On Thursday, all of Philadelphia exploded when the Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a hard-to-believe 13-year, $330 million contract that will make him a fixture in the City of Brotherly Love through 2031.
It is a monster deal that, with no salary cap, is only possible in baseball. Manny Machado, a star 26-year-old third baseman, signed a 10-year, $300 million contract a few weeks ago, and recently Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado signed an 8-year, $260 million extension. MLB teams can do this because, other than a luxury tax that acts as a soft cap, they can spend whatever they want for however many years they want.
Such is not the case in the NFL, where GMs are slaves to the cap, although some, like the Eagles’ Howie Roseman, are better at manipulating that ceiling than others. Last year, Roseman restructured Lane Johnson’s and Fletcher Cox’s contracts and this off-season did the same with Rodney McLeod. Those moves helped them keep edge rusher Brandon Graham on the team for the next three years at $40 million.
But given Harper’s signing with the Phils this week, and Roseman’s renowned aggressive off-season nature, is it possible the Eagles could do something shocking and make a huge off-season splash? After all, he landed Alshon Jeffrey on a one-year deal two off-seasons ago, taking the best free agent wide receiver off the market, and he traded a 5th-round pick for Michael Bennett last year.
This time around, it’s hard to see how it happens.
Despite the restructuring that has already gone on, Over The Cap currently has the Birds a little more than $6 million over the cap if you count a Graham cap hit at $13 million a season. Is it possible for Roseman to work a little more cap space magic? Here are the free agents or trade targets the Eagles could possibly snag that one could count as a “splash.”
Le’Veon Bell - RB
Is it likely? No it isn’t, despite the Phillies’ new star outfielder trying to recruit the former Steeler on Instagram. But if the Eagles wanted to make a true, Harper-like splash, it would be to sign the 26-year-old running back to a big money deal. How big would the money be? He could be looking at $16-18 million per year, which seemingly prices the Eagles out of the picture. But taking last year off could give Bell fresh legs, and he is both a dynamic runner and pass catcher out of the backfield.
Signing Bell would likely torpedo the Birds’ chances of doing anything else in free agency, and Doug Pederson seems to like using a running back rotation, so there doesn’t seem to be a real fit here.
Earl Thomas/Landon Collins - S
How funny would it be for the Eagles to sign both Graham and Earl Thomas, the player Eagles fans used to wish the team had selected in the 2010 NFL Draft? But after restructuring McLeod’s contract, it seems unlikely the Eagles would commit big money to three safeties, given the allocation of funds already reserved for the defensive line. Not only that, Thomas has missed games in each of the last three seasons, and suffered an awful broken leg in early October last year that knocked him out for the season.
Collins has been one of the best safeties in the league over the last few years, a truly stout run defender. But with Malcolm Jenkins already filling that role, Collins to the Eagles is unlikely, too.
Ndamukong Suh - DT
If the Eagles don’t pick up Timmy Jenigan’s option for 2019, it will cost them $6 million of dead money against the cap, but would also save them $7 million, making it more likely than not that they will say goodbye. If that were to happen, Roseman would need to find another body for the middle of the D-line, and Suh is a big name who could be had on a one-year deal. Sure, the Ealges could use their first round pick on a tackle, given it’s a strong class at that position, but Suh would likely be more productive next year and could really help Fletcher Cox in the middle of Jim Schwartz’ D-line.
Tevin Coleman/Mark Ingram - RB
Either player would be a big boost to the running game and wouldn’t cost what Bell would. Both Coleman and Ingram are also used to being in running back-by-committee systems, although it’s fair to wonder if both players want to escape from those systems.
Coleman ran for 800 yards and 4 TDs last year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and caught 32 passes for 276 yards out of the backfield for an additional 5 TDs. Next year he’ll be just 26 years old. Ingram will be 30 next season and missed the first four games of the regular season for a positive PED test. He ran for 645 yards and 6 TDS, albeit for a 4.7 yard per carry average. Two seasons ago he ran for 1124 yards and 12 TDs and caught an additional 58 passes for 416 yards, proving he can be a dual threat, too. Given his age, he should cost less than Coleman.
Antonio Brown - WR
The Steelers have made it known their star wide receiver is available in trade, but they are reportedly asking for at least a first round pick and multiple other picks for the 30-year-old star. For teams that have both a lot of cap space and a bunch of extra draft picks they have no problem losing, Brown might work.
But for the Eagles, it’s a pipe dream. Barring some ridiculous slight-of-hand by Roseman, it would be impossible for Philadelphia to add Brown to the offense.
DeSean Jackson/LeSean McCoy - WR/RB
Both of these aging former Eagles could be cap casualties by their respective teams, the Buccaneers and Bills, but if they’re not, probably could be had for a early third-day draft pick. Does either player have anything left in the tank?
The 32-year-old Jackson played in 10 games last year, was targeted 74 times and caught 41 balls for 774 yards, but he did lead the league in yards per reception, at 18.9. There is still some juice there. McCoy, meanwhile, played in 14 games, ran for a career-low 514 yards and averaged a meager 3.2 yards per carry. Both guys are loved by much of the fanbase, but Jackson is the only one here that could actually help the Eagles in 2019.
Again, this list is not intended to be one that runs down all the potential free agent options for the team, just players that one could consider “big splash” additions.