Skip to main content
Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles News

A 'special' bond: Eagles invest in stability, chemistry with specialists 

Rick Lovato, Jake Elliott, and Braden Mann
Rick Lovato, Jake Elliott, and Braden Mann

Amidst the major free agency moves made last week by the Eagles, Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman made it clear that the organization would commit to a core part of special teams.

The Eagles re-signed long snapper Rick Lovato to a one-year contract, re-signed punter Braden Mann to a two-year contract, and gave kicker Jake Elliott a four-year contract extension.

"I think they (the Eagles' front office) saw how important special teams were last year," Jake Elliott said. "Having that core group together and just continuing to build on that chemistry is important. So, for them to put that commitment in all three of us is really special and much appreciated."

Elliott earned his first All-Pro selection in 2023 after setting a single-season franchise record with his 93.8 field goal percentage. The 29-year-old won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week three times and tied his team-record-long field goal of 61 yards (Week 2 vs. Vikings).

Mann, who signed onto the practice squad and made his Eagles debut in Week 3, registered career highs and single-season franchise records in gross punting average (49.8) and net punting average (43.9).

"Last year was one of the most fun years I've had playing football," Mann said. "I think that had a lot to do with the players here, the staff, the vibe of the city, and the fans, so I really wanted to be back."

Lovato, the long snapper for Elliott and Mann, aided in the success of each during a record-setting year for the Eagles' special teams unit. Lovato also recorded three tackles and forced a fumble.

The 31-year-old is the third-longest-tenured member of the team and one of four remaining players on the roster who were members of the Super Bowl LII Championship team.

"Going on my ninth season here is pretty special," Lovato said. "We want to be an Eagle forever, so it was most important for me and my wife (Jordan) to come back here."

Relieve some of the best moments and greatest photos of the Eagles' special teams during the 2023 season. The position group included Jake Elliott, Braden Mann, and Rick Lovato.

While each player made their individual mark on the season, the collaborative effort helped the special teams finish as one of the NFL's best units in 2023.

Many factors led to the special teams' strong season, but Elliott, Lovato, and Mann all pointed to the trio's competitiveness as to why they work so well together.

"We are competitive with everything," Lovato said. "Any competitive activities we can do during the season and offseason help us stay together and continue to build our chemistry."

Inside the NovaCare Complex, you will find them playing an "excessive amount" of pool in the players' lounge, per Lovato. When they are outside the facility, they are golfing or bowling. Elliott, who has been touted as the best athlete on the team by his peers, usually runs the table, but Lovato and Mann are not far behind.

The competitiveness stands out in everything the trio does, whether it is during a game, practice, or at the bowling alley. While the group has a lot of fun together, they are all serious when it's time to put their game faces on.

"We have a bunch of fun on and off the field," Mann said, "but when it's time to get to work, we do our best every day to come in and be ready."

Each player has their role in the group but none more important than Lovato who serves as the "glue guy."

Being the oldest of the bunch, it's a role Lovato was thrust into, but thoroughly enjoys.

"To be that guy for them to look up to because of my experience in the NFL and with the Eagles is pretty cool," Lovato said. "I make sure they're in the right mind space for everything, and I am glad they can come to me and talk to me about anything."

"We all know each other very well, trust each other, and know each other's skills," Elliott said. "Rick is kind of the one that holds us together, so we really have a great group."


Another important piece of the puzzle is Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay.

Clay's special teams unit ranked first in DVOA and fifth in the league according to Pro Football Focus' grading method. Along with standout campaigns from Elliott, Lovato, and Mann, Clay oversaw a career year for Britain Covey, who finished first in the league in punt return yards (417) and second in average yards per return (14.4).

"Clay is one of my favorite coaches I have ever had, if not my favorite," Elliott said. "He's very personable with us, he understands us, and he keeps things light and humorous. He knows our skills and puts every guy in a position to succeed."

"He is one of the best guys I've ever been around," Mann said. "He knows specialists and special teams too, so he knows how our minds work."

While the competition on the football field and the golf course is fierce, the special bond Elliott, Lovato, and Mann share will continue to grow as they commit their futures to Philadelphia.

Go inside the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles sign players – both new and returning veterans – for the 2024 season. Check out all of these exclusive photos in one spot.

Related Content