Some things off the cuff today, things that I like, that I don't like and some of the topics to discuss as the Eagles dig deep into Week 2 of their camp for selected veterans and rookies ...
**THE SALARY CAP
Sal Paolantonio from ESPN wrote a piece recently questioning the Eagles' approach to the salary cap, saying the Eagles are $23.1 million under the $128 million cap and, in fact, that the Eagles have spent just under $104 million of their cap dollars, more than $3 million below the NFL's minimum requirement. I say this story is absolute nonsense.
Here are some things I know: The Eagles' salary cap started at $20 million *more *than the $123 million figure, as the team deferred that money from last year's cap into this year's cap. So the threshold of where the Eagles started was, in reality, higher than that of any team in the league. Then the Eagles went out in the off-season and reportedly made Jason Peters the highest-paid offensive lineman in the game, they signed Stacy Andrews to a huge contract in the first couple of days of free agency, they gave fullback Leonard Weaver and safety Sean Jones a nice chunk of change and they have room to continue to maneuver should they choose to do so.
They have spent way more than $104 million, and are far above the minimum Paolantonio cites. There are also cash dollars and cap dollars, and the Eagles are highly respected as one of the best, if not the best, at managing the salary cap. If they found a way to spend the cash and still have cap dollars, they are to be applauded for that.
Some looking to criticize will ask: Why did the Eagles push that $20 million into this year's cap instead of spending it last year? Well, much of the money has been pushed forward for years and the Eagles did, in fact, spend to last year's cap. They also thought they had put together a Super Bowl-worthy team and, in retrospect, they did. They reached the NFC Championship Game. I don't think anybody believes that the Cardinals, the Steelers or the Ravens were more talented than the Eagles. Problem was, the Eagles didn't play their best game in Arizona and were beaten. That team was better than the performance on that day.
Another question: Why didn't the Eagles spend more in free agency and retain a player like Brian Dawkins, or sign other players are on the market. In the case of Dawkins, the Eagles believed they made him a very, very fair multi-year offer. In an interview with Philadelphia's Sportsradio WIP, Eagles President Joe Banner said the Eagles had offered Dawkins more than he accepted in his last contract. Dawkins instead accepted a deal in Denver that makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL this season. That's the choice Dawkins made. It doesn't mean the Eagles weren't willing to spend money to keep Dawkins. That's the way it goes. We shall see how much losing Dawkins impacts this team.
You can always argue about signing other players. The team really feels good about this roster. They like the depth and the youth and, yes, the experience from top to bottom. Again, we are going to find out if the Eagles are right in their decision-making process.
Yes, the Eagles are in fine shape with regard to their salary-cap picture. The numbers Paolantonio uses are misleading. They don't include a $5 million charge that will soon hit the cap nor do his numbers include the rookie pool, which is roughly $4 million. Yet the Eagles will have enough room left to make additions if upgrades are available in the marketplace. And I'm sure, as the Eagles have done in the past, that they will explore opportunities to extend some contracts of players on the current roster. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.
The bottom line is that Sal Pal takes cheap shots here. He isn't working with factual information, to start, and then he goes off the deep end suggesting the Eagles haven't been aggressive enough this off-season, when the truth is the Eagles have been the most aggressive team in the NFL this off-season.
It's fine to analyze the team's moves in the off-season. That is, after all, what makes the NFL the around-the-clock beast that it is. But the continuation of being factually incorrect to justify criticism is wrong. For Paolantonio to not do the homework to realize that the Eagles started at a $20 million threshold higher than the league's salary cap is unfair. To not carefully add up the numbers and to try to make a point that Philadelphia's expenditures as they relate to the league or the other large-market teams are less than they really are was careless at best. The facts, in this case, didn't get in the way of his story, and that bothers me.
**THE DEPTH CHART
OK, so again let's talk about why we have an unofficial depth chart on PhiladelphiaEagles.com. We have it for the fans, because I know that you enjoy going to the page and looking at the names and talking about position battles. For the second week, our inclusion of the unofficial depth chart has been questioned in the media. My response is this: It's for the fans. The depth chart means nothing at this point. The team doesn't have an official depth chart, but I think the unofficial depth chart is something the fans enjoy. Is that OK? I mean, we are *here for the fans, right? And this *is supposed to be fun, isn't it?
So until further notice, we're going to keep our unofficial depth chart so that you fans can go to the page on those lazy, hazy summer days and make your own roster evaluations.
*MINI-CAMP CONTINUES *
Tuesday's practice, which ran from 11:10 a.m. to about 12:35 p.m., was held inside at the practice facility at the NovaCare Complex. This week's practices, Tuesday through Friday, are virtually the same as the practices last week as the coaches ramp up the information they are giving to the rookies and selected veterans before the entire team gets in for OTAs next week.
Who is standing out? It isn't even fair to say. I'm not getting into the overhype machine. Too many players look great until the pads go on. I will say that there is a lot of speed and athletic ability on the field with this group. The Eagles have definitely upgraded their overall speed on offense.
Otherwise, what is important is that the youngsters learn the terminology and get to the right place at the right time. That is what matters most right now.
A couple of things from Tuesday's practice: running back Lorenzo Booker, defensive tackle Dan Klecko and cornerback Ellis Hobbs were on hand, and safety Macho Harris returned after missing much of last week with an illness. Klecko is glad to be back at defensive tackle after a season at fullback.
"I will do whatever it takes, whatever they want me to do," said Klecko, who played fullback at 280 pounds in 2008 and will play at that weight now. "I have a much greater appreciation for fullback. Leonard Weaver, I have all the respect in the world for him. It was definitely a different experience. I'm at tackle now and I'm learning so much from Rory Segrest. It's exciting."
Hobbs traded jersey numbers with cornerback Trae Williams. Hobbs is now wearing 31 and Williams is 37. Hobbs said it was no big deal, that no currency was exchanged in the swap.
"No big deal," he said. "I've been in the league a few years, that's all. I'm here just learning every day and working hard. Sean McDermott (secondary coach) said something to me that stuck. He said, "Be 1/11th of the defense. Do your job, and the guy next to you will do his. Don't try to do the whole defense's job. I had never heard it put that way. I like it."
The entire team has OTAs from June 2-5 and then again from June 8-11. After that, folks, it's a lengthy break and then training camp begins with rookies and selected veterans reporting to Lehigh University on July 26. I'm counting down the days!