A 10-6 record for the Philadelphia Eagles last season wasn't good enough for the team to qualify for the 2015 NFL playoffs. The Birds were in good position to make the post-season until they collapsed down the stretch. Now that the offseason is here, the Eagles will have a chance to upgrade their roster and correct some of the mistakes that led to their demise. The good news is that Philadelphia will have ample opportunity to improve.
A look at this table from Over The Cap shows the Eagles have an estimated $18,954,544 in cap space heading into the offseason. This figure ranks as the 16th most in the NFL, which is obviously middle of the pack.
This number can (and likely will) change before NFL free agency starts on March 10. There are a number of veteran players the Eagles can cut as salary cap casualties in order to free up space. For example, the Eagles could save a total of $26 million by releasing Trent Cole ($8.43M), Cary Williams ($6.5), DeMeco Ryans ($6.9M), and James Casey ($4M) while only suffering a combined $4 million in dead money. Some players may be willing to restructure their deals (which would push money owed into future years) or take pay cuts (perhaps Cole?). Either way, there will be opportunities to create more cap space.
The Eagles will need that space for some of their own players. A complete list of the ten Eagles scheduled to be free agents:
S Nate Allen
CB Bradley Fletcher
LB Brandon Graham
WR Jeremy Maclin
LB Casey Matthews
QB Mark Sanchez
WR Brad Smith
RB Chris Polk (RFA)
DE Cedric Thornton (RFA)
WR Jeff Maehl (ERFA)
Then there's the 2012 NFL Draft class to consider. Players drafted in that year are now eligible for contract extensions. Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks could be in line for long-term deals. The Eagles might opt to hold off on new contracts for Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, and Brandon Boykin. The Eagles have been good at taking care of their own so it'll be interesting to see how they handle these players.
External options will also be in play. Last year the Eagles signed former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins on the first day of free agency and later acquired Darren Sproles in a trade. The Eagles will be able to address their secondary again this year with potential targets such as Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell and/or Patriots safety Devin McCourty on the market, just to name a few options.
The Eagles won't be able to spend like crazy in free agency but that doesn't seem to fit their recent philosophy anyway. Chip Kelly, who is now in full control of player personnel along with Ed Marynowitz, values continuity. That doesn't mean the Birds will stick with a player like Bradley Fletcher who obviously struggled last season. But the days of the 2011 "dream team" free agent class aren't likely to happen again soon. That said, the Eagles won't be shy to address positions of need. With Allen and Fletcher scheduled to be free agents, the team will be forced to address the secondary in some form.
As always, it will be interesting to see what the Eagles do with their money. It will also be interesting to see how the new Eagles power structure works with Kelly and Marynowitz in charge of personnel while former Eagles general manager and current executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman (along with director of football administration Jake Rosenberg) is in charge of managing the cap.
On an unrelated note: The NFL with the least amount of cap space heading into the offseason is the New Orleans Saints. They're actually in the hole by just over $23 million. Yikes.