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June 04, 2020

What they're saying: Potential Eagles free agent reunions, DeSean Jackson speaks out and more

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210922_Eagles_Lions_Vinny_Curry_Kate_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Could free agent defensive end Vinny Curry be back for a third stint with the Eagles?

Over the last two weeks, there's been quite a bit of momentum when it comes to sports returning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that's killed over 100,000 people in the United States. While the NFL has seen the least disruption to their annual calendar, they've still been subject to state and local restrictions that have kept players and coaches alike out of practice facilities.

With Philadelphia officially moving into the "yellow phase" on Friday, the Eagles will again be allowed to use the team facility on Broad Street, although there will still be plenty of restrictions in place and players aren't expected to report until training camps open up in July. (The team announced on Thursday afternoon that they would begin allowing a limited number of employees in the facility starting on Monday.)

Some of that has been pushed to the wayside this week, and rightfully so, with the nation seeming more divided by the day as many across the country continue to protest following the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes despite his pleas of "I can't breathe," a phrase that has become a rallying cry for protesters and demonstrators in cities across the country. 

This week, athletes and teams have been weighing in on the protests, which have turned violent in some cities, and the results have been mixed, to say the least. The latest example of things going terribly wrong is in New Orleans with Drew Brees, and his questionable apology that only made things worse. 

In Philly, there has been a lot more positive than negative when it comes to players and teams speaking up. For example, Tobias Harris, who marched in the protests last weekend and recently called for a Montco politician to resign over his comments on Black Lives Matter, wrote an op-ed for The Players' Tribune. DeSean Jackson, who first spoke up in a team meeting to share his experiences and sparked other teammates to speak out as well, has also gone public to help further a conversation that may be difficult but is also long overdue. 

But in today's edition of What They're Saying, we'll start with a look at the Eagles' statement on the death of George Floyd and why we probably shouldn't be looking to sports teams as our moral guides. And, for those who came here looking for a break from non-stop protest and coronavirus coverage, we promise that we'll get to some more on-the-field issues involving the Eagles as well. 

Lurie, Eagles miss the mark

Bo Wulf | The Athletic

As far as team statements go, the one issued by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was pretty good, perhaps in part because he spoke with (or rather listened to) his players during that aforementioned team meeting in which several African American players offered a perspective with which someone like Lurie couldn't possibly understand. 

But, Lurie's statement wasn't perfect. 

There are a lot of critiques of the Eagles statement, including one from John McMullen, but I'm including Bo's take here given that he worked in the Birds communications department for several years before joining The Athletic. 

I don’t know the process it took to publish Lurie’s statement, but I did work in the team’s communications department for six years and it’s safe to assume that each of those words was tightly scrutinized before the release. Unlike the vast majority of his fellow owners, Lurie has backed up his past words with action, so it’s hard to doubt his sincerity. He has earned that. But as lines are being drawn between evil and the right to exist, it should not be controversial to say “Black lives matter,” three words that are missing from the statement. Worse is the absence of “police.” Well-intentioned as it may have been to cloak everything under “systemic racism,” the discriminate killing of black people at the hands of police is the firestarter of these worldwide protests. Not referencing that directly makes the statement fizzle out. The opinion of the black players on the Eagles also matters much more than mine.

The Eagles are not alone in their omission of any reference to police. As of June 2, 22 of the NFL’s 32 teams had released an official statement from either their owner or head coach. Only three — the Bears, Saints and Raiders — directly mentioned the police. Cynically, one might guess that avoidance is the result of a risk-reward calculation so as not to offend the local police forces that provide stadium protection, travel escorts and the occasional open lines of communication about players’ off-field habits. The NFL is big business, and the people who reflexively argue with a plea as simple as “Stop killing us” buy tickets, too. Realistically, in most cases, the police simply aren’t mentioned because the statement is a hollow box to check.  ...

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for self-inspection from a league whose blackballing of Colin Kaepernick very literally helped create this moment’s particular cocktail of civil unrest, you’ve come to the wrong place.  []

DeSean Jackson speaks out

Dave Zangaro  | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Some Eagles players, like Carson Wentz, posted their thoughts before Monday's team meeting. And Jackson was proud of guys like Wentz and Ertz for using their platforms for good. Others, like Jason Kelce, spoke out after hearing what Jackson and some of their other black teammates have had to deal with in their own lives.

Speaking to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark on Tuesday, DeSean Jackson made it clear that he’s proud of his high-profile white teammates. 

"They stepped up. They made their voice be heard,” Jackson said. “They used their platform, they used their resources, they used everything they could do to reach out and say I might not know what it feels like to be racially profiled, I might not know what it’s like to grow up in the inner communities and these areas that you guys face on a daily basis, where we’re scrutinized for the color of our skin. 

“They might not understand that, but they are stepping up to the plate and saying fair is fair and right is right and wrong is wrong. The stuff that we’ve been seeing is wrong. They don’t support that."

On Monday, during the Eagles’ virtual team meeting, Jackson gave such an impassioned speech about his own life and tribulations as a black man in the United States, that it motivated Kelce to speak up.  []

What did that speech entail? Jackson shared some of his thoughts during that 30-minute interview with John Clark:

"(Since I was) growing up as a kid, I can’t tell you anytime that I’m in the car and a police officer stops me or pulls me over how afraid I am that if I move wrong or I make a wrong gesture I might be shot and killed,” Jackson said. “It’s just built up so long of seeing senseless killings so it’s like every time I’m pulled over I’m afraid it might happen to me. And for me, I have three boys that I raised, and I can’t tell you how much I’m afraid for them to grow up in this world that we’re living in now. I have to protect them. I have to teach them on love and doing the right thing, but if you tell me that the people who are supposed to protect and serve us, they’re not serving and protecting us. I’ve seen a disturbing video where a lady was actually pulled over and she wasn’t African-American and the lady was frightened for her life. She was so scared. and the police officer was like, ‘You don’t have to worry about us killing you, we only kill black people.’

"Just think being an African American person what that does to your mind. What that triggers. Every time you have an encounter. That’s why I’ve always felt the way I’ve felt that way about police. I can’t stand them. For so long we’ve always been messed with. If I’m driving a nice car and I get pulled over, for what? Excuse me, I’m not supposed to be driving this car? Oh, I look like I can’t afford this car? Why do I have to be profiled? … It’s crazy, man. I just feel bad for my kids they have to be raised in this era, man."  []

Green Curry

EJ Smith | The Philadelphia Inquirer

And now, let's shift to actual football for a moment with a look at two players who were on the Eagles last season but were not resigned before hitting free agency. First up, defensive end Vinny Curry, who certainly fits a need for the Eagles and played quite well in his first season back in Philly in 2019. 

Over at The Inquirer, EJ Smith broke down why the team hasn't re-signed him yet and why that may change... 

Vinny Curry

Curry, 31, had a career year in 2019 and made a handful of big plays for the Eagles in the last four games of the season. His biggest came against the Cowboys in Week 16 when his sack put the Cowboys in a third-and-8 that eventually led to Sidney Jones’ game-sealing interception.

He finished the season with five sacks and 12 quarterback hits primarily in a spot rusher role. He had a pair of sacks against the Giants in Week 13, too.

So why isn’t he back with the team, training with the rest of the defensive linemen somewhere in Texas? It’s possible the Eagles are ready to see what Josh Sweat can do in an expanded role. Sweat is 6-foot-5 with long arms and a muscular 250 pounds. He’s got prototypical size and had four sacks last year while holding up well against the run. Next year could be a breakout season for him.

Genard Avery also figures to be given a chance at more snaps, considering the team traded a 2021 fourth-round pick for him at the trade deadline.

Still, Curry was productive last year and, like anyone still on the market right now, he can’t be too picky about his potential role.  []

Peters remains an option

Zach Berman | The Athletic

Another former Eagle who could be back in Philly next year is veteran left tackle and future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. There's been a lot of talk about whether or not the Birds would be turning over the reins to Andre Dillard, and more importantly whether or not he's ready for that role. 

There's no rush on signing Peters, as he doesn't need to learn a new system and, at his age, would probably benefit from skipping camp entirely. So as Zach Berman of The Athletic puts it, until he officially signs with another team, there's a chance he's back next season. 

1. Unless and until Jason Peters signs elsewhere, it’s possible he returns to Philadelphia. The Eagles plan to turn over left tackle to Andre Dillard, which has been their intention since March. It’s reasonable to wonder if even maintaining discussion about re-signing Peters is an indictment of Dillard and his development. But the Eagles didn’t envision this scenario back in March. They thought Peters would go on the open market and sign the type of contract that went to starting tackles this offseason. That hasn’t happened. And with the run on offensive tackles early in the draft (five of the top 18 picks), teams with needs at the position added in the first round, too. So the Eagles could reach a point when the value is too good to pass up a player of Peters’ caliber.

The counter, if it even reaches that point, is this: The market would have spoken about what the league thinks of Peters at this stage of his career — rightly or wrongly, given that he’s a future Hall of Famer who’s remained productive into his late 30s. One can speculate about whether the Eagles’ view of Peters is tinted by his history with the team. That may be the case; they also have more insight on Peters’ value away from the field than other teams, too. Then again, two general managers who’ve spent time with the Eagles — the Jets’ Joe Douglas and the Browns’ Andrew Berry — added offensive tackles this offseason and didn’t sign Peters.

Peters’ standing in the organization cannot be dismissed from the conversation, of course. There is no doubt a dose of sentimentality. But there doesn’t appear to be a scenario in which a Peters return would come at the typical price of a starting left tackle, so the terms of engagement would be different than in years past. I don’t believe anything is imminent with Peters, but my sense is the Eagles haven’t closed the door on adding him at a good price.  []

Don't sleep on the Birds

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

While ESPN has the Eagles sixth in their NFL power rankings, several other outlets have the Eagles down in the teens, including Peter King who has them all the way back at 15. Are national writers sleeping on the Eagles? Eliot Shorr-Parks makes a solid case as to why you shouldn't bet against the Birds... 

In fact, since the 2018 season kicked off, only nine teams have more regular-season wins than the Eagles. Only six teams have been in the post season each of the last two seasons like the Eagles. Only three other teams have been in the post season three-straight seasons like the Eagles. 

So while there are certainly some concerns about the 2020 Eagles’ roster, starting with receiver, the bottom line is this — the foundation of the team, from owner Jeffrey Lurie, to general manager Howie Roseman, to head coach Doug Pederson to quarterback Carson Wentz, is one of the strongest in the NFL. That is what matters most in the NFL, and it has what has mattered most over the last few seasons. 

That has been proven each of the last three seasons, and ultimately, once this season is over it will likely be proven true once again. 

That doesn’t mean the Eagles will definitely win the division, or that they will be a 13-win team, but it is very hard to imagine the 2020 season ending without them being one of the teams fighting in the playoffs — and proving most of these power rankings wrong.  []

Three's company

Sam Monson | Pro Football Focus

Over at Pro Football Focus, Sam Monson put together a list of the top 50 NFL players heading into the 2020 season — and the Eagles were fairly well represented. A trio of Eagles made the cut, with Fletcher Cox receiving the highest ranking of the group (15th).


Aaron Donald exists in a world of his own, but there are a number of other interior defensive linemen who are vying for the title of the best in the league not named Donald. Fletcher Cox is the best power pass-rusher in the NFL. His ability to overwhelm physically dominant offensive linemen is unique, and it has led him to some truly spectacular seasons. Over the past three seasons, Cox has 202 total pressures — the second most in the league among interior pass rushers — and the sixth most in the league among all players. He is a wrecking machine inside for the Eagles.  []

The other two Eagles to make the list were Brandon Brooks (34th) and Brandon Graham (49th).

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