PHILADELPHIA — It's common for a player to express loyalty and gratitude to a team that just invested a multimillion-dollar contract in him, but the timing of the new deals for center Jason Kelce and wide receiver Riley Cooper demonstrated just how much they wanted to stay in Philadelphia.
Both signed contracts with the Eagles on Thursday and sacrificed the opportunity to explore potential riches elsewhere.
Cooper, 26, signed a five-year deal worth up to $25 million with $10 million guaranteed. He reenlisted 13 days before he was set to hit the open market and could have generated more bids.
Kelce, 26, had one year remaining on his rookie deal and signed a six-year extension with a total maximum value of $40.1 million, including $13 million guaranteed. The $6.25 million salary per year makes him one of the top five-paid centers in the league. The deal runs through 2020, meaning Kelce did not just bypass his first chance at free agency in 2015 but also the potential for another contract during his prime.
"You've seen a lot of guys re-signing, and it really shows how genuinely enthused everybody is with where the organization is going, with where the team is going," Kelce said. "It feels like there's been a revitalization of the whole culture here, and it's really exciting to be a part of it."
For Kelce, the decision was simple. He wanted long-term security at the place where he wanted to play. The 2011 sixth-round pick has played three seasons in Philadelphia, and the possibilities of another team or another contract later in his 20s were not as enticing.
"At this point, I have more than enough money to be comfortable," Kelce said. "I wear sweat pants and T-shirts every day."
In fact, Kelce's first order of business will be to pay off his parents' home in Cleveland. He does not have any purchases planned for himself and is known to remain in Philadelphia and work out at the team facility during the offseason. General manager Howie Roseman sees Kelce in the cafeteria for breakfast each morning. The center met with reporters on Thursday in his workout clothes.
Kelce's signing ensures that the entire offensive line is under contract through at least 2016.
In a short period with the Eagles, Kelce has become one of the locker room's most influential voices. Even when he was sidelined for most of the 2012 season with a knee injury, he remained involved with the team.
"Leadership and all that comes with experience and time," said Kelce, who has played only 34 regular-season games in an Eagles uniform. "I've been here for three years, and I've developed a lot of cohesiveness and chemistry, not just with the line but with everybody here."
One of Kelce's closest friends on the team is Cooper, who experienced a breakout season after spending much of his first three years in Philadelphia as a reserve.
Cooper's role changed in 2013 after Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season early in training camp. However, Cooper's roster spot appeared tenuous when a video was released that showed the receiver shouting a racial slur at a concert. (When Cooper was asked Thursday what he thought of a potential rule that would penalize the use of racial slurs during games, he said, "I think it's a good rule.")
The Eagles kept Cooper on the roster, and he finished with a 47 receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. His 17.8 yards per reception ranked third in the league.
"It was tough, everyone knows that," Cooper said. "I dealt with a lot of adversity. Since I was little, it was a dream to play in the NFL. But does anyone ever dream about getting a multimillion-dollar contract and getting paid as a starter? That's something that I don't know if I ever thought about. But it's upon me now and it's here, and I'm extremely fortunate."
Most of Cooper's production came with Nick Foles as the quarterback. Cooper credited Foles for helping him secure the contract, understanding that his demand would not have been as high if not for the chemistry with his quarterback.
That was part of the reason Cooper did not want to test free agency. He was comfortable with Foles and in Chip Kelly's system. The locker room mostly accepted him even after the video surfaced. He enjoys Philadelphia and expressed appreciation for the fans.
"I felt like this is where I needed to be," Cooper said.
It's the same sentiment the Eagles received from Kelce along with Jason Peters a day earlier. Jeremy Maclin could be next. The Eagles have made it a priority to lock up their own players. More important, players have made it a priority to stay.
"Part of it is the culture we're trying to build here," Roseman said. "We've got to get better. We have a lot we're trying to do this offseason. But I think players see what we're trying to accomplish, and they want to be a part of it."