Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com (which is a high quality NFL salary cap information website) has been taking a look at every NFL's teams best and worst contracts over the past few weeks. Fitzgerald examined the best/worst Philadelphia Eagles contracts on Tuesday morning.
The honor of "Best Contract" goes to Eagles starting center Jason Kelce.
Kelce is one of the bright young centers in the game, having started every game he was healthy enough to play in since his rookie year in 2011. Kelce was entering the final year of his contract and would have likely become a free agent in 2015 as the cost of the Franchise tag for centers is usually prohibitive for using a tag on the position. Kelce’s deal was also important for the Eagles to do sooner rather than later since they realized that the market could potentially change once Alex Mack hit free agency, not to mention expected extensions for the Pouncey brothers. While teams were awaiting final word on salary cap possibilities the Eagles entered into negotiations with their players and signed them before the new salary cap rise was made public knowledge.
The Eagles pretty much hit it right on all accounts. The higher priced centers did seem to extend the market. The salary cap rise was large. None of it mattered to Philadelphia as Kelce was locked into a six year extension that pays $6.25 million a season. The value of the contract over the first three and four years is just $6 million a season and the signing bonus was also $6 million. By 2016 Kelce could be released with $3.6 million in cap charges and the last two years of the contract carry no dead money.
Over the first three years of the contract Kelce’s cap charge will never exceed $6.2 million and the Eagles did not give away much upside to get that. Kelce can only incase the value of the contract by $200,000 for each time he makes the Pro Bowl. The guarantee per year and percent guaranteed in the contract are well below the norms for a player in his salary range. About the only thing missing that could have benefitted the Eagles would have been per game roster bonuses to protect in the event of injury. That’s a very minor quibble on a very good contract.
It's definitely a well-deserved contract for Kelce. It was also very team-oriented of Kelce to take a longer contract (6 years) instead of opting for a shorter one that could have given him a chance to earn more money in the future. Kelce was aware of this opportunity and when asked about it he retorted "I got more than enough to live comfortably." He noted he's not exactly a big spender.
Fitzgerald also gave consideration to Trent Cole, Riley Cooper, and Brent Celek in this regard. Celek was named as the team's best contract at this time last year.
As far as worst contract goes, Eagles tight end James Casey was singled out.
Casey is one of those players that can play some tight end or a bit in the backfield. In today’s game I’m not sure that this is worth $4 million a season on a three year contract, but I know it is not worth it when you never play the player. Casey officially saw action in just 153 offensive snaps (around 14% of their plays) for the Eagles in 2013 and was relegated to mainly playing just special teams. The year prior, in Houston, Casey played in over 50% of the teams offensive plays.
What made it worse is that the Eagles guaranteed 50% of his contract- $6.05 million upon signing. If they were to release him this season it would cost the Eagles $2 million in cash. I don’t know if the Eagles did not play him because they were hoping they could find a trade partner and were afraid that playing him might hurt his trade value or just because they did not have space for him, but they essentially have a $4 million hole in their salary cap.
I’d guess they will see if they can trade him this preseason the way they traded Isaac Sopoaga last season, who had a similarly structured bad contract and rarely played, but I would think that ship has sailed. Maybe the Eagles will try to negotiate his contract down this season or perhaps they can find a role for him in the offense, but something will need to change to make the contract fit with the performance.
I can't disagree that Casey is overpaid. Fitzgerald makes a lot of fair points. I wouldn't disagree that the Eagles would like to negotiate his contract down but I don't see them parting ways with Casey. The Eagles seem to be higher on him than people realize. Allow me to justify the Casey contract to an extent while still admitting it's an overpay.
The Eagles signed Casey in free agency when Brent Celek was really only the proven capable tight end on the roster. Considering Kelly said the team was going to "stockpile" tight ends, it was no surprise they went after one in free agency. Having Casey gave the Eagles to going into the 2014 NFL Draft without having to reach on a player. The team was fortunate enough to have one fall to them in the form of Zach Ertz. With Celek and Ertz in the fold, Casey was then bounced to the third string. When the season started, the Eagles didn't use a lot of two tight end sets (12 personnel). Instead, they ran 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) a vast majority of the time. Still, the Eagles did use Celek (77%) and Ertz (41%) often so it was important for them to have a capable string third in case of an emergency.
It'll be interesting to see if Casey's playing time increases moving forward. It's hard to imagine given Ertz's expected emergence but let's not forget that Casey played 47% offensive snaps in Week 16 and 42% of the snaps in Week 17. Perhaps this extended role at the end of the season was a sign of things to come?
If not, Casey is far from completely worthless. The veteran tight end led the team in special teams tackles last season according to the NFL and PFF. Paying Casey for special teams alone isn't the best use of resources, but the Eagles have enough cap space to make it a luxury they can afford.
Casey isn't some kind of forgotten roster member, either. Bring up the Eagles tight ends Celek and Ertz and Kelly will be quick to point out the name that wasn't mentioned. "We got a really good [tight end] in James Casey, also."