As I sit here, watching the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs duke it out in what could be a preview of Super Bowl LIII, I chuckle to myself thinking that many of you thought the Eagles would be on this level right now. Some critics of this team have had their doubts since Week 1, while other writers had a repeat in mind for the world champions. At this point, I find it foolish to even pretend the Eagles have a chance at making the dance, regardless of how terrible the NFC East is this year.
So, instead of talking about how the Eagles have a realistic chance of going 4-2 or 5-1 over the next 6 weeks, passing the Washington Football Team and the Cowboys to win the NFC East, regaining confidence, and making a playoff push with the wealth of talent on the roster, I’m going to look past the next six weeks, and take a look at what lies ahead in the offseason.
As of today, per Over The Cap, the Eagles are approximately $11.5MM over the cap for 2019, even though they have just 45 players rostered. You don’t have to be a cap expert to know that something’s gotta give. In addition to already having no cap space, the Eagles are also hoping to re-sign some valuable players such as Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks, Jay Ajayi, Ronald Darby, Golden Tate, and Mike Wallace. Lets dive in and see what Howie Roseman and company might do in the coming months.
Eagles 2019 Free Agents
Currently, the Eagles are set to lose 19 players in free agency. Here are those players (in order of highest to lowest current salary per year):
- Brandon Graham - EDGE
- Golden Tate - WR
- Haloti Ngata - DI
- Chance Warmack - G
- Mike Wallace - WR
- Corey Graham - S
- Darren Sproles - RB
- Ronald Darby - CB
- LaRoy Reynolds - LB
- Paul Worrilow - LB
- Richard Rodgers (AKA Dick Rod) - TE
- Jordan Matthews - WR
- Jordan Hicks - LB
- Jay Ajayi - RB
- D.J. Alexander - LB
- Nate Sudfeld - QB
- De’Vante Bausby - CB
- Rick Lovato - LS
- Jake Elliott - K
From here, lets divide these players into three groups: must re-sign, try to re-sign, see ya later alligator.
Must re-sign: Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks, Rick Lovato, Jake Elliott
Graham has, yet again, been one of the top edge defenders in the league this season. He is often compared to players like Von Miller and Khalil Mack, and for good reason. Hicks has had a little bit of an off year, but he is young and a leader of the defense, so he needs to be retained. Lovato and Elliott have both played well at their positions.
Try to re-sign: Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi, Nate Sudfeld
In an offense lacking explosive offensive abilities, the thought of losing players like Tate, Wallace, and Ajayi (e.g. the Eagles offense in New Orleans last week) gives me nightmares. While retaining all three will likely be impossible, an effort should be made to keep at least a few of them. Ronald Darby has quickly become a player that is blamed for the lack of success this year, but truth is he is a young cornerback with speed and talent. Nate STUDfeld should be kept in case the Eagles move on from Foles (more on that below.)
See ya: Naloti Ngata, Chance Warmack, Corey Graham, Darren Sproles, LaRoy Reynolds, Paul Worrilow, Richard Rodgers, Jordan Matthews, D.J. Alexander, De’Vante Bausby
Some of these players are garbage. Some are decent but not worth keeping. I’ll let you parse through which is which.
Before we decide which (if any) of these players can be kept, another look at the salary cap must be taken.
Eagles 2019 Offseason Cuts
So as stated above, considering the Eagles are projected to be about $11.5MM OVER the 2019 cap, without making a few cuts, none of those players above can be afforded. When looking at players that cut to save cap space, the following jumped out at me:
- Nick Foles - $1.8MM in dead money, $18.8MM saved
- Jason Peters - $2.7MM in dead money, $8.0MM saved
- Nelson Agholor - no dead money, $9.4MM saved
- Chris Maragos - $250k in dead money, $2.0MM saved
- Michael Bennett - no dead money, $7.0MM saved
- Stefen Wisniewski - $708k in dead money, $3.0MM saved
Some of these cuts will hurt (Peters) while others seem incredibly obvious (Foles, Agholor) and the rest are somewhere in the middle. With these 6 moves, the Eagles will trim $48.2MM from their budget. This will bring the team to have approximately $36.7MM in cap space.
2019 Free Agents
Returning to where we left off above, these are the players I think the Eagles can afford to keep, along with an estimation of their 2019 cap hit, if re-signed.
- Brandon Graham ($12.5MM)
- Jordan Hicks ($6.0MM)
- Nate Sudfeld ($1.5MM)
- Rick Lovato ($1.0MM)
- Jake Elliott ($3.5MM)
To put it simply, the only way the Eagles are going to get Graham is if they give him a multi year deal and back load it. They simply do not have the money to sign him for a Fletcher-Cox-esqe deal, no matter how deserving of it he may be. The other 4 should be fairly accurate. After signing these 5 players, the Eagles are now going to be left with just $12.2MM in cap space to sign their draft picks along with any free agent signings.
With all of the moves above, I would pinpoint the following areas as weaknesses:
- WR (Jeffery, Hollins, Gibson)
- CB (Mills, Jones, Douglas, LeBlanc, Bausby, Sullivan, Bouka)
- OT (Johnson, Vaitai, Mailata)
- OG (Brooks, Seumalo, Pryor)
- RB (Adams, Smallwood, Clement)
With the return of a healthy secondary, as well as Tim Jernigan along the D Line, the defense is really not as bad as they have been playing. The offense, on the other hand, has been relying on Wentz and Ertz to make everything happen and needs fixed. Unfortunately, with limited funds, only a few of these position groups can be patched. Here are some players I propose the Eagles sign this offseason, along with an estimate of their 2019 cap hit:
- Devin Funchess - WR ($6.0MM)
- Mark Glowinski - OG ($2.0MM)
- Darryl Roberts - CB ($2.0MM)
Funchess has been a solid player for the Panthers, but has been overshadowed by the likes of Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, and now Christian McCaffrey. He is young (just 24 years old), big, strong, and has missed just 1 game in his NFL career. While I would prefer to get Golden Tate back, I’m afraid he will simply be too expensive. Funchess will immediately slot in as an outside starter across form Alshon Jeffery, which will allow Mack Hollins to get experience in the slot.
Glowinski is an offensive guard who after playing in Seattle for 3 years, is starting on the Colts currently. He doesn’t make for a splash signing, but when you’re working with 2 million, you take what you can get (in the NFL that is). He is having his best season as a pro, is just 26, and could compete with Seumalo for the starting Guard position opposite Brandon Brooks.
Similarly, Darryl Roberts is a CB who has 3 years of experience playing with the New York Jets. He could come in to compete with Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox (who needs to come back to CB), and Rasul Douglas to fill out the cornerback spot across from Jalen Mills as well as the slot CB position.
With these three signings, the Eagles would be left with just $2.2MM to get through the NFL draft and the remainder of the offseason.
2019 NFL Draft
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on NCAA prospects (I defer to BGN draft writers Ben Natan, Benjamin Solak, and Michael Kist on that), nor am I going to pretend like I have any clue what the Eagles will do in the draft. What I do know, is that the Eagles currently have 7 picks, as well as 3 potential compensatory picks. With 10 picks, the Eagles will need to draft a variety of players who can make an impact immediately (RT, RB, DT) as well as players who can be groomed to replace veterans and make an impact over the next few seasons (EDGE, WR, LB, S).
With this collection of moves (summarized in the graphic above), I think the Eagles can do a rebuild of sorts, while remaining competitive. The 2018 team is better than the record shows, but much worse than the 2017 team was. With a good draft and smart moves from the front office, Philadelphia could find themselves back in the playoffs as soon as next season.