In the NFL, and particularly in Philadelphia, it seems no one’s job is ever safe, but perhaps no one feels more at risk than players in the final year of their contracts.Whether they haven’t been extended because of simple pragmatism, or the team just doesn’t view them as part of the future, it’s not a comfortable position to be in.
We saw Jeremy Maclin bet on himself and sign a one year deal in 2014, and it worked out to his benefit when he stayed healthy and signed a significantly better deal this off-season than he could have garnered in 2014.
Here are some of the Eagles in the final year of their deal who have the most to gain – or lose – based on their play in 2015.
Bradford came into the league during the final draft where rookies could receive massive contracts and, as the first overall pick of that draft, is in the final year of a $78 million dollar deal that will pay him almost $4 million more than anyone else on the Eagles this season.
Despite the praise levied on Bradford by the Eagles’ staff, it seems clear they plan to make him earn an extension with his play on the field. Since it’s been a year and a half since Bradford was healthy enough to make a play on the field, it’s hard to blame them.
A lot has been said about the quality of player that surrounded Bradford in St. Louis, but if he wants to keep the salary he’s used to, or approach the astronomical deals signed by other quarterbacks around the league, you’d think he will have to improve on numbers like his career completion percentage (58.6) and QB rating (79.3.)
Kendricks is also entering the final year of his rookie contract, but it could be the other teams around the league that he has to impress this season. He has a couple things working against him on the Eagles, none of which has very much to do with his play on the field.
First, he plays at a suddenly crowded position.The Eagles acquired Kiko Alonso from Buffalo and extended Demeco Ryans, then spent a 3rd round draft pick on Texas’ Jordan Hicks. If Kendricks plays at the level he has during his first three years in the league, the money required to keep him would mean a huge investment at the MLB position.
Secondly, whether it’s his small size (5-foot-11) for the position or the fact that he is a holdover from the Andy Reid/Howie Roseman regime, Kendricks doesn’t appear to have a solid place in Chip Kelly’s plan. Praise from Kelly has, similarly to comments about now departed quarterback Nick Foles, been tempered with qualifiers like, “When he was healthy…” and “When he played…”
Singling out any one player for health issues (particularly ones that only caused them to miss four games) seems a little unfair in the wake of the Eagles off-season binge signings of injury riddled free agents.
Boykin’s case is in several ways similar to Kendricks’.They are rookies from the same class, acquisitions of Reid and Roseman.They are both considered short (Boykins is 5-foot-10) for their position.Boykin has not however, missed a single game for the Eagles since entering the league in 2012.
Despite that, Boykin still appears to be a player that may be valued more by the rest of the NFL than by the team that he’s on, which seems prepared to play him at slot corner again this season.Boykins play as the nickel back has been exceptional, most notably when he intercepted six passes in 2013, including one against Dallas in the season finale that sent the Eagles into the playoffs.
But it still hasn’t gotten him a shot at playing outside, despite the Eagles’ significant struggles at the position.Late last season when Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams were performing poorly enough to no longer be members of the team, they still took the field every down ahead of Boykin.
Nothing appears to have changed this off-season as Nolan Carroll, also relegated to backup duty behind Fletcher and Williams last season, is the early starter at outside cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell.
Thurmond joined the Eagles as a talented nickel back with an apparent complete inability to stay healthy.He has not played a full season since his junior year at Oregon, in 2008.
Since signing, he has become the early favorite to start opposite Malcolm Jenkins at safety.Thurmond is in a similar position to last season, when he signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Giants and wound up missing the remainder of the season after suffering an injury in the second game.
Before that, he’d won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks and established a rapport working in that secondary with Maxwell.He signed another one year contract for similar money with the Eagles this year, and, if his season ends a similar way, may be running out of chances to prove he can stay on the field.
Curry is another holdover from the 2012 draft like Boykin and Kendricks. His problems with the current regime though, have always been more of a scheme fit. A relic of the Eagles’ days running a 4-3 defense, which he fit very nicely in as a defensive end, Curry has remained productive despite only playing about a third of the snaps for the team in their new 3-4.
He had 9 sacks in that limited playing time last season, and if Curry again puts up great production in few opportunities, it seems hard to imagine that some team desperate for pass rush help will come his way with more money and more playing time than the Eagles can offer.
Edge rushers are a big commodity in the NFL right now, and a productive 2015 could pave Curry’s path to a huge payday in 2016, although maybe not with Philadelphia.