move the ball and put up points in large part because they’ve executed with excellent precision in that area of the field.

That’s not to say that this game plan is going to work each and every single game. At some point, a defense may be able to clamp down the middle of the field and force the Eagles offense to move the ball down the field in a different way. When that time comes, it will be up to Chip Kelly and the coaching staff to adjust and give their players the answers needed to beat the defensive players in front of them.

For Chip Kelly, that’s just another day at the office.