Cutting Trent Cole this year makes sense from a salary cap perspective

I just want to start by saying that I've been meaning to write this fanpost for about a month, I just haven't really had the time. I was also kinda waiting for our FA acquisition's cap figures to be announced since I didn't want to write a fairly long post and then have it be completely useless in practice.

Anyway, whenever the words "Trent Cole" and "cut" come up together in pretty much any comment, you always see at least one person say something to the effect of, "we can't cut him this year, he's got $6 million in dead money". I think I was actually at the forefront of those kinds of comments for a little bit. While that is a true statement, it has become entirely irrelevant. The reason is the cap space we rolled over from 2012.

Remember when the Eagles had like $20 million in cap space last year, and some of the less informed fans were complaining about how the Eagles were being cheap, while the rest of us knew the reason was because we needed it to roll over into this years cap? Yeah, turns out we didn't really need that money after all. So now we have roughly $23 million in rolled over cap space that's just sitting there. The thing about rolled over cap space though, is that it's a one time thing. There is not compounding or snowballing effect. You either use it or lose it.

In any given year over the new CBA, the NFL has a "base" salary cap (this year it's $123 million). If you're under that base number, you're allowed to apply however much money you were under the current year's cap towards next year's cap number*, thereby increasing it. Just like we saw the Eagles do this past year. For example, if a team had a cap number of $115 million this year, they could roll over $8 million into next years cap*. I'm sure most of you guys already know this stuff.

*Its actually slightly complicated than that, but for this article I'm going to keep it simple

As of this writing, the Eagles have $112 million committed to player salaries next year, and $10 million in dead money, for a total or roughly $122 million. You also have to figure roughly $8 million will be used to sign draft picks, meaning, in all likelihood, we're going to be over the league wide 2013 base salary cap. That means we're likely NOT going to be rolling over money into next year's cap. Additionally, we're going to have about $16 million (by my estimation) in cap space that will disappear into thin air once next season rolls around. Like I said before, use it or lose it. So what can we do with all that cash? I see three options.

  1. Sign another free agent, although this scenario seems unlikely at this point. Maybe we go after a RT, but you have to figure if we really wanted one, we probably would have already made our move. Also, signing long term contracts with rolled over money is a dangerous proposition since we won't have the benefit of extra cap space again next year.
  2. Front load a contract. I'm really no sure about the viability of this option, so this point is really just me brainstorming. Anyway, I guess we could approach one of the guys on the team and tell him we want to pay him a lot of money this year on the condition that we cut his salary down the road. For instance, Shady's only scheduled to make about $5 million this year, but close to $10 million next year. My idea is to essentially switch those numbers; pay him $10 million this year and $5 million next year. Basically like one giant advance. I guess it would be similar to what the Cowboys and Redskins did during the uncapped year that got them those bullshit salary cap reductions. Of course, we should only do this if Stalin Goodell is cool with it.
  3. The third option is to cut guys that are under preforming relative to their contracts and that still have signing bonus money prorated over their contract (aka guys that will result in dead money if cut). I can think of a certain 4-3 DE that seems to fit the bill.

Cutting (or trading*) Trent Cole would indeed trigger $6 million in dead money, but like I said, we have cap space that's going to vanish like the Mayans if we don't use it. It just makes sense to dump a lot of dead money into the cap this year since we're losing that cap space one way or another. If we choose not to get rid of Cole this year and he doesn't improve on his 2012 season, then we're going to be kicking ourselves. Cutting him after next season will result in almost $5 million in dead money, and we won't have the luxury of the roll over cushion. I'm not trying to harp on Cole, I just think that cutting him now will save us a lot of cap related headaches down the road. He wasn't very good last year, he's at the age when a lot of guys start to decline, and he's going to be playing a 'new' position this year that we theoretically have a lot of depth at. I'm just not seeing the benefit to keeping him at this point.

*I know someone out there's probably thinking we can get something for Cole in a trade. Maybe we can, but trade value is determined by 2 things, how much the guy is likely to produce and how much you have to pay him. Remember what we got for Asante last year when he was still one of the better corners in the game? I don't see how Trent Cole is any more valuable than Swag 100 was at the time of the trade. So sure, trade Cole if you can, but don't expect much in return.

One last point. When cutting a dead money guy like Cole (or potentially Todd Herremans), the move must be done prior to June 1st. If its done after that date, the cap hit will be spread out over this year's cap and next year's cap. Given that we have lots of unused cap space this year, that's probably a situation we want to avoid.

I have no idea if the Eagles are planning on doing any of what I've suggested, I'm just kinda interested by the possibilities.

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