In dealing with DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis, have the Philadelphia Eagles retained their Joe Banner mentality?


Joe Banner

Under the watch of former team president Joe Banner, the Philadelphia Eagles were considered to be the best in the NFL at managing the salary cap. In other cities, fans would watch in horror as their teams cut useful players simply because their salaries could not be squeezed in under the cap. The Eagles never encountered that problem. Thanks to Banner, the team would often have ample salary cap room available to make moves in free agency.

Unfortunately, one side effect of Banner’s cap management style was that the team often came off as being heartless. The team notoriously allowed popular veterans to leave as free agents as soon as they reached the wrong side of 30. It didn’t matter how productive or popular the player was; a free agent over the age of 30 was as good as gone. (Unless, of course, they agreed to an extremely team-friendly deal.)

The Eagles were also early adopters of the practice of signing young players to long-term deals long before they reached free agency.

Sometimes this worked out well for both sides; The player received immediate money and gained some security, while the team often received top performance for less than market price. Other times it led to hard feelings when those players felt they outperformed the deals, but the team refused to renegotiate.

After the 2011 season, there appeared to be a shift in the Eagles’ power structure. Banner’s influence waned while general manager Howie Roseman gained more stature. As a result, the team seemed to become a bit warmer in its relations with players. Contract extensions were given out to valuable veterans like Trent Cole and LeSean McCoy, but they weren’t the overly team-friendly contracts that the team specialized in before. These deals appeared to be fair prices for good players.

With Banner now gone from the organization, this past offseason the Eagles continued the practice of rewarding their own players. Jason Peters and Jason Kelce were a couple of veterans who were given healthy new deals. The team was clearly sending a message to its players: If you perform well, we will reward you.

It appeared as if the Banner era had been left well in the past, but apparently, some habits can be hard to break.

DeSean Jackson. Image Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After the season ended, wide receiver DeSean Jackson made comments about wanting to redo a contract he signed before the 2011 season. While Jackson didn’t outright demand a new contract, he certainly made it clear that he felt he outperformed his existing deal and thought that some negotiations were in order.

Apparently, the Eagles disagreed. Not only did they not renegotiate his deal, but they instead gave new contracts to fellow wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. And then, they made it known that Jackson was available if any team wanted to trade for him.

It seemed possible that Jackson was an isolated case. He can be a bit of a diva at times, and this wasn’t the first time that he has been outspoken about wanting a new contract. So perhaps the Eagles just wanted to avoid a huge potential headache.

The storyline got a bit murkier when reports leaked that offensive guard Evan Mathis was also on the trading block. After spending his first few years in the NFL as a journeyman, Mathis signed with the Eagles before the 2011 and was an instant success. After that season, the Eagles re-signed him to a 5 year/$25 million deal.

That seemed like a fair deal at the time, but over the past two seasons, Mathis has been one of the best guards in football. He probably realizes that at his age (32), he’s unlikely to get another big contract (or perhaps a contract of any size), so he had better cash in now.

The Eagles have made it clear that a new contract is extremely unlikely. I doubt the Eagles would actually trade him, but it seems telling that the team is apparently more comfortable trading a Pro Bowl offensive lineman than it is renegotiating the contract of a 32-year-old who is only two years into a five-year deal.

Apparently, the Eagles are willing to hand out new deals to players who are a year or less away from free agency. But if you’ve still got a few years before the contract runs out, then you’ll either deal with it or soon become an ex-Eagle.

Howie Roseman might come across as much friendlier than Joe Banner ever did (although that’s not saying much), but these recent reports show that deep down, he might have a little more Banner in him than we realized.