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Eagles have 18 players set to be unrestricted free agents after the 2017 NFL season

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Who will the Eagles keep?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest edition of the Bleeding Green Nation mailbag! Every so often I'll be taking some of your Philadelphia Eagles questions and answering them in this post. As always, thanks to everyone who sent in a question. We already answered some of your questions during the BGN Facebook Live session I hosted. (Shameless plug: please like on the BGN Facebook page and the BGN Radio Facebook page.) Watch the Q&A below or [click here].

Weekly Eagles Q&A with BLG! Send me your questions. Also give us a like on the BGN Radio page.

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Sunday, May 28, 2017

@JnA_Reidinger asks: Who are the Eagles’ free agents next year?

Just answering this one question in today’s mailbag because it’s a long answer. And I’m sorry it took so long to get to this question.

The Eagles have a total of 18 players projected to be free agents after this season. (It’s actually 19 if you include Ryan Mathews, but he’s expected to be cut soon.)

List of Eagles 2018 free agents

Alshon Jeffery

Timmy Jernigan

Jordan Matthews

LeGarrette Blount

Chance Warmack

Patrick Robinson

Darren Sproles

Nigel Bradham

Trey Burton

Allen Barbre

Caleb Sturgis

Beau Allen

Marcus Smith

Dwayne Gratz

Najee Goode

Matt Tobin

Terrence Brooks

Taylor Hart

That’s a significant list. Here are some quick thoughts on each player.

I believe Jeffery will be back with the Eagles next year barring he turns out to be a disaster this season. Even if Philadelphia can’t re-sign him, they can franchise tag him. Or, at the very least, use the tag as a negotiating tactic.

I think the Eagles will want to keep Jernigan. I think he’ll have a big year in this scheme. Will they be able to pay him? I think they value pass rushers, so I expect them to try a lot harder than they did to keep Bennie Logan.

There’s still a decent chance the Eagles might trade Matthews this offseason. If they don’t, I don’t think they’ll pay him after this year. Matthews is a nice player but I believe he won’t be worth his next contract due to inflated stats over his career.

Blount seems like a one-year stop gap for the Eagles as they try to get through the 2017 season. Then Philadelphia can take a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Warmack could leave in free agency next offseason in order to seek a starting role. He’ll hope to rehab his value this season by working with Jeff Stoutland. If the Eagles can keep him for cheap, though, that would be ideal.

I’m guessing Robinson will be gone after this season. He’s currently projected to be a starter on the outside in 2017, though.

Sproles said he plans to retire after this year.

Bradham had a nice year in 2016 but the Eagles might be wary about paying a guy with off-field issues. He’ll need to stay out of trouble to have a better chance at staying around. The Eagles might not be able to pay him.

I think the Eagles love Burton as a special teams player and a backup tight end. Burton isn’t a Brent Celek replacement by any means, but Celek is nearing the end of his career so the team could want to keep Burton around.

Barbre will be gone next offseason, if not sooner. The Eagles can save over $2 million in cap space by cutting or trading him before this season.

Sturgis made a career-best 85.4% of his field goal attempts in 2016. Assuming he doesn’t implode in 2017, the Eagles will likely look to keep him around.

The Eagles reportedly have had talks with Allen about an extension. That was before he got hurt, though. Allen’s offseason injury could complicate things going into his contract year.

Smith, who is skipping OTAs, probably won’t be back. He might even get cut before training camp. Another team will probably take a flier on the former first round pick.

Though he could be a dark horse candidate to make this year’s roster, I’m not expecting Gratz to be around beyond this season.

Goode might be brought back as a special teams player once again but nothing more.

I don’t think Tobin makes the 53-man roster this year.

Brooks has a chance to step up as the third safety this season and beat out Jaylen Watkins. If he does that, maybe the Eagles try to keep him next offseason.

Hart is playing offensive tackle now. Virtually zero chance he makes this year’s roster.

I wrote more about the Eagles’ 2018 free agents earlier this offseason. My theory is that Philadelphia is fine with having so many potential free agents because they’re looking to stock up on compensatory picks.

And for those who might suggest the Eagles won’t get any compensatory picks because they usually spend big in free agency, think again. The Eagles currently project to have the second lowest amount of cap space ($3.2 million) in the NFL next offseason. They won’t be able to spend like crazy after having to make key decisions on their own players.

The feeling here is that Jeffery and Jernigan will be the main priorities for the Eagles. Matthews just doesn’t fit into the long-term plan financially, in my opinion. His asking price will likely be both: 1) higher than what the Eagles can afford and 2) higher than what he’s really worth. There’s still plenty of time for that perception to change, but for now, that’s how I see it.

Here are some notable players who project to be potential cap casualties next offseason.

Chris Long ($1.95M savings)

Torrey Smith ($5M savings)

Jason Peters ($10.25M savings)

Jason Kelce ($6M savings)

Mychal Kendricks ($4.4M savings)

Brent Celek ($4M savings)

Ron Brooks ($2.15M savings)

The Eagles won’t necessarily cut/trade all of those players but that’s $33.75 million in cap savings.

In addition to retaining some of their own free agents, the Eagles also might need the money to give extensions to current young players under contract. As seen last offseason with Zach Ertz/Vinny Curry/Fletcher Cox/etc., we know the Eagles like to reward their core players prior to the time their deals are up. Stud linebacker Jordan Hicks will first be eligible for an extension after this season, and Philadelphia would do well to pay him.

Finally, here’s a quick look at the Eagles’ restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents. These players project to be relatively inexpensive to keep.

RFA

C Josh Andrews

DE Steven Means

S Jaylen Watkins

ERFA

CB C.J. Smith

WR Paul Turner

As you can see, there’s a long list of players the Eagles will have to make decisions on. Next offseason will surely be a busy one. We’ll have a better idea of who stays and who goes after seeing how the 2017 campaign plays out.