NFL Philadelphia Eagles

5 Reasons Why Cutting James Casey Would Haunt The Philadelphia Eagles

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5 Reasons Why James Casey's Role Should Expand

James Casey
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After barely seeing him on the field last year, it is easy to forget that tight end James Casey was one of the most high-profile free agent signings for the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason. The team signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract to join forces with Brent Celek in the two-tight end sets, also known as "12 personnel," that have recently become a staple formation in the NFL. Casey suffered a knee injury that required surgery during minicamp and then went down with a hamstring injury near the end of preseason. As Casey rehabbed, head coach Chip Kelly was becoming enthralled with his new tight end, Zach Ertz, whom the Eagles drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft out of Stanford University.

Kelly publicly praised Ertz as a fluid route runner with outstanding hands. The head coach also went out of his way to gush about Brent Celek's run blocking prowess. Lacking Celek's leadership and intangibles as well as Ertz's franchise tight end pedigree, Casey drifted to the back of the roster. To compound matters, wide receivers Jason Avant and Riley Cooper exhibited excellent blocking skills which allowed the Eagles to run the ball effectively out three-wide receiver sets. With 12 personnel formations rarely utilized, Casey's playing time languished. The $12 million ghost averaged less than five offensive snaps per game during the first half of the season.

In Week 9, things began to change. With Ertz improving his run blocking skills and becoming more comfortable in the three-point stance and Casey back to 100 percent health, the team shifted to more two-tight end formations. As a result, Casey's playing time increased significantly. He played 17 snaps in Week 9, 22 snaps in Week 14, 30 snaps in Week 16, and 28 snaps in the last game of the regular season.

Those increased snaps, however, did not equate to production in passing game. Making close to $4 million in 2013, his three catches for 31 yards on the year came out to more than $1 million per catch. Casey is scheduled to be the highest paid third string tight end in the NFL in 2014, which would appear to make him an obvious candidate for release this offseason.

Though James Casey is now perceived as an overpaid ghost, rather than being cut, here are five reasons why he should become an integral part of the Eagles' offense next season.

Matt Kelley is a Philadelphia Eagles and Fantasy Football contributor for Follow him on Twitter @fantasy_mansion or add him to your Google network.

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5. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz Insurance

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The Eagles were the healthiest team in the NFL in 2013, and the odds are against them repeating their luck with injuries. Tight ends are also one of the more frequently injured positions in the league, so holding onto Casey insures the Eagles against a possible injury to Brent Celek or Zach Ertz.

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4. Versatile Tight Ends Are In-Demand

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Casey is a talented pass receiver and adept run blocker. Because versatile tight ends are in high-demand around the league, the Eagles would not be able to replace his skill-set on the roster.

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3. Casey Is Guaranteed $2 Million

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Casey is guaranteed $2 million in 2014. A player owned that much money would need to be a true liability either on the field or in the locker room to motivate a team to dump him for 50 cents on the dollar in cap relief.

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2. Chip Kelly Planning More Two-Tight End Formations

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Chip Kelly has a reputation for adapting his schemes to optimize his personnel year to year. With a competitive advantage at the tight end position, look for Kelly to utilize both Ertz and Casey more frequently to exploit the matchup problems that their size and speed create for opposing defenses.

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1. Riley Cooper and Jason Avant Unlikely To Return

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Riley Cooper will likely be offered more money by another franchise than Philadelphia is willing to pay.

Jason Avant's production clearly deteriorated last season. He is due a $1 million roster bonus in March in addition to his $2.25 million base salary in 2014. He is a valuable member of the locker room, but his best days are behind him. Avant is simply not worth $3.25 million and is a prime candidate for release.

Without the same stable of quality run blocking wide receivers, the Eagles are sure to run more plays out of their 12 personnel package in 2014.