All along, it was assumed that the major sticking point in getting a deal done between Brodrick Bunkley and the Eagles was the length of the deal. What's the difference between five and six years? Free agency, that's what. After five seasons, Bunkley could have become a free agent and potentially cashed in on a growing salary cap to get big bucks either from the Eagles or another team. With the sixth season, that windfall is delayed, although with the potential size of his contract, Bunkley should be able to afford to live pretty nicely.
Joe Banner was very clear; "The sixth year was not a sticking point." Bunkley's agent, Gary Wichard was very clear; "The sixth year was a sticking point." No wiggle room for either side on that one. Joe Banner was also very clear when he spoke to the media after the deal was done that he wasn't happy about how it all played out. Banner spoke of Bunkley missing two weeks of camp and not being able to feel good about the situation, even though it's now a done deal.
In the days leading up to the deal, Andy Reid was talking glowingly about the players who were seeing extra time because of Bunkley's absence. He sounded very much like a man who was ready, willing and able to go in a different direction. He talked about Ed Jasper. He talked about the growth of sixth rounder La Juan Ramsey and second year man Keyonta Marshall and how impressed he was with starters Mike Patterson and Darwin Walker and how Sam Rayburn gave the team great depth at the position. Behind the scenes, the Eagles were also staring down their negotiating opponent, reportedly threatening to start cutting the offer if the holdout continued.
The key to it all was that the Eagles gave Bunkley just enough wiggle room to let him save face and move closer to what everybody thought he wanted, even if he did have to agree to an extra year. Instead of the initial $7.9 million offer of guaranteed money, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bunkley will get a guaranteed $9.77 million and that the last two years of the deal could be as much as $15 million if Bunkley reaches escalators that were built into the deal.
As for the players, they insist that there are no hard feelings. That's hard to believe. The truth is that guys like Jasper and Rayburn have been playing well in camp and Bunkley's late arrival may wash a lot of that away. Of course, for that to happen, Bunkley has to pick up the intricate defensive scheme of Jim Johnson, which the others already know.
It's hard to tell how this marriage will work out. After all, some of the best marriages started with rocky relationships. For now, both sides seem relieved, if not happy, that this first date is over and are just looking forward to the future, which for Bunkley will last a year longer in Philadelphia than he might have liked.