LJ Smith is entering the final year of his deal, and he wants a new contract. He's making no secret about it.
When the Eagles embarked on a contract extension spree last season, solidifying their core of young players for the long term, one person looked around the locker room and thought, "What about me?"
Eventually, tight end L.J. Smith stopped waiting around.
"I took it personal at first," Smith said last week. "Because during the season we had [contract] talks and guys were getting deals, young guys were getting extensions for only being here two years, and things like that. So, that's when I took it personal at first.
"But after the season, I was just at a point where I was just like, 'You know what? I just can't control it. It's out of my hands.' So, I'm not worried about that at all."
First off, LJ was made offers. He said there's been alot of talks over the past 2 years between the Eagles and his agent. The difference between LJ and those other players mentioned in the article is that they accepted the deals the Eagles offered. He hasn't.
LJ also went on to say he never entertained the idea of holding out because he's seen how previous hold outs have went here. He knows it wouldn't help him at all. The Eagles hard line stance on hold outs has apparently worked.
I do commend LJ's attitude here. I heard him interviewed during the minicamps and the reporters were really try to get him to say something controversial, but he didn't take the bait. One guy even asked if he was upset that his stats took a hit late last year because the Eagles used him less in the passing game and more in blocking. He wisely said the team was on such a great roll that his personal stats didn't matter. When you're negotiating with a team it's okay to say some things to the media to put some pressure on them. Especially when it's the appropriate time, like before the final season of your rookie contract. There's a line that LJ has not yet crossed where he'll look like the bad guy. See Lance Briggs for an example.
A few months ago I wrote about the cost of keeping LJ if he hit the free agent market. LJ wants the Eagles to pay him like an elite TE, but he isn't. That said, someone will pay him like one if he hit the open market. So do you overpay a guy because he plays a pretty important role in your offense? Or do you stick to the philosophy that if you produce like an elite player you get elite money?
The general feeling seems to be that a deal will no get done this year and LJ will go elsewhere in free agency after this year. I'm not so sure about that. I think there's a decent chance they'd franchise him, mostly because franchising a TE is cheap.
In fact, only kickers and punters are cheaper to franchise. The franchise tag value of a TE jumped over 31% this year but is still only $4.371 million. We'll see.