Brent Celek caught four balls, including a touchdown in Sunday’s 24-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals, leading many to believe that Nick Foles will have another weapon playing at his highest level, as the Eagles enter a crucial stretch of games that will determine their playoff fate. Celek may very well be hitting his stride late in the 2013 season, but Sunday’s game actually might have demonstrated why this will be Brent Celek’s last season in Philadelphia.
When the Eagles signed former Houston Texan James Casey to a three-year/$12 million deal this past off-season, most speculated that Kelly was going to use both him and Celek in a two tight-end system. That was prior to the Eagles selecting Zach Ertz out of Stanford in the second round of April’s NFL draft. Ertz quickly moved above Casey on the depth chart, but the fact that the Eagles had paid Casey didn’t change.
Fast-foward through the first 12 games of the Chip Kelly era, and none of the tight-ends have been utilized as much as we expected. Celek has 23 receptions for only 319 yards, which puts him on pace for his lowest numbers in both those departments since 2008, when he was the backup tight-end to L.J. Smith. Ertz has 26 catches for 342 yards, which isn’t bad for a rookie at all, but he had a much slower start that anyone anticipated. Still, Ertz caught five balls for 68 yards and two touchdowns yesterday, so it appears that he is coming around. As for Casey, there just haven’t been enough snaps for him to really be involved with the offense. He has caught three balls for 36 yards this season, and has been relegated to being a special teams player. That isn’t what he signed up for, and it certainly wasn’t what the Eagles gave him a three-year deal for.
Essentially what Sunday’s game showed, where Celek and Ertz combined for three touchdowns, was that the Eagles have space for one of the two expensive tight-ends (Celek or Casey) and the cheaper rookie, who may ultimately be the best player out of all three (Ertz). But they definitely don’t have space for both Celek and Casey, especially given their cap hits.
Courtesy of Spotrac.com, here is a comparison of Celek and Casey’s remaining contract terms.
|CONTRACT:8 yr(s) / $34,010,000||SIGNING BONUS$6,000,000||AVERAGE SALARY$4,251,250||GUARANTEED:$11,000,000(All paid off)||FREE AGENT:2017 / Unrestricted|
Brent Celek signed a six-year extension in 2011
Next to each other, the contracts aren’t too different. Sure Casey only has a base salary of $715,000 this season, but his cap hit ($4,015,000) is very similar to Celek’s cap hit ($4,531,000). Both of their cap hits for 2014 are lower than this season, but the chances that they are both Eagles next season is very low. Ertz’s cap hit doesn’t rise above 1.5 million until 2016, and given his potential, he is going to be one of the two tight-ends in the mix.
So who do the Eagles move on from after this season? Conventional wisdom would say Casey. He has proven very little in his career, as compared to Celek, who has been an above-average to pro-bowl caliber tight-end since the Eagles 2008 playoff run. Celek is also a fan favorite, and Casey simply isn’t. And as much as it feels like Celek has been an Eagle forever, he is only 28 compared to Casey’s 29. So conventional wisdom, would say that you either release or trade Casey at the end of the season. Then again, the Eagles threw out doing things conventionally when they hired Chip Kelly, didn’t they?
Kelly and the Eagles decided to give a good amount of money and years to a tight-end with very little NFL production, which leads you to think that they saw something in him. Cutting him would also be a lot harder than cutting Celek, because all of Celek’s guaranteed money is paid off in his deal, and Casey will only see 715,000 of his four million guaranteed this season. That leads me to think that maybe the Eagles purposely backloaded Casey’s deal, to evaluate what they had this year, and move on from Celek if they were able to grab a young tight-end in the draft (which they did).
Brent Celek has been one of the most fun Eagles that I have had the pleasure of watching, so I’m not at all saying that I would move on from him over Casey, if money wasn’t involved. But with money involved, and the fact that the Eagles must have signed Casey to be more than a special teams player, I just don’t expect to see Celek back in the mix for 2014.