Depending on your view, Joe Banner and Andy Reid are either shrewd, savvy, and/or even spiteful when it comes to player contracts. Not free agent contracts because they’ve shown time and again they aren’t afraid to pay big money for a prized player. What I’m talking about is their penchant for approaching players under contract and offering them an extension.
What Joe Banner and Andy Reid do is identify young players that they feel are on the rise…but before they have a “break out” season…and offer them an extension. This is a calculated gamble by the Eagles front office. In doing this, the Eagles feel it will benefit both the organization and the player. From the organization’s stand point they secure a possible rising star at a more affordable , cap-friendly price and the player gets the security of a long term contract with a signifcant raise in pay and gauranteed money. In this scenario, the player is put in a tough position because he has to debate waiting until free agency to maximize his value but risk a serious injury in the meantime, or accept lesser money but have security.
Because the player is usually 1 – 2 years away from free agency and hasn’t actually had a super star-like year yet, the Eagles can offer him less money than what he could eventually demand on the open market. Part of their pitch is probably that they are assuming most of the risk. In a way, that is true. If they misjudge the player and he ends up being more of a dud, then they wasted their time and money. But what happens if the player accepts the deal and continues his ascension?
In some cases with the Eagles, what has happened is that the player becomes disgruntled and starts to feel underpaid. Then they begin to clamor for a new contract and if they don’t get it, they become a distraction for the team. Examples we can point to are John Welbourn, Lito Sheppard, and Sheldon Brown. In all 3 cases each player was traded after much public bickering about their contracts. In other cases, such as Mike Patterson, Reggie Brown, and Todd Pinkston, the players’ production either leveled off quickly or declined possibly due to complacency.
Another scenario that has been troublesome is how the Eagles seem to react to players who rebuff their overtures about a new contract or an extension. Here is a quick look at some of these cases and how they worked out…
Michael Lewis – He was the starting strong safety from 2003 – 2005 and was viewed as a tenacious hitter and a great pairing with Brian Dawkins. The Eagles tried signing him to an extension before his contract was up but Lewis turned them down. Mysteriously after that, Lewis’ playing time began to dwindle and was replaced in the starting lineup by 4th round rookie Sean Considine. They cited Lewis’ play as the reasoning but it seemed to be too much of a coincidence for that to be entirely true.
Jeremiah Trotter – This was an extremlely volatile situation. The Eagles wanted to extend Trotter prior to his contract expiring. They could never agree on a dollar figure and the 2 sides went back and forth up until the end of the 2006 season. While it could be viewed as purely a logical decision, the Eagles placed the franchise tag on him. However, the move appeared to be in spite because of the heated nature of the relationship between the 2 sides and the fact that Trotter made it known publicly he did not want to be tagged. When he was, he litterally went into Reid’s office and went on a tirade. The Eagles eventually removed the tag but the situation had gotten out of control.
David Akers – He is the most recent example. Last season the Eagles tried to work out a new contract with him and did make at least 1 offer of which he refused. This didn’t seem to sit well as Reid uncharacteristically called out Akers after missng 2 FG’s in the playoff loss to the Packers. They followed that up by drafting a kicker in the 4th round last month. Apparently the contract offer was subpar for a player of Akers’ stature so instead of improving their offer, they decided to take the hardline approach and draft his replacement. Akers can still be an effective kicker for several more years so this move was obviously out of animosity.
If there’s one thing the Eagles pride themselves on is placing certain values on a given player. They formulate a number (or range) based on current production, age, position, and projected future production. It seems that once they set this value, that’s it, take it or leave it. The only time they ever appeared to waver on this was the Brian Westbrook situation. And the only reason they did that was because he truly was our best offensive player and there was tremendous pressure from the fanbase.
The Eagles have been right more than they’ve been wrong in placing such values and projections on players. The likes of Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Duce Staley, Jon Runyan, and Tra Thomas were all let go at the right times. However, they did misjudge on a big one…Mr. Brian Dawkins. He is the only player I can honestly say that they shouldn’t have let go when they did. Derrick Burgess was another miscalculation but considering the circumstances at the time they made the right choice. But these were not contract disputes as much as controversial “non-resignings”.
The strategy employed by the Eagles when it comes to extending young players is good in theory but doesn’t appear to be too good in practice. It seems that most of the time there have been negative consequences (disgruntled or complacent players). The only players it hasn’t effected are Trent Cole and Todd Herremans (too early to tell about Winston Justice). And if they truly are spiteful when they get rejected, well that’s just childish. We don’t know all of the details so we can only go on what we hear and the subsequent actions of the team. And so far these approaches don’t appear to work very well.
Jeff Lurie, Joe Banner, and Andy Reid have created their self proclaimed “Gold Standard” when it comes to running a franchise. They have a reputation around the league as being a good organization for the most part…by both players and various NFL personnel. Otherwise, no players would ever want to come here. They are also known to be tough but fair in negotiations. The Eagles do pay their players and will spend big money on the right free agents, contrary to popular belief among some Eagles fans. The next few years will be interesting to see in how they handle the contracts of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and of course Michael Vick.