The Eagles continued a trend they've become known for in the "Andy Reid era" when they signed tight end Brent Celek to a six-year extension through 2016. Over the past decade or so, the Eagles have made a habit of making sure to lock up their promising young players to long-term contracts in order to maintain stability and consistency.
Celek, 24, is the second played to be extended in the past two weeks - right tackle Winston Justice was extended last week - and he is part of an Eagles roster that is well-stocked for the future. In fact, 76 percent of the current roster is signed past 2010.
In Celek, the Eagles have a reliable target at a premium position, especially in the NFC East.
"Obviously, for the last few years in the NFC East everybody's (been) talking about the tight ends, mainly because we have to cover them and defend them," said general manager Tom Heckert. "I think with the (Redskins TE Chris) Cooleys and the Wittens and when (former Giants TE Jeremy) Shockey was here, those type of guys; it was a major part of their offense. We feel the same way about Brent and we think he's right in that class.
"When we send our scouts out to the colleges ... and we talk about this every year during the draft, we want tough guys, smart guys that love football. Brent, he's that type of guy. We're happy to have this thing done."
Celek has certainly established himself as an elite tight end this season, his first full season as a starter. Among NFL tight ends, Celek is currently fifth in receiving yards (601) and fifth in touchdowns (four), and his 54 catches lead the team.
"Any time you can add another weapon without adding another receiver, when you can keep guys in base defenses and have a threat it's a huge deal for us," Heckert said, when asked how important Celek is to the offense. "We don't want to go four wides all the time and have to complete passes doing that, so any time you have a guy who can catch the football as a tight end it's obviously an added bonus."
A fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2007, Celek was on the Eagles' radar early.
"I was kidding (Celek) about this the other day, there was some question about his speed," Heckert said. "Then in the bowl game he broke one and out-ran a bunch of guys for a touchdown so I said, 'I guess he's fast enough.' The tight end position especially, but it's the same as a wide receiver, you don't have to be the fastest guy, you don't have to be the biggest guy, it's a combination of a lot of things: being smart, being able to get open and using your body. Brent can tell you this, just getting open, however you do it it doesn't matter. You don't have to be the quickest, fastest guy. Just if you get open you get open and you catch the football. That's the main thing."
Celek joins a group of 22 players on the Eagles' roster, including injured reserve, who have signed multiple contracts with the team. While Eagles' fans can get used to seeing number 87 catching passes in Philadelphia for years to come, the front office and coaching staff can sleep easy knowing that the future is in good hands.
"It's nice to have basically your core group of guys locked up one way or another and not have to go out into free agency or the draft saying we need this position, we need that position," Heckert said. "That's when the mistakes happen. The more guys we can have under contract and obviously the young guys and the guys we expect to be here for a long time, it's the best case scenario."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:43 p.m., December 1