Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A with Inquirer Eagles reporter EJ Smith. This week, the two discuss Banner’s expectations for the Eagles’ season-opener, his reaction to Dallas Goedert’s comments regarding his desire to sign a contract extension, and the Cowboys’ Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers.
EJ: Dallas Goedert spoke this week and said he was expecting to have a contract extension done by now, but said the team had other thoughts. What did you make of that?
JB: I was a little surprised by it, mainly just because he went public with it, which is not usually something that’s appreciated on the team side. I read it as if he’s hoping they come back to him maybe two weeks from now or next offseason or whatever, but I read it as if he was happy here and would like to come back, so I’m not sure why he felt the need to do that. Since they hadn’t announced they were negotiating, even though many of us speculated about it, I don’t know why he thought there was a gain.
In the end, I don’t think it matters. I mean, he’s a good player and they need him. They’re gonna have to decide to invest in one of these two tight ends (Goedert or Zach Ertz) a decent amount of money, it’s probably in the team’s best interest to stall a little bit to make sure which one they want. But in the end, he’s either gonna hit free agency and be a hot commodity or they’ll get a deal done with him, but I didn’t think it was a great strategic move to bring that into the public arena.
EJ: Do you think the team wants to see the entire season play out before deciding between the two?
JB: I think it’s hard to know, but from a team side, the more information you have before you invest the money on a fairly expensive re-signing, the better. Now, I’ve always said, once you reach the point where you know you like a guy and he’s part of your core, the earlier you sign him, the better. But if it isn’t black and white, if it isn’t clear whether you want him or not, then more time helps you make a more informed decision.
You gotta remember, Ertz isn’t 34, he’s 30. So he’s getting to the point where age matters, but he’s not getting to the point where they have to find a new solution in the next couple of months. So, I think this gives them a chance to step back a little bit and see exactly how Ertz is playing this year and how Goedert is playing, and re-evaluate how they felt about these young guys who have at least appeared to be potential contributors. At some point, they’ll pick. I don’t think they’ll wait until the end of the season, they’ll pick either Goedert or Ertz and they’ll try to get an extension done. That will happen no matter what he said a couple of days ago, which is why I think just from a strategic perspective, it’s better to just keep it quiet and keep it private and keep the emotion out of it.
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EJ: If you had to guess, what likelihood do you think there is that Goedert is back here next year?
JB: I believed from the beginning that the most likely scenario is that they signed Goedert to a long-term deal, but sometimes you say that and it’s not 90/10. Sometimes it’s 60/40. They’re choosing between two good players. As far as we know, at least as far as I know, they’re two really high-character guys. If you said to me, ‘You have to pick one or the other,’ in terms of just predicting what would happen, I’m not saying what I would necessarily do, I think the more likely scenario remains that they re-sign Goedert and move on.
I think the right strategy in the moment is what’s happening; buy some time, add some information before you have to make a final decision. I’d be the same way, if I had to make a decision at this minute, that would be really tough. I think over the next, two to six games it’s going to become fairly obvious. And if both players turn out both really good, you usually re-sign the younger guy, we’ll see if that’s what happens here or not.
I think the team is actually in the position they’d like to be in which is, ‘Give us more time to make this decision, and we’ll have more information.’ I think that’s what they’ll do. Again, I don’t think this is going to go through the season. I’d be very surprised if they let themselves get to the end of the season with both of these guys not signed to long-term contracts.
EJ: Considering the cap is expected to go up, are you surprised that Goedert was the one pushing for a new deal even if there’s a chance he could make more money by waiting for next offseason?
JB: I’m not surprised he’s pushing because there’s a lot of peace of mind in getting your deal finalized, which will come with enough guaranteed money. Remember, he’s not a first-round pick, so if something happens to him tomorrow, he’s not leaving the league with a lot of money. So, you get to the point where you have a chance to secure you and your family’s financial security for a very long time, a lot of players have trouble passing that up.
But I agree with you, he’s gonna make a lot of money somewhere. So if it takes another 6 or 8 weeks for the Eagles to make a decision and then he can decide whether, ‘Well I played this far into the season, I might as well wait and let the marketplace decide what I’m worth,’ that’s fine too. But the only thing that surprised me about it was, it wasn’t like he came off like it was some provocative thing where everyone was really pissed off at each other. That left me asking, ‘Why are you even talking about this publicly?’ There is a risk you’re going to annoy people by doing that. It’s always better to have a negotiation with as little emotion as possible. That’s where they were, they probably are still there, but why even risk it with that comment.
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EJ: Mark Andrews just got a four-year, $56 million contract from the Ravens this week. Where does Goedert fit into the market by comparison?
JB: I think if we were doing a deal now, so we’re both in the same timeframe, he would have come in just a bit under that deal. At least that’s how I would have valued it. But if they don’t do the deal until well into the season or even the next offseason and you can argue it’s a full season from that deal, then he could make the case that he should be working up from that deal, not down from that deal.
EJ: What were your takeaways from the Bucs-Cowboys game Thursday night? Anything stand out about the Cowboys, specifically?
JB: I was impressed by [the Cowboys’] offense, and I was surprised and impressed at how well their offensive line held up against a very good defense, both talent-wise and scheme-wise. They obviously have a lot of talent on offense, but with [All-Pro guard Zack Martin’s] injury and some of guys there not being great every week, I thought they were going to struggle more than they did. They gave [Dak Prescott] good protection, I felt, against that particular team. I think it reaffirms the fact that they’re going to have a strong, prolific offense if they don’t get whacked with injuries. Now, their defense, believe it or not, actually played a little better than I thought. Remember, they were just rolled over last year. They gave up 31 points, but they were competitive in this game, they created a couple of turnovers.
We’ll have to see how this goes over the next couple of weeks, but if their offense is as good or better than we thought and their defense is a little bit better than we thought, then they’re even more formidable than they seemed on paper. I thought they had a very good offense but a little bit of weakness on the offensive line. I thought the defense would be better because Dan Quinn is a major upgrade, but with talent deficiencies and some questions I have about his scheme, I thought the defense would be meaningfully improved but still somewhat of a struggle. I thought, if I was a Cowboys fan, there was a lot to be hopeful about in that performance last night.
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EJ: What are your general feelings about the Eagles matchup against Atlanta this weekend?
JB: I’ll be surprised if [The Eagles] don’t win. I mean, there are some fairly significant personnel challenges still with the Falcons and a coaching staff that hasn’t worked together, although that can usually come together pretty quick. I think the Eagles match up well, I think they’re gonna be able to get a lot of pressure on [Matt Ryan]. Even though there are some very good weapons on the other side of the ball, over the course of the game, that should make the overall defense pretty effective. I still think that the Falcons have a lot of flaws on defense that are exploitable, so whether it’s running [JalenHurts] or quick passes in the slot to [DeVonta Smith] or using [Miles Sanders] out of the backfield, or using two-tight-end formations like we’ve talked about, there’s a lot of things that are very natural to the Eagles and fit their talent that will be exactly the right things to do against the Falcons.
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EJ: Is there anything that you’re anxious to see, especially with the new coaching staff?
JB: As you know, I’ve been very positive about [defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon]. I know, obviously, it’s a projection, so I’m really anxious to see him actually line them up, call a game, rotate the players, deal with down and distance situations and start to see if this guy could be a really good defensive coordinator there.
I’m also interested because [Nick Sirianni] brought in [offensive coordinator Shane Steichen] and they haven’t historically run offenses that are totally in sync. It will be interesting to see if they run the offense that we saw in San Diego last year or the offense that we’ve seen Nick be a part of in a few different places or some kind of a blending of the two. Part of that answer is I’m curious to see whether they’re going to try to let Hurts be a drop-back quarterback and see how well he does, or are they going to treat him as kind of a running, versatile quarterback and mix in a lot of both.