By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA—For what seems like the umphteenth consecutive year the Eagles will come into a mini-camp of a new season with a disgruntled player unhappy with his current contract. It is almost like watching a rerun of “I Love Lucy.” You always know how it’s going to end.
When various Eagles veterans and rookies began streaming in for mini-camp late last week, the buzz among media types was whether or not cornerback Sheldon Brown who is unhappy with his current contract which pays him $3.5 million a year through 2012 , would even show up after asking the team to trade him if they did not renegotiate his deal.
Eagles vice president Joe Banner said the team would not renegotiate Brown’s contract nor would they trade him. Then the Eagles traded for former New England Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs presumably as an insurance policy in case they decide to part ways with Brown. That means the clock on Brown’s time in Philadelphia is ticking.
When the ongoing story of Lito Sheppard’s demand to change his contract dragged through the season, he saw his playing time decrease exponentially to the point to where he saw no playing time during last season’s NFC Championship game and he was subsequently shipped off to the New York Jets.
But like Sheppard, Brown did show up for the Eagles three-day mini-camp and like Sheppard, kept a stiff upper lip, answered questions about his plight in the parking lot at the team’s Nova Care practice facility.
“It’s not hard for me to work under these conditions because I understand the business side of the game,” Brown told reporters. “To the fans, I apologize. It’s just business. It’s all business to me. …I know everything that I’m getting myself into before it happened.”
There were two responses or better yet non-responses from Brown that weekend that told you all you needed to know about how veteran players regard the Eagles organization. Upon his arrival Thursday, Brown was asked several times about his feelings toward Banner and each time he responded with a very terse“no comment.”
On Friday at his locker when Brown was asked if his situation is a reflection of how the Eagles organization treats players like Sheppard, Jeremiah Trotter, and Brian Dawkins who dare to ask for more money or alter the terms of their contract, his answer implied that it was the same old song.
“You been around longer than me before my time, so you can speak on some of the other guys, I just know about the guys in my era,” Brown said smiling. “It makes a great story for you guys, it’s always somebody different, sign the next man up …somebody’s going to get lucky.”
Unfortunately, Brown won’t be the guy who will be lucky. He’s had a solid career here, but he’s at the age of 30 where he’s basically expendable to the Birds who have a penchant for unceremoniously dumping players who get beyond the age of 29. Remember the Eagles are the Logan’s Run of the NFL: A place where players who turn 30 are ritually executed.
In the minds of Eagles management, Brown hasn’t been a superstar or a perennial Pro Bowler like a Brian Dawkins or even Sheppard who made two Pro Bowls during his time in Philadelphia.
Look for the Eagles to cut Brown loose if players like Hobbs or Virginia Tech rookie Victor “Macho” Harris have solid training camps. I don’t think the Birds are interested in another disgruntled player spending the season bitching and moaning about a contract that they are not going to alter.
Here’s a lesson for those younger Eagles players-don’t sign a long-term deal before you’re eligible free agency because if do and your performance far exceeds the deal you signed or worse yet when you turn 30 don’t even think about asking Birds management to redo your contract because it ain’t gonna happened.
And if you complain about it, they will reduce your playing time and eventually send you packing one way or the other.
The Eagles quest to be the gold standard, the winners of the “Salary Cap Bowl” has left a bitter taste in the mouths of players who left here feeling disrespected after giving their blood and guts to the organization. Dawkins very bitter departure this past spring was a classic example of that .
Brown is just the latest Eagle unhappy with his contract and the team’s stern refusal to renegotiate contracts and he will definitely not be the last.