The Philadelphia Eagles are still entertaining the prospect of bringing back Jay Ajayi, as agent Drew Rosenhaus told Philly.com’s Les Bowen at the NFL Owners Meetings that Ajayi is “maintaining discussions” with the Eagles on a return. Ajayi’s free agent visit with the Indianapolis Colts “went well” according to Rosenhaus, but the running back left without a deal.
Ajayi is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Ajayi tore his ACL in Week 5 of last season and played the majority of 2018 with a fractured back, affecting his free agent status.
The Eagles communicating with Ajayi at this stage in free agency means they are expressing interest in bringing him back, which may have been their free ageny plan. Sign Ajayi and draft a running back in the early rounds.
Again, this all depends on Ajayi’s health.
Ajayi has the resume that many teams covet in 2019 after having 562 carries for 2,516 yards and 13 touchdowns in four seasons, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. During his 42 games in the NFL, Ajayi was never in the top tier of running backs in the NFL…but he was in that next tier of quality starting running backs in the league.
Ajayi began to look like the running back that had a breakout 2016 season with the Miami Dolphins after he was traded to the Eagles in 2017, when he had 260 carries for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and earning a Pro Bowl berth. That Ajayi had three 200-yard rushing games and averaged 17.3 carries a game.
Providing an excellent combination of speed and power for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run, Ajayi finished with 70 carries for 408 yards and a touchdown in seven games with the Eagles, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He was the Eagles No. 1 back in the postseason, carrying the ball 42 times for 184 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and having six catches for 70 yards.
Those numbers are much different than the seven games he played for the Miami Dolphins in 2017, when Ajayi had 138 carries for 465 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Thanks to his resurgence in Philadelphia, Ajayi had 208 carries for 873 yards and a touchdown in 2017, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Ajayi was set to make a good deal of guaranteed money in free agency, whether it was from the Eagles or another team. That’s gone after his ACL surgery ended an injury-plagued 2018 season which Ajayi ran 45 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns (4.1 yards per carry). Ajayi will be forced to sign a “prove it” deal in order to restore his value in 2019, a year which he likely won’t be 100 percent until October (but still should be ready for the start of the season).
Spotrac projected Ajayi’s market value at $3.6 million per season, but he’s expected to make much less than that after Tevin Coleman received just north of $4 million per year.
The Eagles need to improve the 28th-ranked rushing offense from last season, which was 16th in the NFL at 110.8 yards per game when Ajayi was lost for the year with the ACL injury. Ajayi would lead the Eagles running back-by-committee if the franchise were to bring him back, but there are doubts on whether he will be ready for a heavy workload in Week 1.
Fletcher Cox was one of the main reasons Malik Johnson chose to come to the Philadelphia Eagles, just for the opportunity to play next to one of the game’s best interior defenders. Jackson is striving to become one of the game’s best defensive tackles again, but that won’t be his role on the Eagles.
He’s on the interior to make sure Cox doesn’t get double teamed, creating the best front four in the NFL once again.
“I wanted to go somewhere where there was a good defensive line,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I want to get back to where I know I can be. To do that, I need a good defensive line around me. To come in here with (Derek) Barnett and (Brandon) Graham and Fletcher, I mean, hell, I don’t think there’s a better D-line in the league.’
“That Pro Bowl wasn’t a hiccup. That’s who I am. I want to get back to that. Having Fletcher next to me will push me, like Calais (Campbell) did in Jacksonville. Fletcher is exactly who I want to be. A four-time Pro Bowler. An All Pro. A future Hall of Famer.
“Hell, the example is right there in front of my face.”
There’s no denying how great Cox has been in his seven seasons in Philadelphia, especially since last season was his best in the NFL.
Cox earned his fourth All-Pro selection in five years, but his first on the First Team. Cox was a force at defensive tackle, finishing with 95 pressures, 60 hurries, 34 quarterback hits, 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 30 stops, and 12 tackles for loss. The 95 pressures were a career-high, shattering his previous high of 77 in 2015. Cox also had a career-high in quarterback hits, with his previous high being 20 in 2015.
Cox earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection, moving into second place for most Pro Bowls by a defensive lineman in Eagles history. Cox now only trails Reggie White, who has seven Pro Bowl selections in eight years with the Eagles. He was ranked the No. 2 interior defender by Pro Football Focus in 2018.
Add Malik Jackson next to Cox and those numbers could be even better.
“With Fletcher Cox next to me, it’s going to allow me to have more one-on-one rushes,” Jackson said. “Fletcher is a force to be reckoned with. He demands double-teams.
“Hopefully, I can come in here and do what I’m supposed to do and take the double-teams off of him. Hopefully, it’ll go hand in hand.”
The Eagles are hoping to get out of Jackson what they thought they were going to receive from Tim Jernigan. Coz may be even better in 2019.
A lot of NFL players are known to do some traveling in the offseason. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz appears to have traveled further than most.
The Birds’ quarterback was spotted in Israel earlier this week and photographed at a restaurant in Jerusalem, while sporting a slightly longer beard than the one he typically wears. Two men who are in the country on Birthright Israel trips recognized the quarterback and posed for a picture with him.
Brodsky, who lives in East Falls, performs rap music under the name Aaron Out, and made some news back in 2017 when his song “Wawa Hoagies” went viral, and was later featured on The Tonight Show.
“I did not ask him much at all because I did not want to bother him anymore than asking for a picture,” Brodsky told PhillyVoice of his encounter with Wentz. “I was very nervous and in disbelief to see him all the way in Israel since I’ve never even seen him in Philly.” He added that his group had just visited a Holocaust museum, so running into Wentz was “very uplifting” after such a heavy experience.
The other man in the photo, Eric Adelman, is a Patriots fan who lives in Florida. He posted the photo to Facebook, noting that he “couldn’t resist a pic even though they took a ring from the Pats.”
The picture was taken on Sunday, Adelman told PhillyVoice, at a cafe in the Old City of Jerusalem. Wentz was eating with his wife and parents.
“We just spoke briefly with him because he was eating and didn’t want to bother,” Adelman said. “Aaron is from Philly and a huge fan so he told him then and congratulated him on getting a ring.” Brodsky, Adelman said, had even brought a Wentz jersey with him to Israel, for use in a Purim costume later this week.
The Facebook account for Birthright Israel posted the photo, complete with the painful pun “Guess who WENTZ to Israel?!”
NFL players’ visits to Israel have caused controversy in recent years.
An organization called American Voices in Israel has taken a delegation of NFL players to the Holy Land in February or March of each of the last few years. On the 2017 edition of the trip, several players- including ex-Eagle Michael Bennett- pulled out at the last minute, with Bennett proclaiming that he felt he had been “used” by the Israeli government. Mychal Kendricks, who was then with the Eagles, went on the 2017 trip.
Seven players made the trip in 2018, although the excursion was kept “under wraps” until the players landed, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. There have been no media reports about a 2019 edition of the trip, and the Eagles say Wentz is not in Israel as part of American Voices in Israel, but declined to comment further.
Wentz, who is a devout Christian, has not made any posts to his social media accounts in regard to his travels his week, indicating that the trip has been kept low-profile. However, several Eagles fans who live in Israel have seen the picture and tweeted at Wentz, asking to meet him. Assuming Wentz is still in Israel, he was also out of the country for the news that his onetime hunting buddy, Mike Trout, won’t be coming to play in Philly.
Carson Wentz is not the only Philadelphia luminary to visit Israel in recent months. 6ABC anchor Jim Gardner took a trip to the Holy Land in December, where he was photographed atop Masada with none other than Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Gardner also tweeted a picture of his laptop, which he was using to watch that week’s Eagles game while traveling in the Galilee region.