Rich Hofmann: Smiles all around as Eagles sign McCoy to extension

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy waits to talk to the media after signing his contract extension. YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy waits to talk to the media after signing his contract extension. YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: May 19, 2012

HE STEPPED UP on the stage for his press conference, and gave his coach a playful pat on the back, and you could not have smacked the smile off LeSean McCoy’s face if you had tried. On the day he got paid, signing a 5-year contract extension worth $45 million overall and $20.765 million guaranteed, the Eagles’ elite running back admitted that his dominant emotion might just have been relief.

“It feels good just to wake up tomorrow and go to work knowing that the deal is done and it’s over with,” McCoy said. “Just thinking about what could have happened, and like I said before, I’m not a guy to try and hold out and do this and do that. I try and do things the right way. I’m just happy that everything is done and over with, and I can go to work happy tomorrow and enjoy myself.”

McCoy might just play the most perilous position in professional sports — any position, any sport. Running backs get hit more, and hit more dangerously, than anyone in any game. Their professional lifespans are short. They sometimes go from electric to static in a blink.

You worry about the catastrophic knee injury that transforms a special running back into an unspecial one — but it is more than that. You worry about the constant pounding, the wear and tear, and the cumulative damage than can silently rob a running back of the burst that raises him above the average. It can happen almost overnight, too, the shift from great to ordinary to unemployed. It is a cruel game.

So how do you pay those guys? It has become one of the NFL’s great puzzles. The decision-making on this kind of a contract is as complex as any you will find in the league. Yet this one came together fairly easily, all in all. The Eagles did not sweat McCoy, or make him play out his rookie contract, or put the franchise tag on him, or make him assume an inordinate amount of the risk that the job entails.

They just did it, signing McCoy to a contract that is similar enough to the recently signed deal by Houston running back Arian Foster that the accountants will be arguing about which one is really worth more for a long time. Nobody other than the participants knows why it was as uncomplicated as it was. Maybe it was the involvement of coach Andy Reid, which was cited by agent Drew Rosenhaus. Maybe it was that Rosenhaus has mellowed over the years. Maybe it was that the club really wants to give Reid everything it can in what many believe will be a crucial year for the coach, his 14th year of pursuing a championship. Maybe it was some combination of all of those things.

For his part, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said that it was McCoy who made it simpler.

“I think it depends on the player,” Roseman said. A general manager never looks better to the fan base than when he is giving away the owner’s money, and Roseman looks fabulous after an offseason in which he has re-signed five core players to new deals: Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, DeSean Jackson, Evan Mathis and now McCoy.

Really, most of it was pretty straightforward — except for the anything-but-straightforward Jackson. But that was about the player’s complicated personality. This was different. This one was about a great young player who happens to play a very precarious position.

“What you see is that unique players at that position are treated in a certain way,” Roseman said. “Because of how we play, and the value of the running back in our offense, that becomes a factor — it may be different than another team.”

But what about the injury risk?

“It’s part of the equation when you’re looking at this,” Roseman said. “But in this case, you’re talking about a guy that’s 23 years old. That makes everything a little more palatable. When you’re talking about his work ethic, and the kind of player he is, and the kind of person he is, and what we’re looking for as an organization going forward, that takes away a lot of the questions when you’re looking at this specific guy and this specific situation.”

Rosenhaus said the Foster contract helped both sides get a gauge on the market. Roseman, though, when asked about how important the Foster deal was, said, “Not for us. No, we were always ready to go.” And, well, whatever.

They got it done, just as they did with the rest of them, just as they did when they traded for linebacker DeMeco Ryans. It has been a very good offseason for this team — but it will mean nothing if …

Last word goes to the new multimillionaire:

“Sure, guys like new contracts and stats, but the main goal is to win a championship and I think we’re all on the same page,” LeSean McCoy said.

Contact Rich Hofmann at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

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