Thursday, February 27, 2014
New deals make players Chip Kelly guys
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- With their new contracts, Riley Cooper, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters will remain Philadelphia Eagles, but that's not all.
They also officially became Chip Kelly guys. That's important for both the players, in terms of job security, and for the team.
New coaches often want to clear out as much of the roster they inherit and bring in their own players as quickly as possible. Kelly added just one starter, first-round pick Lane Johnson, to the starting lineup he inherited from Andy Reid. All 11 of those offensive starters are now under contract for next season.
Kelly said all season that he was impressed with how quickly the Eagles embraced everything from his X's and O's to his sports science-based conditioning program. The coach is now reciprocating, buying into some of the same key players who bought into him.
Kelce was the easiest call. The center was a sixth-round pick in 2011 who instantly became a vital cog in a very effective offensive line. He had already outplayed his original contract. Rewarding him with $13 million in guaranteed money and with long-term security sends a positive message to the locker room while also ensuring continuity at a vital position.
Cooper was the toughest call. He placed a target on his back last summer by getting caught on video using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. The Eagles could have easily released Cooper right away or simply let him walk away as a free agent.
There are plenty of wide receivers who could catch 47 passes for 835 yards, as Cooper did last season. But Cooper established himself as a favorite target of Nick Foles, who in turn established himself as the starting quarterback. Cooper also embraced the run-blocking aspect of the position as Kelly coaches it.
In short, Cooper turned himself into a Kelly guy, and he was rewarded with $8 million in guaranteed money on a five-year deal that could be worth $25 million.
Peters presented a different kind of challenge. He proved in 2013 that he is still, after two tears of the same Achilles tendon, as good a left tackle as there is in the NFL. But he also turned 32 in December.
The five-year contract he signed all but assures that Peters will finish his career with the Eagles. He will be 36 when it expires. That's pretty old for an athletic offensive lineman, but as Peters' agent, Vincent Taylor, put it, if Peters loses a step, he's still ahead of most players.
The Eagles' starting five offensive linemen are all signed through at least 2016. They have control for the foreseeable future of Cooper, Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Jason Avant. They could bring Jeremy Maclin back, as well, adding to the already considerable stability among offensive personnel.
This is Kelly's offense, and these are now Kelly's guys.