Philadelphia Eagles: Cut Jason Peters, Nelson Agholor and Tim Jernigan
As of late February, the Eagles have the second-lowest cap space in the league, with just $2.1 million to spend. Foles, Jordan Hicks, Ronald Darby, Brandon Graham and a half-dozen other key players are pending free agents. The Eagles find themselves in need of some liquidity. That means saying goodbye to some big names.
At age 37, Peters’ best days are behind him, as he has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons. Peters refused to take a pay cut last year, and the Eagles decided to keep him anyway; the $10.5 million in salary-cap space gained by cutting him is too much to pass up this year. Jernigan’s back injury last season, suffered away from the team, turned his $11 million salary in 2019 from a guaranteed number to an optional one; he’s unlikely to get $11 million on the open market, so the Eagles might be able to cut him and re-sign him to a cheaper deal. It’s a deep year in the draft for defensive linemen, too, so it’s not the end of the world if Jernigan goes.
That leaves 2015 first-rounder Agholor. He ranked 77th out of 84 receivers (minimum 50 targets) in receiving DVOA last season and has had only one season inside the top 70. The trade for Golden Tate last season showed that the Eagles thought they needed more out of their wideout position than Agholor was providing. Agholor is set to earn $9.4 million on his fifth-year extension; the Eagles can likely get similar production for a much lower rate.
A few corrections to note:
- The Eagles technically won’t be cutting Peters if they don’t bring him back. They would simply be declining to pick up his 2019 option.
- The same thing for Peters applies to Jernigan. It would be a declined option, not a cut. The difference here is that the Eagles could potentially earn compensatory picks for Peters and/or Jernigan if they sign elsewhere. The Eagles can’t earn comp picks for players they cut.
- Agholor’s situation is different than Peters and Jernigan. His fifth-year option was already picked up last year so the Eagles would actually be cutting him and would not be eligible for a comp pick.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the individual decisions.
Should the Eagles decline Jason Peters’ option?
To me, the answer is no, they should not decline it. I’ve previously explained why:
I really don’t love the idea of moving on from JP. It’s tempting to want to save $10.5 million by not bringing him back in 2019 ... but who’s starting at left tackle if he isn’t back? Halapoulivaati Vaitai and/or a rookie protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside for 16 games is not a comforting prospect. I think the Eagles should bring back JP for one more year. They should also draft a rookie who can potentially take over in 2020. Jordan Mailata also might be ready to make a meaningful impact by next year.
For what it’s worth, the Eagles didn’t make it seem like they’re super committed to Peters during this week’s NFL Combine press conferences. Contrast these responses from Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson to how last year at this time when he Eagles made it clear Peters was coming back for 2018.
I think the Eagles want Peters back but they’re naturally leery of him counting $13.2 million against their cap in 2019.
Should the Eagles decline Timmy Jernigan’s option?
Yes. This is a no-brainer. There’s no way Jernigan will be back at his $13 million cap number in 2019.
The real question is: will Jernigan be willing to take a significant pay cut? I previously explained why he should:
Jernigan shouldn’t want to enter the free agent market after only playing 45 snaps last season. He should want to re-sign with the Eagles on a one-year deal that lets him rebuild his value and potentially test free agency next year. The Eagles should want Jernigan back because he can be a significant contributor to their defensive tackle rotation.
In most cases, players would rather be released than taking a steep pay cut. But that’s because they feel they can get more money than the pay cut price out on the open market. In Jernigan’s case, I don’t think that’s true. His value is very low. He’s further hurt by both free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft bing loaded with defensive line talent. I think Jernigan would have a weak market so it’d be best for him to work out a new deal with Philly before his option gets declined.
Should the Eagles cut Nelson Agholor?
With that said, the Eagles also shouldn’t be paying Agholor $9.4 million in 2019. That figure ranks 23rd among wide receivers in terms of annual value. It’s about $3 million more than he’s probably worth compared to other receiver contracts.
The Eagles should be aiming to work out a contract extension with Agholor. Doing so would likely lower his 2019 cap number.
Agholor’s new deal shouldn’t break the bank. As Football Outsiders notes, his production to this point just doesn’t warrant an incredibly lucrative pay day.
Nelson Agholor DYAR finishes— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) February 28, 2019
2018: 78th out of 84
2017: 32nd out of 86
2016: 88th out of 94
2015: (didn’t qualify but would’ve placed 83rd out of 88)https://t.co/84Hs16uxGL
If Agholor and the Eagles can’t agree on a new contact, then that’s the point where Philadelphia will likely be “open” to moving Agholor in a trade. Especially if a reasonable offer comes their way.
Again, cutting Agholor means the Eagles save $9.4 million but can’t get a comp pick if he signs elsewhere. Trading him is the only way to get something back in return for him.
Or, you know, the Eagles could just find a way to re-sign him.