Eagles news and notes for 2/8
The unofficial start of free agency is just one month away, and the Eagles need to clear some room. They currently have the fourth-highest cap commitments in 2017 (approximately $169 million) and about $7 million in cap space. While executive vice president of player personnel Howie Roseman and company are not expected to go too crazy this spring, the front office is dedicated to surrounding Carson Wentz with better talent and appears willing to throw down some sizable cash if it identifies a potential core player that can grow alongside the young quarterback over the next handful of years.
With one eye undeniably on the future and the financial flexibility a bit limited at the moment, the Eagles are expected to cut or restructure some veterans as they reallocate resources. Running back Ryan Mathews ($4 million savings) and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin ($3.2 million) and Ron Brooks ($1.6 million) could be among those affected.
To help navigate some of the more interesting/difficult decisions facing this team, we called on former agent and salary-cap expert Joel Corry for his take:
(Numbers courtesy of OverTheCap)
DE Connor Barwin
Cap number if on roster: $8.35 million
Cap savings: $7.75 million
"Connor Barwin needs to play in a 3-4. I don’t know if you can get anything for him in a trade; that’s a fire sale move. I know he said he wants to take a pay cut to stay but he’s more effective in a 3-4. That’s $7.75 [million] right there.”
Several members of the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie class carved imprints on the 2016 season, and aside from quarterback Carson Wentz, they mostly face similar uncertainty as free agency, the draft and a new league year loom in the months ahead.
Let's put it this way: Barring injury, Wentz will be the Eagles' starting signal-caller and the face of the team when the season opens in September. There's no doubt about that. But it's less clear whether Jalen Mills will start at cornerback in 2017 or whether Wendell Smallwood can carry a heavy load out of the backfield.
Offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai sit in similar situations -- they proved they could hold their own in the NFL last season, but moving forward, neither has a starting job cemented.
So below, we explore the factors that could determine how these four 2016 rookies might fit into the Eagles' 2017 plans:
OL ISAAC SEUMALO
There's a lot to sort out with Seumalo. The third-round pick out of Oregon State might remain as a backup next season or he could start at left guard.
But the most interesting possibility is rooted in a PhillyVoice report that the Eagles are considering disposing of two-time Pro Bowler Jason Kelce and sliding Seumalo into his place at center. The Eagles would save $3.8 million by cutting Kelce, but they'd only move on from the veteran if they felt confident Seumalo could produce steady play in front of Wentz.
Warning: Do not look directly at this draft class, or your eyeballs may commit suicide.
This was easily the worst draft class of the last 18 years, and it wasn't even close. If I could have ranked it lower, I would have. The first five picks, in particular, were incomprehensibly bad:
1) Danny Watkins: This was perhaps the dumbest pick in two decades. Watkins was already 26-years old when the Eagles drafted him (he turned 27 during his rookie season) on a team at the time that was legendary for letting players walk once they got into their 30's.
For context, Tyron Smith was taken in the same draft class. Smith is younger, as in right now, than Danny Watkins was when the Eagles took him. He was also transitioning to guard, a non-impact position that he didn't even play in college.
2) Jaiquawn Jarrett: At the time, the Eagles had two glaring needs, guard and safety. They reached massively for each in the first two rounds, as both Watkins and Jarrett are already out of the NFL. This was the lockout year, meaning that the draft came before free agency. Ideally, you would try to fill your glaring holes in free agency, then add the best available players in the draft. The Eagles took the reverse tact. They reached for need in the draft, then signed all the "best" players in free agency, and the results were disastrous.
Before the team’s first preseason game against Tampa Bay at Lincoln Financial Field, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo pulled out his phone, took a few pictures of the stadium, and quickly sent them off to his parents.
For a moment, he let himself enjoy the atmosphere and reflected on his journey to the NFL. Sometimes, he still can’t comprehend how the teenager who moved to Philadelphia ascended the coaching ladder and ended up back where it all began.
"Growing up watching this team and coming to games and those things, I walk into work every day and sometimes just can’t believe I’m here," DeFilippo said. "Who would have thought this when I was at Radnor High School?"
DeFilippo moved to Delaware County with his family as a rising high school sophomore. His father, Gene, had accepted a job as the athletic director at Villanova University, just a stone’s throw down the road.
Adjusting to his new town and school, DeFilippo immediately turned to football, the sport he’d been playing for as long as he could remember. It had always been a constant for him. He quarterbacked the Raiders’ varsity team and then went on to play collegiately at James Madison University.
DeFilippo wanted his future to be in coaching from the time he began at Radnor High School. His ultimate dream was to work in the pros, an aspiration he understood would take hard work and dedication to achieve.
"My dad was a coach when I was younger and then got into athletic administration as I got older. It’s something I knew I always wanted to do," he explained. "My whole life, I’ve never known a fall without football and it’s definitely something I knew when I was done playing I wanted to get involved with the game."