I should probably start adding this qualifier to more headlines, right? “Super Bowl champion Eagles sign practice squad cornerback De’Vante Bausby.” “Super Bowl champion Eagles announce 2018 preseason schedule.” Just trying to strive for accuracy here, folks.
But I digress. This post is about an ESPN column in which Bill Barnwell suggested five roster moves for the Super Bowl champion Eagles to make this offseason. Let’s look at Barnwell’s five suggestions and evaluate them.
1. Decline Torrey Smith’s option.
This is a no-brainer for the Eagles. Philadelphia is currently $9,426,190 over the cap, per Over The Cap. Releasing Torrey Smith, who turned 29 in January, saves $5 million in cap space with zero dead money to worry about.
Smith was a passable deep threat role-player and a great locker room guy to have around last season, but he was also one of the Eagles’ least effective starters in 2017. Smith finished the regular season with 36 receptions, 430 yards, and two touchdowns on 67 targets. His 11.9 yards per reception was a career low (previous: 13.4). Smith had seven drops, which gave him the sixth worst drop rate of any wide receiver in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
If Smith is willing to take a significant pay cut, maybe the Eagles will consider bringing him back. But for now it looks like Smith will be a goner.
2. Designate Jason Peters as a post-June 1 release.
Every offseason, it feels like there are some people clamoring for the Eagles to cut Peters. Every offseason, it never happens.
The Eagles just aren’t cutting JP, folks. People underrate how valued he is by this franchise. He’s on a Brian Dawkins level, respect wise. And yeah, the Eagles let B-Dawk walk in free agency, but the Eagles admitted that was a mistake. They’re not going to make that mistake again. Not to mention Peters said he’s best friends with owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Peters isn’t going anywhere, unless he decides to retire, which doesn’t seem to be in the plans. The 36-year-old blocker said he plans on playing in 2018. Further, Doug Pederson said he plans on having Peters as his left tackle in 2018.
Peters was playing at an All-Pro level before he suffered an ACL injury in October. The Eagles have reason to believe he can get back to form. Peters is a freak of nature who isn’t impacted by injury and old age like the average player is.
Besides, the Eagles don’t have an immediate replacement for Peters. “But what about Halapoulivaati Vaitai?” you might ask. Look, I think Big V did an overall nice job filling in for Peters, but I’m still not sold on him as a “sure-fire starter, no questions asked” type player.
There was an ugly stretch late in the year where Vaitai allowed 26 pressures in five starts, which was the most in NFL. Vaitai ranked 47th out of 55 offensive tackles in pressure rate last season, per PFF.
Vaitai is a nice swing tackle to have, God forbid should something to Peters again or Lane Johnson. He deserves a chance to compete for a starting tackle job when Peters is gone in the future. Ideally he’ll be competing with a tackle the Eagles draft this year, maybe even at No. 32 overall.
3. Explore the trade market for Nick Foles.
I’ve already explained my take on this situation at length. If Foles wants to stay in Philly, the reigning Super Bowl MVP has earned the right to stay. If Foles wants to move on in the hopes of getting a bigger contract, however, he’s also earned that right.
Despite a bunch of national analysts saying the Eagles shouldn’t trade Foles (even if it was for two first round picks, which is an INSANE take), the feeling here is that a Foles trade will happen. The Eagles need cap space and draft picks. Trading Foles gets them both of those. Philadelphia is confident in Carson Wentz’s recovery and they’re also higher on 2017 third-string passer Nate Sudfeld than many realize.
I don’t think a team will give up a first-round pick for Foles, unless the Eagles are packaging him with their own to move up from No. 32. Don’t think that’s the case, either. I think something like “second-round pick and a player (or if not a player, something else in addition to the second)” is the deal.
The Eagles’ options include:
Option 1) Nick Foles as backup
Option 2) Nate Sudfeld as backup, plus $5.2M in cap savings, plus draft pick(s)
Howie Roseman does a great job of getting value. Unless Foles really wants to stay in Philly, I’d be surprised if Howie doesn’t get good value for him.
4. Wait out the market on Nigel Bradham.
Nigel Bradham is the most important free agent for the Eagles to retain. Jim Schwartz trusted the veteran to play 97.1% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2016 and 89.5 % in 2017. Those percentages led all Eagles linebackers in those seasons.
Bradham, who turns 29 in September, isn’t a bonafide superstar but he’s a real good player. Bradham is also durable; he’s only missed seven games due to injury in six seasons.
The Eagles can’t rush to break the bank for Bradham. They don’t have the cap space to do so. But retaining him is important due to their lack of depth at the position. Jordan Hicks is a star when healthy, but health cannot be assumed for a player who has now missed 17 regular season games in the past three years. Mychal Kendricks had a bounce-back year in 2017 but the Eagles have tried to trade him in the past, in part due to his contract.
It’d be ideal for the Eagles if they could reach a team-friendly deal with Bradham for free agency. He obviously wouldn’t have much incentive to sign that, though, unless he just really likes playing in Philly.
The Eagles might have no option to be patient and see how this plays out. Maybe Bradham enters free agency and some team jumps to pay him big money. If that’s the case, nothing the Eagles can really do. On the flip side, maybe he doesn’t get the money he expects to get and returns to Philly on a reasonable deal.
For what it’s worth, Barnwell used last year’s Malcolm Smith contract as reference for Bradham. Smith signed with the 49ers for $26.5 million over five years ($5.3 annual average). Spotrac projects Bradham’s market value to be $5.9 million per year.
5. Trade down on draft day.
The Eagles have no Day 2 draft picks due to the Carson Wentz trade (2018 second-round selection) and the Ronald Darby trade (2018 third-round selection). It’d be surprising to see Howie Roseman, who loves to make deals, to sit tight and stay out of those rounds. Really, it’d be surprising if the Eagles didn’t acquire at least one Day 2 draft pick BEFORE the 2018 NFL Draft even starts.
One reason to not trade down is that the Eagles would have a fifth-year option on the player they pick at No. 32. As Barnwell notes, however, a team picking early in the second round could be enticed to trade up because of that very fact. If some team gets desperate and gives the Eagles a really good offer, fine, take it. If there’s someone who unexpectedly falls to No. 32, though, just sit tight and get the guy you feel strongly about.
A bonus reason to not trade down is so the Eagles can be introduced at No. 32 as the “Super Bowl Champion Eagles” in Dallas, the host site of this year’s draft. Gotta stick to the Cowboys somehow.
And hey, just like that, we tied the ending of this article to the beginning!