Don’t look now but 2020 NFL free agency officially begins in exactly one month from today on March 18.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to be active spenders given their obvious roster needs at positions like wide receiver, cornerback, and linebacker. The Birds certainly don’t lack ample funds; Over The Cap indicates Howie Roseman has about $40.9 million in cap space to work with. That figure ranks 20th most in the NFL.
The Eagles can free up even more room with a few cuts and trades. Let’s take a look at their cost-cutting options
Option declined: $4.5 million saved ($5.3 million dead money)
The Eagles have until March 17 to exercise Bradham’s $8 million base salary option for the 2020 season. The guess here is that the team will decline to pick it up.
Bradham was a valued contributor to the Eagles’ Super Bowl success in 2017 but he hasn’t been as good the past two seasons. Bradham has one interception (on a tipped ball), zero forced fumbles, and two sacks in his last 30 games (including playoffs). He’s hardly been a play-maker.
Further, Bradham turns 31 in September. His best football is behind him. It’s hard to see the Eagles keeping him around as the player with the seventh highest cap figure on the team.
Howie Roseman talked about the Eagles needing to get younger and moving on from Bradham jibes with that sentiment.
DON’T RULE IT OUT
Cut or traded: $4.8 million saved ($6.1 million dead money)
Jenkins didn’t mince words after the 2019 season; he’s not returning to the Eagles in 2020 on his current contract.
The guess here is that the Eagles find a way to placate Jenkins. The team has little leverage to do otherwise considering Rodney McLeod is a free agent and there are no internal options to replace Jenkins.
But the Eagles can’t just literally give him whatever he wants. Jenkins turns 33 this year and he’s not the same player he was in his prime. He’s proved to be incredibly durable, yes, but the downside to that is his body has handled some major workloads. One must wonder how much he has left in the tank.
And so if the Eagles and Jenkins can’t reach an agreement, the team might have to move on. It wouldn’t be the ideal outcome but it’s at least worth noting the Eagles could create some cap room by cutting or trading him. Of course, they’d be crazy to flat out cut Jenkins. A trade would be the only acceptable way to move on.
Cut or traded: $2.1 million saved ($176,572 dead money)
The Eagles won’t be cutting a 24-year-old corner to save a couple million in cap space. But a trade is something to keep in mind when it comes to Douglas. The 2017 third-round pick is entering the last year of his contract and it seems clear by now that the Eagles don’t view him as a long-term starter. They could value him as a backup, but do you really need a backup corner accounting for the 16th highest cap number on the roster? Especially when you don’t really believe in the guy as a long-term piece? And he doesn’t offer position versatility?
Perhaps the New York Jets (Joe Douglas connection) or Detroit Lions (Cory Undlin connection) coming calling for Douglas. His opportunity to contribute for the Eagles figures to be limited with Philly’s rumored interest in free agent cornerbacks. The Eagles could also add a corner or two in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Cut or traded: $1.3 million saved ($651,376 dead money)
Jones could be in a similar boat as Douglas when it comes to benefitting from a change of scenery. But with him showing some potential late last season ... and being a restricted free agent in 2021 ... there’s more reason for the Eagles to hold on to him than Douglas. Listing Jones here anyway in case the Eagles decide now is the time to sell on him.
THE ALSHON CONSIDERATION
Cut: $10.7 million lost ($26.1 million dead money)
Traded: $749,500 lost ($16.2 million dead money)
The Eagles will not open up cap space by moving on from Jeffery this offseason. Getting rid of him will only serve to decrease their spending room.
So, the Eagles will surely be keeping him, right? Well, maybe not.
JIMMY KEMPSKI: I’m already on the record over and over again saying that I think they’re going to cut Alshon Jeffery.
BLG: But why? Because I write this on BGN and people are like, ‘You’re crazy. It’s not going to happen.’
JIMMY KEMPSKI: Well, I think they just want him out of the building. And rightfully so. I mean, it’s two straight years he criticized the starting quarterback.
BLG: Yeah, but how do you know it was him?
JIMMY KEMPSKI: I can’t say that. But I’m extremely confident that it was him. And I think the Eagles know it was him. So, I think they’re going to want to get him out of the building. And I think they’re just going to take their medicine and take the cap hit.
For the sake of this activity, let’s operate under the assumption the Eagles have decided to move on from Jeffery.
Trading him is clearly much more preferable to cutting him. The problem is ... who’s trading for an expensive 30-year-old receiver who’s coming off both his worst season and a significant foot injury? If anything, it seems like the Eagles would have to attach a draft pick (fourth rounder?) to Jeffery’s contract to get rid of it. Such a procedure would be akin to an NBA-style salary dump trade. The Los Angeles Rams (Aqib Talib) and Houston Texans (Brock Osweiler) have previously managed to execute this type of deal at the NFL level.
Burning a draft pick certainly wouldn’t be ideal for the Eagles, who have made the fewest picks in the NFL over the past two years. But saving nearly $10 million in cap space isn’t significant. If Roseman can find takers for DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell like he did in 2016, isn’t it at least possible he could get creative when it comes to getting out of Jeffery’s contract?
Another wrinkle to consider when it comes to moving on from Jeffery is the Collective Bargaining Agreement situation. As it currently stands, there is no post-June 1 cut option like there usually is every offseason. That could change, however, if the negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA quickly come together. It’s hard to count on that happening but it’s at least possible in theory. If it does happen, the Eagles could designate Jeffery as a post-June 1 cut in order to spread out his dead money in a way where it wouldn’t be so punishing to the 2020 cap situation.
Or the Eagles could avoid losing cap space altogether by merely keeping Jeffery around for at least one more season. It just doesn’t seem that’s how things are trending, though.
OTHER WAYS TO CREATE MORE SPACE
In recent years, the Eagles have made a habit of asking players to either restructure their contracts or take pay cuts. It should be noted that restructures only serve to free up space in the short-term at the expense of decreasing future flexibility. Straight up pay cuts are more rare.
Signing players to contract extensions can also lower their immediate cap number. Zach Ertz’s $12.5 million figure, for example, could come down if he signs a new deal. Such a possibility is rumored to be on the horizon.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Even if the Eagles do cut Jeffery, they should still have enough room to adequately address their offseason needs. Getting rid of Bradham and Douglas in addition to Jeffery would give the Eagles around $36.8 million to work with.
It’s up to Roseman to spend wisely.