NFL

NFL AM: Eagles Sign Sam Bradford To Two Year Extension

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Sam Bradford signs two-year extension with Eagles:

The Philadelphia Eagles were not going to use the franchise tag on Sam Bradford, so the team’s new two-year extension with the quarterback solidifies at least the short-term future of the position under new head coach Doug Pederson.

The two-year, $36 million deal includes $22 million in guarantees and allows both sides to walk away feeling pretty good about where it leaves them. Bradford, who was the last of the ridiculously paid rookies before the new collective bargaining agreement kicked in, guarantees himself another $20 plus million while the team can feel good about not having to sign such an injury prone player to a long-term deal.

For Bradford, this deal represents something some thought we’d never see; a free agent deal for the quarterback to remain a team’s starting quarterback. Some thought it was more likely that Bradford would be out of the league after his rookie deal instead of signing a deal to be a team’s starting quarterback as injuries have hampered the former first-overall pick’s development. While he came out of college as highly touted as just about any quarterback over the last 20 years, Bradford has only played 16 games just twice over the first five seasons of his career.

For the Eagles, they hold onto a quarterback with five years of service in a year when the free agency class and draft class leave a lot to be desired at the position. While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team address the position within the next couple of years as opposed to locking Bradford up to another contract, this puts them in a position to have some consistency at the position until they decide which way to go.

The biggest question for both sides is whether or not Bradford can stay healthy. If he can’t, the short-term could be very painful, and Pederson could find himself on the hot seat as the team looks for the next answer at the position.

If he can stay healthy, the Eagles signal caller has a chance to strike it big on his next contract which will come when he’s 30. It’s hard to think of a way for this deal to be more of a win-win for both sides.

Mario Williams released by the Bills:

On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills made one of the least surprising moves of the offseason, cutting veteran defensive end Mario Williams after a season which saw him record just five sacks as he openly criticized new head coach Rex Ryan’s defensive system.

Williams and his teammates across the defensive line were unhappy with a system that saw them dropping into coverage much more than in year’s past. While the former Houston Texan and first-overall pick (2006) has the athleticism and ability to play either defensive end or linebacker, the 31-year old is a pure pass rusher, and doesn’t need to be dropping into coverage. Ryan is a good coach, and has led some great defenses, but he got too cute with Williams last season.

The question teams will have to answer when free agency begins is whether or not the drastic drop in production was simply a result of being misused a season ago, or if the defensive end who had 10.5 sacks in 2012, 13 sacks in 2013, and 14.5 more in 2014 has hit a wall that will see him look a lot more like the player who had him record just five sacks in 2015.

Chances are, one of the pass rusher starved teams in the NFL will see the player whose sacks were on the incline heading into 2015, and Williams will find himself with another very good contract. While he won’t be getting anywhere near the massive contract he signed with Buffalo in 2012, Williams should have no shortage of suitors.

Who could be a player for Williams?

The New York Giants: The Giants have a ton of cap space, and the team is among the most desperate in football to find a pass rusher. With Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers both entering free agency, the Giants absolutely have to address the position where second-year end Owa Odighizuwa might be the most talented player.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars might choose to try to find a younger player who can grow with their young nucleus, but they absolutely need help on the edge. Pairing Williams with second-year end Dante Fowler Jr would be great for the Jags pass rush as well as for the young end who’s yet to play his first NFL snap after suffering a torn ACL before his rookie year began. Nobody has more money to spend than Jacksonville, so we should know quickly if they’re interested in the veteran end.

Oakland Raiders: Like the Giants and Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders have a ton of cap space and a need an end with the retirement of Justin Tuck.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers have dreamt about the ability of lining up a premiere pass rusher next to Gerald McCoy since drafting the Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Williams may be in the twilight of his career, but he’s quite a bit more talented than anyone the Buccaneers have had at the position since they let Michael Bennett walk away.

10 players get the franchise tag:

10 NFL teams took advantage of the franchise tag Tuesday, making sure some of the league’s better players wouldn’t see unrestricted free agency. Much to the chagrin of teams starving for new pass rushers, the list included defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Olivier Vernon, and all-world pass rushing linebacker Von Miller.

The Los Angeles Rams made sure Trumaine Johnson wouldn’t get away, and the Carolina Panthers did the same with their sudden superstar cornerback, Josh Norman. The Kansas City Chiefs placed the tag on inspirational safety Eric Berry, the Redskins, starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the Ravens even tagged kicker Justin Tucker.

While the Bills saved over 12 million dollars cutting Williams, they’ll be dropping a pretty penny on left tackle Cordy Glenn who the team tagged. Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery joins Glenn and Cousins as the only three offensive players to get the tag this year.

None of these players getting the tag came as a big surprise. Perhaps Tucker wasn’t on a lot of lists predicting tags because, well, he’s a kicker. Some thought the New York Jets depth across the defensive line could lead them to leave Wilkerson unprotected, but there was never a chance that the Denver Broncos let Von Miller out of their sight after watching him dominate the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl. Miller didn’t just solidify himself as one of the best pass rushers in football, he put himself in a rare class of guys who can will his team to victory by being the best player on the field and dominating in clutch situations.

The Washington Redskins might get the award for wisest franchise tag. Cousins hasn’t done enough to warrant the kind of contract that franchise quarterbacks get, but the Skins didn’t want to let him get away. While Cousins will come with a big number this year, the team can let him prove a second time that he deserves to be the guy long term.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.