Thursday, February 27, 2014

Eagles get deals done with Cooper, Kelce

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles have agreed to terms with wide receiver Riley Cooper on a five-year contract, and center Jason Kelce on a seven-year contract. 

Cooper (6-foot-3, 222) enjoyed a breakout year in his first season as a full-time starter in 2013, as he set career highs in receptions (47), receiving yards (835) and touchdowns (eight). In addition, the four-year veteran ranked third in the NFL in yards per reception (17.8) and became just the second player in Eagles history to accumulate five receiving touchdowns over a two-game span after hauling in three touchdowns at Oakland (11/3) and two at Green Bay (11/10).

“Riley is one of the toughest and hardest-working guys in our locker room," Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. "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.”

Valued for his unique blend of size, athleticism and toughness, Cooper took advantage of an ACL injury to veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin and was able to overcome an embarrassing high-profile, racially-fueled incident at a Kenny Chesney concert to have his breakout season.

He has been a valuable component of the Eagles offense since he was selected by Philadelphia in fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, appearing in 56 games (25 starts) while registering 93 catches for 1,514 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“Riley’s a tough player who can not only go up and catch the football and make big plays, but who also takes a great amount of pride in his ability to block and be physical down the field," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. "He made the most of his opportunities last year and we all expect him to build upon that. Riley wants to be an Eagle and expressed that several times to us throughout this process. We were very excited to get this done before the start of free agency.”

A native of Clearwater, FL, Cooper, 26, was a second-team All-SEC selection as a senior at Florida in 2009 and helped the Gators win two BCS National Championships during his collegiate tenure. Cooper was also a standout on the diamond and was drafted twice into Major League Baseball, first by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006 and then by the Texas Rangers in 2009.

An athletic and intelligent center, Kelce (6-foot-3, 295) started every game for the Eagles in 2013 after returning from a serious knee injury suffered in Week 2 of the previous season that derailed his sophomore campaign.

With Kelce leading an offensive line that saw the same five players start every contest, the Eagles offense flourished as he helped the team set franchise records in points scored (442) and total net yards (6,676). Kelce also assisted in paving the way for the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy, who finished with franchise bests in both rushing yards (1,607) and yards from scrimmage (2,146). As a result of his play, he was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient, which honors a player from each NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.

“Jason is the epitome of the type of player we want around here, both on and off the field," Kelly said. "He’s tough, extremely intelligent and is a leader by his actions and by his words. His athleticism is something that really sticks out when you watch him play. There aren’t many centers that can get down the field like he does.”

A sixth-round selection of Philadelphia in 2011, Kelce, 26, became the first Eagles rookie offensive lineman to start all 16 games since Doug Brzezineski in 1999 and the first rookie in team history to start every game at center. Kelce was named to Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin’s NFL All-Rookie team and helped the offense set then-franchise records in first downs (356) and total net yards (6,386).

 “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 off-season we had to re-sign Jason and we jumped all over the opportunity.”

A  native of Cleveland Heights, OH, Kelce was a four-year letterman at Cincinnati, starting 38 contests during his collegiate career.

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