With less than a month until 2018 NFL free agency officially begins on March 14, the Eagles currently rank dead last in salary cap space. Over The Cap has Philadelphia at negative $9,666,190, which means the Birds will need to make some moves just to get out of the hole.
In the Eagles’ case, not having a lot of cap space is the price to pay for fielding a Super Bowl winning quality roster. That’s a trade-off no one should complain about.
The good news for the Eagles, though, is that they can free up some money this offseason. And they’ll need to do that in order to try to re-sign an impending free agent like Nigel Bradham and/or hand out some other extensions.
Here’s a look at some potential moves that could be happening soon. Keep in mind the Eagles are free to cut any player at this point, but trades can’t be made until the new league year begins in March.
Cut or traded: $5 million saved ($0 dead money)
Smith served his purpose as a deep threat role-player for the Eagles in 2017 but his time in Philadelphia is likely done. Given that there was no guaranteed money beyond the first year of his deal, the contract he signed last offseason was essentially a one-year deal. If Smith really wants to stay, maybe the Eagles would keep him if he takes a big pay cut. It would be shocking if he’s back at his current cap figure.
Cut or traded or retired: $4 million saved ($1 million dead money)
It’s awesome that the Eagles were finally able to get a Super Bowl ring for the longest tenured player on their team. Celek busted his butt and gave this team all he had for 11 seasons. He always played through injury and only missed one game in his entire career. The feeling here is that Celek should go out on top. While there’s been no word on if he plans to retire, Celek turned 33 years old in January. Assuming he doesn’t want to stop playing, it’d be hard for the Eagles to justify keeping him around at his current figure. Celek has combined for 28 receptions and 291 yards over the past 35 Eagles games. For those wondering how Celek’s retirement would impact t the cap, it’s the same result as the Eagles cutting him.
DON’T RULE IT OUT
Cut: $2.2 million saved ($5.4 million dead money)
Trade: $5.2 million saved ($2.4 million dead money)
The Eagles obviously aren’t cutting their Super Bowl MVP. A trade is very much on the table, however.
It’s possible Foles is content with being a backup. If that’s the case, I’d argue that’s really not the message he’s conveyed during his post-Super Bowl media tour. He hasn’t been saying “Carson Wentz is the starter.” Instead, he said he’s going to let his agent take care of whatever happens moving forward. But maybe I’m reading into it too much.
In any case, it’s also possible Foles would like to have an opportunity to start somewhere. Getting traded to a new team would also likely come with a contract extension. If Mike Glennon can get paid just under $20 million last offseason, why can’t Foles make some good money?
The talk of turning down multiple first round picks for Foles is, quite frankly, insane. I get that having a good backup is important. Especially when Wentz’s Week 1 status is uncertain due to his ACL recovery. It’s at least possible Wentz WILL be ready, though, and doesn’t miss a game all season. He’s only missed three regular season starts in two years. If that’s the case, Foles would likely walk in free agency after 2018 and the Eagles would get nothing in return (or maybe a compensatory pick in 2020).
It’s not like the Eagles don’t have a backup quarterback if Foles isn’t retained. The team is high on Nate Sudfeld. It’s unclear if he’ll be as reliable as Foles, but I thought he showed a little bit of promise in Week 17. If the Eagles feel strongly about him, they might not think there’s a huge drop-off from Foles to Sudfeld. And if that’s the case, I think trading Foles makes a ton of sense. Save cap space and get a draft pick(s).
Some people have said “Is a draft pick going to win us a Super Bowl if Wentz goes down again?!” Well, I mean, a first-round pick (Brandon Graham) strip sacked Tom Brady to help the Eagles win the big game. And another first-round pick (Derek Barnett) recovered the ball. So ... yes.
Also: another thing to keep in mind here is that the Eagles will be tight on cap space in years to come, not just this offseason. With that in mind, draft picks are more valuable than ever to this team. They need to find cheap, young talent.
So yes, I would trade Foles for the right offer. Howie Roseman will, too, in my opinion. I think a second-round pick plus something else is the move that will materialize.
Cut or traded: $5 million saved ($6 million dead money)
This is a tough spot for the Eagles. Curry had a good season in 2017. Not great, but good. He finished the year ranked 13th out of 39 4-3 defensive ends in pressure rate. His 17 quarterback hits ranked second in the NFL at his position. At the same time, Curry only played 56.1% of the team’s defensive snaps. And he has the fourth highest cap number on the team in 2018. So he’s being paid to be one of the team’s best players but he’s not at that elite level. I don’t think the Eagles will cut Curry, who turns 30 this summer, but I do think they’d love if some team made a trade offer for him. That would probably net a Day 3 pick, at best. The Eagles might try to see if they can restructure Curry or get him to take a pay cut.
Cut or traded: $4.4 million saved ($3.2 million dead money)
The Eagles have been trying to trade Kendricks forever now. He’s even requested to be out, too. Thankfully they didn’t move him prior to 2017. Kendricks was important to have around after Jordan Hicks went down. He might be important to hang on to moving forward, too, given the uncertainty of Nigel Bradham being a free agent and Hicks being injury prone. I don’t think the Eagles will cut Kendricks. Like Curry, though, I’m sure he’s available for a reasonable price. Kendricks was good in 2017 but he’s been up and done throughout his career. Plus the Eagles really only use two linebackers a bulk of the time. If Bradham and Hicks are starting, do the Eagles really want to be paying a lot of money to a third linebacker who might not get a lot of snaps?
Cut: $1.15 million saved ($875,000 dead money)
Traded: $1.65 million saved ($375,000 dead money)
The Eagles probably won’t be cutting Warmack, especially with Jeff Stoutland around. I can’t imagine he’ll be a hot trade commodity, but the Eagles would save a little extra by dealing him. Maybe some team gets desperate for offensive line help after striking out in free agency or the 2018 NFL Draft. We saw Matt Tobin get traded last summer so hey, you never know.
Cut or traded: $1.63 million saved ($250,000 dead money)
It’d break our hearts to see the Eagles cut Donnie Jones. If they really feel strongly about 2017 undrafted free agent Cameron Johnston, though, they might consider it. It’s also possible Jones, who turns 38 in July, decides to retire. In training camp last year, he said he plans to play until he’s 40, but maybe the Super Bowl win changes that.
PROBABLY WON’T HAPPEN
Cut or traded: $4.3 million saved ($6.3 million dead money)
Doug Pederson already committed to Peters as his left tackle in 2018, so I can’t imagine JP is going anywhere. Peters was playing at a very high level before suffering an ACL injury in 2017. The Eagles seem to have faith that the 36-year-old athletic freak can continue to defy Father Time.
If anything, the Eagles might try to restructure Peters or get him to take a pay cut. They tried that last offseason, but it didn’t work. He got an extension instead.
It’s not like the Eagles MUST do something with JP’s contract. He’s the 16th highest paid left tackle in terms of annual value. That’s certainly not unreasonable money for his contributions.
Cut or traded: $1.5 million saved ($250,000 dead money)
I can’t see the Eagles cutting their special teams captain. He’s an important part of Dave Fipp’s unit. Maragos is coming off a PCL injury and he turned 31 in January, so there are some concerns, but not enough to warrant his termination.
OTHER WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
As I’ve already mentioned a few times now, it’s possible the Eagles could ask some of these players to take a pay cut. That happened to Celek last offseason.
The Eagles could also try to free up some money by restructuring contracts. They did that with Rodney McLeod, for example, last year. The problem with that is it’s kicking the can down the road.
The Eagles can also lower a player’s cap hit in 2018 by giving them an extension. Brandon Graham is a prime candidate for that. Maybe the Eagles could drop his $8 million cap figure if the two sides can reach a new deal.
Jason Kelce’s contract situation is something to watch as well. He’s currently signed through 2020, but he has no guaranteed money in his deal beyond 2018. The Eagles could try to give him more guaranteed money while lowering his cap figure.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Howie Roseman and Eagles director of football administration Jake Rosenberg are usually pretty great when it comes to managing the cap. Based on their track record, Eagles fans should have confidence they’ll be able to figure it out.
The obvious moves with Smith and Celek will save them $9 million off the bat. Trading at least one of Curry or Kendricks would bring that up to around $14 million. That would give the Eagles a positive $5 million in cap room. Is that enough to help them re-sign Bradham and make other moves this offseason? Maybe not.
That’s why trading Foles could be key. That extra $5.2 million saved is a lot for this team. That would put the Eagles at over $10 million to work with, which seems more reasonable.
It’ll be an interesting offseason for the Eagles. It always is.