Riley Cooper (left) and Jason Kelce will be teammates for a while. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Fresh from his time at the scouting combine, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has been busy this week. On Thursday, it was announced that the team had re-signed receiver Riley Cooper and center Jason Kelce to long-term extensions.
Cooper's deal, which is for five years and $25 million in total, was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. The contract has just $10 million in guaranteed money, but it's a fairly amazing recovery for a player who, before the 2013 season started, put himself in a big hole by way of a stupid act.
Last June, Cooper was caught on video yelling a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. Cooper had been set to become the Eagles' deep seam receiver after Jeremy Maclin suffered a torn ACL, but the blowback from Cooper's actions complicated things to a degree. Cooper was excused from team activities to undergo counseling, and returned to the NovaCare complex in early August.
“I talked to everyone individually,” Cooper said upon his return about what he told his teammates. “I told them, ‘I don’t want you to forgive me because that puts the burden on you.’ I want it all on me. I told them that and I told them I apologize. They could tell it’s from the heart. They know I’m not that type of person. It feels good to have support from the guys.”
Cooper got into a fight during practice with cornerback Cary Williams in September, and quarterback Michael Vick was one of the teammates who helped break up the fight. Vick had said that he was going to forgive Cooper and move on.
With Vick and then Nick Foles as his quarterbacks after Vick suffered a hamstring injury, Cooper had his best season in 2013. The fifth-round pick out of Florida in 2010 caught 47 passes on 84 targets for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. And as a deep seam receiver, he was very effective, catching seven passes on 16 deep targets for 280 yards and five scores.
"Riley is one of the toughest and hardest-working guys in our locker room," head coach Chip Kelly said in a statement announcing the extension. "We talk a lot about how players have to make the most of their opportunities, and he did just that last year. He used his size, strength and speed to make a lot of big plays for our team and I'm excited to watch him build upon his success."
There were no such controversies for Kelce, who's been one of the best as his position over the last few seasons. Selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Cincinnati, Kelce played in all but 10 possible snaps for the Eagles last year (1,178 total) and gave up no sacks in his last seven games (three total). He was rated as Pro Football Focus' top center last season, one year after missing most of the 2012 campaign with a torn MCL in his right knee. His reward was a six-year, $37.5 million deal with $13 million guaranteed.
"You just don't see many interior linemen with the athleticism that Jason Kelce possesses," Roseman said. "It shows up on film many times where you just see him 10 or 15 yards down the field making blocks. His intelligence, work ethic and pride in his game are just off the charts. He's the proverbial gym rat and is always at the NovaCare Complex working on his game. This was the first offseason we had to re-sign Jason and we jumped all over the opportunity."
In 2013, their first year under Kelly, the Eagles set team records for points (442) and net yards (6,676), LeSean McCoy became the first Eagles player to lead the NFL in rushing yards since Steve Van Buren did it in 1949.