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May 28, 2017

Mailbag: What are the cap ramifications if the Eagles release Ryan Mathews while still injured?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of good unanswered questions that I was not able to get to, so we'll cover them and some recent emails here in an Eagles mailbag.

Question from Sporran: Are there any salary cap ramifications if the Eagles have to wave Mathews with an injury settlement? Will the cap reduction be less in that case than if he is healthy?

In the last CBA negotiations, the NFLPA was able to gain a better Injury Protection Benefit for their players. An explanation of the Injury Protection Benefit:

The Injury Protection Benefit is a benefit available to a player if he meets the following criteria: (1) Suffers an injury in an NFL game or practice which causes him to be unable to play in all or part of the last game of the season of injury, or, which results in club-authorized offseason surgery; (2) Undergoes reasonable and customary club-required rehabilitation in the offseason following the injury; and (3) Fails the club’s preseason physical for the season following the injury and his contract is terminated.

If the Eagles were to cut bait with Mathews today, they would be releasing him with a failed physical designation. That could potentially put them on the hook for his Injury Protection Benefit, which would be 50 percent of his salary, up to $1,150,000. By releasing Mathews now, they would either be depending on another team to pass them on a physical to offset that benefit, or be willing to just write the check.

We covered all of this in length in a post about Mathews' situation back in March, but omitted whether or not the $1,150,000 would count toward the cap, because, well, we didn't know. I've since confirmed with multiple cap experts that yes, that $1,150,000 amount would indeed count toward toward the Eagles' 2017 cap if they had to pay Mathews' Injury Protection Benefit.

The salary cap hit part of that rule hurts both sides. If there were no salary cap ramifications, the Eagles might have already released Mathews, and Mathews would of course benefited by cashing in an extra $1,150,000. That's probably something that both the NFL and NFLPA should look to amend in the next CBA (or sooner).

Question from Hinkie: Any truth to Vinny Curry's injury claims, or just an excuse? It would be huge if he could step up and play well this year.

Curry got injured during the Eagles' third preseason game against the Colts. That's certainly truthful. Curry claimed that he tried to come back before he was ready, and that ended up hurting the majority of his season. 

"It was an MCL sprain," he said. "Sometimes injuries hold people out. My expectations (were high), but I ended up hurting myself even more... I got off to a slow start with it. If you go back and watch the film, over the last four or five games, I was feeling like myself again."

I did indeed take a look at his play in the last five games, and I did see more explosion, to some degree. I do agree that the Eagles would benefit greatly from Curry living up to his potential this season.

Question from Micah: How is Jeff Stoutland as an offensive line coach? Can he coach up Chance Warmack?

The Eagles really like Stoutland, as upper management decided that they wanted to retain him along with a handful of other coaches after the Eagles fired Chip. Stoutland previously received odd criticism from some fans for being unable to develop talent, which made no sense. From 2013-2015, the Eagles drafted one offensive lineman, Lane Johnson, who has become the best RT in football. The league average over that span was 4.25 drafted offensive linemen per team. That criticism has since subsided.

Last offseason the Eagles drafted Isaac Seumalo, who is slated to begin this season as a starter, whether that be at LG of center, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai had a rough start as a rookie but got better as the year progressed.

During the season itself, the Eagles had to do some serious OL shuffling. For example, they had to play five guys at right tackle, and yet, the line wasn't a disaster. I thought Stoutland did a tremendous job keeping it all together with what he had.

Stoutland was Warmack's coach at Alabama, so there's a history there. Warmack's tape in 2016 was brutally bad, as we pointed out back in April. He has a lot of work to do there. I would say that anything Stoutland can get out of Warmack is gravy.

Question from Joe: Sidney Jones: The Greg Oden / Joel Embiid of the NBA? Yes or no?

Huh? Jones is on schedule in his recovery by all accounts, and has a common injury. Plus he's not seven feet tall, or a top three pick. He's 6'0, 181, and was taken 43rd overall.

Question from Matthew: Do the Eagles have craft services for you guys when you're covering OTAs? I mean, that's what's really important.

I agree that this is a highly important question, and it's a complicated answer, as it changes throughout the year. I'll break it down by season:

OTAs: We get nothing. Gotta brown bag it. 

Training camp: The Eagles don't provide anything specifically for the media during training camp. However, because they allow VIP fans to attend practices and watch from the sidelines every day, they have free Rita's water ice for everyone. It's accepted that anyone and everyone can help themselves to free water ice, however, the food that they serve in the fans' tents (Chickie's and Pete's, for example) is more of a gray area. I don't know if we're allowed to help ourselves to that food or not. What I've done in the past if I'm really hungry is just hang out near the food, looking pathetic, hoping that one of the servers will ask if I want something. That way, if indeed we're not allowed to have that food, I can make the truthful claim that it was offered to me.

Preseason and regular season games: The Eagles provide a generous food spread in the press box. It's better than most of the other cities we visit. My NFC East food spread power rankings are as follows:

  1. Cowboys
  2. Eagles
  3. Giants
  4. Redskins

Regular season practices: The Eagles allow us to get food from their cafeteria, though we have to take it to go. They don't want us eating in the cafeteria, and I have to say I can't blame them. The cafeteria food itself is what they feed the players, so as you might imagine, it's very, very good. We do have to pay for that, although it's all you can eat for the low, low cost of $4.

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