Inside the Eagles: Eagles in no hurry to extend Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie doesn't want the franchise tag, "but if it comes, it comes." RON CORTES / Staff
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie doesn't want the franchise tag, "but if it comes, it comes." RON CORTES / Staff
Posted: October 28, 2012

First, the news or lack thereof: The Eagles and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have yet to talk contract extension.

The Eagles in the past used November to extend their young talent. Whether or not it was a shift from Joe Banner's to Howie Roseman's method of handling contract negotiations, a new deal hasn't been handed out during the regular season since 2009.

For that reason and others - the amount of cash Roseman unloaded in extensions during the offseason; the uncertainty over Rodgers-Cromartie's value - it is unlikely that there will be an agreement before the season ends.

Rodgers-Cromartie's contract extension ranks fairly low on the list of concerns for the 3-3 Eagles. The cornerback, who hasn't made a peep about playing in the last year of his rookie deal, said last week that he thought something might get done during the bye week.

But Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and, well, the embattled head coach and his general manager had more pressing business. But there is still time to get something done. Rodgers-Cromartie, though, said he didn't see the likelihood.

"To me, from my standpoint, that would be too late," he said Wednesday. "From a guy that you go out there and give them everything they want - you don't complain, you come to work every day, you work hard and everybody loves you. I mean, to them, that's just something they're going to have to deal with."

That quote sounded as if Rodgers-Cromartie was taking a hard-line stance. When a reporter later asked for greater context, the 26-year-old explained that he simply didn't think the Eagles would want to re-up him as the season progressed.

But Roseman could be compelled to contact Rodgers-Cromartie's agent, Eugene Parker, should the cornerback fall into a midseason funk. It would give him more leverage than he has right now.

It's only a six-game sample, but Rodgers-Cromartie has been arguably the most consistent player on defense. And while it once seemed as if the Eagles were stocked at cornerback, they have somewhat backed themselves into a corner if they want to retain the key piece in the Kevin Kolb trade.

Roseman, of course, has the franchise tag at his disposal. But franchised cornerbacks are projected to make approximately $10.4 million under the tag next year. Rodgers-Cromartie said that he would grudgingly accept the tender.

"I wouldn't mind to get paid at the highest level," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "But it's just like, shoot, it's starting all over again. You still got that one year to go out there and prove it again. So I wouldn't want to take the franchise tag. But if it comes, it comes."

That's a lot of guaranteed cash for someone who hasn't exactly established himself as an elite cornerback. Rodgers-Cromartie appeared to be on that path after his first two seasons in Arizona. He reached the Pro Bowl in his second season, but regressed in 2010 and was unloaded to the Eagles in July 2011.

Last season was a washout. With Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha starting, Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in the unfamiliar confines of the slot. But he never griped.

In the offseason, the Eagles traded Samuel to the Falcons to make way for Rodgers-Cromartie, who would play more man-press defense opposite Asomugha. The decision, for the most part, has paid off.

The juxtaposition of how the Eagles corners play now as opposed to when Samuel was here will be on display when Atlanta visits Sunday. With Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha in the secondary, the Eagles have held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 52.7 completion percentage.

Rodgers-Cromartie, meanwhile, leads the Eagles with three interceptions. He's been targeted 33 times and has allowed only 15 catches for 211 yards without a touchdown. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the seventh-best cover cornerback in the NFL. (Asomugha is third and Samuel is tied for 33d.)

The Eagles have some difficult choices to make in the offseason (aside from that whole who-will-be-the-next-head-coach diversion). In terms of player contracts, Michael Vick and Asomugha will likely be addressed first.

Vick is slated to earn $16.5 million next season, but only $3 million is guaranteed. Only $4 million of Asomugha's $13 million salary for 2013 is guaranteed.

The Eagles are an estimated $15 million over the cap for next season. Even if they push forward the $22 million they're under this year, they will have to dump or restructure some salaries if they want to extend Rodgers-Cromartie or wide receiver Jeremy Maclin or add free agents.

Rodgers-Cromartie's value is difficult to gauge right now. Brandon Carr earned a five-year, $50 million deal with $26.5 million guaranteed from the Cowboys last offseason, but he was an unrestricted free agent. The Jets' Antonio Cromartie, a corner of perhaps comparable skill, signed a four-year, $32 million deal with $14 million guaranteed in August 2011.

At this time last year, the Eagles had another established starter playing in the final year of his rookie contract. DeSean Jackson's situation was different from Rodgers-Cromartie's, but Jackson let it become a distraction.

The Eagles still extended the receiver in the offseason, but who knows how much more he would have gotten had he played up to his capabilities.

"If you look at the history of guys that have been complaining about money, stuff doesn't tend to go their way," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I go out every week and hopefully I put it on film to make them say, 'You know what - we need to keep him here.' "


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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