Birds Cross Their T's: Thomas And Turner

Posted: October 29, 1996

A couple of weeks ago, the Eagles began serious work on contract extensions. They had saved nearly $2 million under the 1996 salary cap, and if contracts were to count against this year's cap, the deals must be renegotiated before today.

They contacted several players, including a pair whose contracts expire at the end of this season - Pro Bowl defensive end William Fuller and Pro Bowl linebacker William Thomas. They also called fullback Kevin Turner, whose contract ran through next season.

They figured out they could afford to sign two players to extensions. They chose Thomas and Turner. Both signed new deals yesterday. Thomas signed for a total of $15.75 million over five years, said his agent, Leigh Steinberg, plus an $850,000 raise for this season. The new deal launched him into the stratosphere of linebackers in the league and probably made the six-year pro an Eagle for the remainder of his career.

While it is known that Turner's deal involves restructuring his 1996 salary, exact terms of Turner's unusual three-year extension were not made public at the request of the five-year veteran. He has too many buddies in the investment world.

``I majored in finance at Alabama,'' Turner said. ``The last time I told how much I was getting paid, I had all my friends calling about investments.''

The Eagles saw good investments in both players, and knew they should strike quickly to take advantage of the league's salary-cap restrictions. Team senior vice president Joe Banner said the club has now used up nearly all of its cap room, except a small portion reserved for emergencies, typically about $500,000 for most clubs.

``These are two important players in the prime of their careers,'' Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said.

Thomas went to his first Pro Bowl last season after registering seven interceptions. He has two this season. Turner has 20 receptions and has proved to be every bit the blocking back the Eagles hoped he'd be when they signed him in 1995 - for three years.

That, admitted Banner, is what makes re-signing Turner now unusual. Players usually re-sign in the last year of their deal. Turner said he, too, was surprised.

The Eagles cited Turner's value, perhaps inflated in their West Coast offense, which relies heavily on fullback participation. Fine, Turner said. Recalling the support the Eagles gave him while he rehabiliated his blown-out right knee last season, not to mention the adjustment period he went through coming from the Patriots, he figures he has found a home. ``I'm a simple person,'' Turner said. ``I moved once. I'd like not to make any more [moves].''

Thomas seems similarly simple. ``I didn't want to test the market,'' Thomas said. ``My true heart is in Philadelphia. I wanted to start my career here. I want to end it here.''

The Eagles appear to want the same. Consider the linebackers who earn more than Thomas's average: Pittsburgh's Greg Lloyd, Indianapolis's Quentin Coryatt, Chicago's Bryan Cox, Atlanta's Cornelius Bennett, Tampa Bay's Hardy Nickerson and San Diego's Junior Seau. Defenses are built around that type of player. That might just be the Eagles' thinking.

BIRDSEED Ray Rhodes said former Jets tight end Johnny Mitchell will be in for a workout today . . . Running back Charlie Garner's one carry Sunday was less an indication of the Eagles' estimation of Garner's running ability, said Rhodes, than a reaction to Carolina's blitzes with big linebackers.

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