It is clear at this point that the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles cannot be killed with conventional weapons.
Down 9-7 at the half on the road Sunday night to a desperate Dallas Cowboys team and playing a third straight game without their Pro Bowl left tackle, Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense dropped 30 points in the second half and coasted to their eighth straight win. Playing without their place-kicker, who suffered a head injury on the opening kickoff, they had a linebacker handle kickoffs and just went for two every time they scored a touchdown, converting three of four two-point tries.
The NFL has no answer for the Eagles right now. They have scored 30 or more points in each of their past four games. There are three teams -- the Browns, Bears and Giants -- that haven't scored 30 in a game since the 2015 season. The Eagles have done it in two of their past four halves.
And while we can't know for sure what awaits them over the next couple of months or how it will all turn out, if the Eagles keep this up, they are having the kind of year that makes people's careers. Wentz could be MVP. Doug Pederson could be coach of the year. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will get head-coaching interviews. And it's not crazy to imagine special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp or quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo showing up on those same interview lists.
As they should, these kinds of things help the players involved, as well; and while watching Sunday night, you had to be thinking, "Alshon Jeffery is going to get paid this time."
Jeffery, you might remember, was an unrestricted free agent last spring who didn't find the long-term deal of which he dreamed. Instead, he signed a one-year deal with the Eagles that pays him $9 million, with the chance to earn another $5 million in incentives. Nice money, sure, but the health questions that dogged Jeffery over his final two seasons in Chicago kept the numbers from getting as high as he had hoped. The Eagles, eager to build an improved receiving corps around Wentz in his second year, basically told Jeffery to come hang out for a year, no promises beyond that, and see if maybe they could all help each other.
Jeffery hasn't reached 100 yards in a game yet this season, but to watch the games is to see that he's playing like a No. 1 wideout. He leads the spread-it-around Eagles in receiving yards, is second on the team in catches behind tight end Zach Ertz and is tied with Ertz for the team lead with six touchdown catches, including four in his past three games.
More importantly for Jeffery's contract hopes, he has played in every game so far. If he makes it through the next six, it would be the first time he has played a full 16 games in a season since 2014. He had 1,133 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns that season, and his current 14.9 yards per reception is a higher figure than the 13.3 he averaged in 2014.
The odds of Jeffery being back in Philadelphia next year are slim. The Eagles will not have much salary cap room, and they have to address the offensive line and the secondary. They believe they have a young corps of receivers -- guys such as Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, who they hope will develop along with Wentz and form the long-term core of their passing game. Sure, things could change if they keep rolling and win a Super Bowl together, but the Eagles-Jeffery marriage was always intended to last just the one year. The kind of year it has been, though, for him and for them makes it likely that he'll profit from it immensely. Assuming he finishes the season healthy, Jeffery -- who turns 28 next spring -- will get his chance to cash in after all.
This week's column takes a look at a few other guys who, based on what they did in Week 11 and what they've done this season, are in position to land big new contracts, in no particular order:
There are more obvious guys on this list, and we'll get to them, but for now, let's stick with the wide receivers. Adams will be a 25-year-old unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He's on pace to finish with 80 catches, 992 yards and 11 touchdowns. On Sunday, in a shutout loss to Baltimore, Adams caught eight passes for 126 yards from Brett Hundley.
Aaron Rodgers' absence has been a crusher for Jordy Nelson's production, and Randall Cobb has one touchdown all season and hasn't reached 60 yards since Week 2. Adams could be in line for a $10 million annual contract; but if the Packers decide to move on from Cobb, they would save $9.5 million on next year's cap and be able to afford to keep Adams to pair with Nelson. If they don't, he could hit the open market and potentially cash in big.
Landry also will be an unrestricted free agent at 25. He's on pace for 107 catches but just 907 yards, and his status as a slot/possession receiver in Miami's offense is part of the reason he and the team haven't been able to agree on his contract value. Production-wise, Landry's first four years put him among some of the best in the league, meaning he should be looking for something in the range of $14 million or so per year. But the Dolphins have Kenny Stills on a long-term contract and a first-round pick invested in DeVante Parker, and they'd prefer to pay Landry as a slot receiver. If they can't agree, Landry will hit the market. Sunday was his biggest yardage day of the year, with 95. And he has scored a touchdown in each of his past three games.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
Cousins is putting together a third straight 4,000-yard passing season, and at this point, his passer rating is over 100, as it was in 2015 and nearly was last season. Cousins' contract status is the most closely watched in the league. And while the specter of a $29 million transition tag or a $35 million franchise tag looms if Washington decides it can't live without him and doesn't want to sign him long term, there's at least as good a chance that he actually hits the open market, where he could sail north of $30 million per year if enough teams are in the bidding. On Sunday, with the offense crumbling around him due to injuries, Cousins had Washington in position to upset the Saints. He's playing on his third straight one-year deal and showing he's worth all the fuss.
Just a reminder that the three years left on Brees' contract after this year are voidable years for cap purposes and that he'll need a new contract when 2017 is over. There's no reason to doubt that he wants to or will return to New Orleans, and the fact that no extension has been discussed yet doesn't affect the likelihood of his return. Sunday's performance was a reminder that, while the Saints have found other ways to win this season that don't involve Brees throwing for 400 yards every game, he can still win a close contest when it counts. It wouldn't be shocking to see Brees finish out his career in New Orleans -- however much longer that ends up being -- on a series of one-year deals worth about $14 million or $15 million each time.
Buffalo's bizarre benching of Taylor last week in favor of clearly-not-ready fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman worked out worse than even the most dire projections could have imagined. Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half in the loss to the Chargers, and Taylor was back in for the second half. Taylor went 15 for 25 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball four times for 38 yards and another touchdown. There's absolutely no reason to go back to Peterman, but even if the Bills do that, the way Taylor performed in the face of inexplicable adversity that was foisted on him through no real fault of his own speaks well of his professionalism and character. That will help his appeal as a free agent if the Bills decide, as expected, to move on from him at season's end.
Sunday's outing broke a four-game sack streak for Donald, but he spent enough time in the Vikings' backfield that he can now register to vote there, and he has five sacks for the season. If he gets three more in the final six games, he'll reach eight sacks for the fourth time in four NFL seasons. He deserves to be the game's highest-paid defensive player, which was the source of his training camp holdout. Donald's hope now is that he finishes the season healthy, and the goodwill he earned by reporting without a new deal helps him land the one he seeks next offseason.
Pro Football Focus graded Joyner behind only Donald among Rams defenders on Sunday, and he should be in line for an eight-figure-a-year contract with the way he has played this season. Joyner turns 27 next week and has been a key part of Wade Phillips' upgraded defense.
It feels unlikely that the Patriots will extend Butler, after an offseason in which they paid big bucks for free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Butler openly tried to get himself traded to New Orleans. Butler had a fine game on Sunday in Mexico City against the Raiders, as did basically every single one of his teammates. And the way he has played in a situation that clearly wasn't his top choice should help him do well on the market. Think $14 million a year if Butler gets to the market as expected.
He saw a fair bit of Khalil Mack on Sunday, even if Mack spent more of the game trying to get after LaAdrian Waddle on the other side of the line. But Solder had a strong game, along with the rest of the line. And free agency will start before his 30th birthday arrives in April. If the 2016 prices for offensive tackles are any indication, Solder should end up a very wealthy man if he (A) continues to help keep Tom Brady clean and (B) is willing to hit the open market.