The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of important decisions to make this offseason and that includes what to do with their upcoming free agents.
Here’s a complete list of Eagles players whose current contracts are set to expire when the new league begins at 4:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday, March 18. All players are unrestricted free agents unless noted otherwise:
CB Ronald Darby
CB Jalen Mills
LT Jason Peters
S Rodney McLeod
WR Nelson Agholor
DE Vinny Curry
RB Jordan Howard
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
QB Nate Sudfeld
QB Josh McCown
DT Timmy Jernigan
RB Darren Sproles
TE Richard Rodgers
DT Hassan Ridgeway
RB Corey Clement (RFA)
CB Craig James (ERFA)
P Cameron Johnston (ERFA)
Unrestricted free agent
This status means the player is able to sign with any team once free agency officially begins. The Eagles can prevent players from hitting the open market by signing them to contract extensions before the new league year begins. The Eagles can also designate one franchise tag (or transition tag) player from February 25 through March 10 but that’s not expected to happen this offseason.
The Eagles have some players who aren’t currently scheduled to be unrestricted free agents but later could be. Case in point: if the Eagles don’t pick up Nigel Bradham’s 2020 option, he’ll be on the market. The Eagles notably declined Stefen Wisniewski’s option last offseason when most didn’t know 1) the team had that choice or 2) they were going to do that. Perhaps there’s another ‘surprise’ or two in store this year.
Restricted free agent (RFA)
The Eagles have one restricted free agent: Corey Clement. Here are their four tender options:
First-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a first-round selection if it opts not to match the deal.
Second-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a second-round selection if it opts not to match the deal.
Original-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a selection equal to the round the player was originally selected in if it opts not to match the deal.
Right of first refusal: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal. The team will not receive any compensation if it opts not to match another deal.
The guess here is the Eagles use the lowest level tender (right of first refusal) on Clement as it’s the least costly.
Exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA)
The Eagles have two exclusive-rights free agents: Craig James, and Cameron Johnston. Being an ERFA is hardly like being a free agent at all. The team will offer you a minimum deal and you have to take it because the alternative is not playing in the NFL at all.
The Eagles have important decisions to make
Darby, Mills, Peters, McLeod, Agholor, Curry, Howard, Vaitiai, Grugier-Hill, Jernigan, and Sproles make up 11 players who logged at least one start for the Eagles in 2019. This is to say that some significant change could be on the way.
I’m guessing Darby won’t be back after his one-year, prove it deal didn’t really work out. Mills is an interesting case since defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz really loves him. But will his price be higher than the Eagles really want to pay? The Eagles could need two new starting cornerbacks in 2020.
Peters cannot be back in 2020. I have nothing but respect for JP, he’s a future Hall of Famer. But the Eagles traded up to draft Andre Dillard as Peters’ replacement. Peters wants to keep playing, and that’s his right, but it can’t be in Philly.
McLeod, who turns 30 this offseason, is another Schwartz favorite. But are the Eagles going to pay both him and also reward Malcolm Jenkins with a new deal? Feels like it could be an either or situation.
Agholor is a goner. Both sides needs a change.
Curry was a questionable re-signing but came on at the end of 2019. Maybe he’s re-signed as cheap depth? But the Eagles should aspire to get younger.
Vaitai is probably going to get an opportunity to start elsewhere.
Grugier-Hill seems bound to leave after the way his injury situation went down. Like Vaitai, he could be seeking a bigger role than what he’d have in Philly.
Sudfeld isn’t going to really get a starting quarterback opportunity somewhere, is he? He could return as Carson Wentz’s backup.
McCown is expected to retire and either return to broadcasting ... or maybe join an NFL coaching staff?
Jernigan has missed 19 games after nearly suffering a career-ending injury during the 2018 offseason. Can’t imagine he’s going to be a hot commodity.
Sproles is retiring ... for real, this time. (But we’ll fully believe it when he’s not actually on the Eagles’ Week 1 roster.)
Depth guys like Rodgers and Ridgeway could probably be re-signed for cheap. Ridgeway’s market could be further limited by coming off injury.
Cap causalities and retirements
The Eagles have some players currently under contract for 2020 who might not be back with the team next season.
The Alshon Jeffery situation is tricky. Are the Eagles really going to bring him back into the fold after he struggled on the field and allegedly was the source of anonymous Wentz criticism? How does his injury situation impact the team’s ability to move on?
The aforementioned Malcolm Jenkins said he’s not returning on his current contract. If the Eagles can’t agree on an extension, they might have to trade him or cut him.
The Eagles could decline Nigel Bradham’s option to save $4.4 million in cap space compared to $5.3 million in dead money.
Is Jason Kelce going to retire? The 32-year-old gave it some thought last offseason.
There are a lot of moving parts here. The pressure is on Roseman to make sense of it all and do what’s right for the Eagles. During his 2019 season postmortem presser, Roseman admitted that “one of my weaknesses is getting attached to our players.” His weakness will be tested when it comes to deciding who should stay and who should go.