The 2021 NFL league year officially begins on March 17, which is less than a month away!
This means the clock is ticking for the Philadelphia Eagles to get under the cap before then. They’re currently $42.9 million OVER with the assumption that the cap will be set around $180 million. It was reported last week that the cap’s floor will be at least that high; it’s possible it might grow even higher, which would be good news for Philly.
Still, the Eagles will need to free up more funds in the coming weeks. Let’s take a look at their options.
Cut: $4.9 million cleared ($5.8 million dead money)
Jackson was an obvious cut candidate. The 34-year-old was available for just 10% of possible offensive snaps since returning to Philly. (For clarity: Jackson’s cut is already reflected in the current -$42.9 million.)
Traded: $852,928 cleared ($33.8 million dead money)
It wasn’t much, but the Eagles actually cleared some space (well, not until the trade officially goes through after the new league year begins) by trading Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. And also took on the largest dead money figure in NFL history by a significant margin in the process.
POST-JUNE 1 DESIGNATIONS
ALSHON JEFFERY and MALIK JACKSON
Cut: $21 million cleared ($14 million in dead money for 2022)
The Eagles reportedly restructured contracts for Jeffery and Jackson in an effort to free up more cap space for 2021. Jason Fitzgerald from Over The Cap wrote about the maneuvering in more detail earlier this year. The TL;DR version is the Eagles clear extra space this year but take on more dead money next year. The Eagles have yet to officially announce Jeffery and Jackson as post-June 1 cuts but it’s only a matter of time before it happens. (Note that only two post-June 1 designations can be performed per year.)
Cut or trade: $4.7 million cleared ($7.8 million in dead money)
Ertz is reportedly drawing trade interest from multiple teams. The Eagles can’t rely on trading him to get under the cap, though, since those savings don’t come into effect until AFTER the new league year begins. If the Eagles receive a worthwhile offer for Ertz, they’ll have to clear enough space to temporarily keep him past the league year. If the Eagles don’t receive a worthwhile offer for Ertz, they’ll likely just cut him to clear the cap space.
Cut: $4.3 million cleared ($0 dead money)
Goodwin allegedly said that he’s in talks with the Eagles to restructure his deal to return in 2021. One would think the Eagles would only want him back at the minimum with no guaranteed money involved. If such an agreement can’t be reached, it’s a no-brainer for the Eagles to move on.
DON’T RULE IT OUT
Cut or trade or retire: $1.7 million lost ($10.1 million in dead money)
Cut or trade or retire after June 1: $5.5 million cleared ($7.2 million in dead money for 2022)
It remains to be seen if Kelce, who turns 34 in November, still wants to keep playing football. The feeling here is that he shouldn’t want to sacrifice his body for a “retooling” Eagles team. If Kelce retires, it likely wouldn’t come until after June 1, since doing it before would cause the Eagles to actually lose cap space. The guess here is the Eagles might actually trade Kelce after June 1. The Kansas City Chiefs are a logical landing spot since they have Andy Reid, Travis Kelce, and a quality chance to make it to their third straight Super Bowl. Also helps that the Chiefs currently don’t have a center under contract for 2021. Trading Kelce doesn’t help the Eagles get under the cap this year but it would give them $5.5 million to roll over for 2022.
Cut: $6 million lost ($21.8 million in dead money)
Trade: $6 million cleared ($9.8 million in dead money)
The Eagles obviously won’t be cutting Slay but they can clear $6 million by trading him. Some have been angered by this suggestion since the Eagles only acquired him last year and the team doesn’t have much at cornerback without him. But if the Eagles don’t trade Slay, they’ll probably have to restructure his contract to get under the cap. And doing so makes a further commitment to a player who turned 30 in January and might be coming off his best season with Eagles since cornerbacks don’t always age well. The guess here is the Eagles won’t get offers for Slay that they find suitable and, again, they just don’t have much else at the position (though that shouldn’t matter a ton with 2021 not being an all-in year anyway). The Eagles probably should trade Slay but I’m guessing they won’t.
OTHER WAYS TO CREATE MORE SPACE
Let’s say the Eagles cut Jackson, Jeffery, Ertz, and Goodwin before March 17. Doing so would clear $29.7 million, which means the Eagles would still be $13.2 million OVER the cap.
It’s apparent, then, that the Eagles are going to have restructure some contracts just to get under the cap.
It should be noted that restructures only serve to free up space in the short-term at the expense of decreasing future flexibility. The Eagles should ideally be looking to restructure contracts of players who will be around more than just this year.
Brandon Graham seems like one of the least painful restructures the Eagles could make. The Eagles can clear about $8.9 million by reworking his contract, according to Over The Cap.
Fletcher Cox ($11.2 million), Lane Johnson ($6.9 million), Slay ($7.6 million), Javon Hargrave ($8.8 million) Brandon Brooks ($7.1 million), and Isaac Seumalo ($2.3 million) are the other main considerations.
The Eagles can also clear space by lowering a player’s 2021 cap number via contract extension. Derek Barnett is a prime candidate in this regard. Keeping Barnett at his current $10 million cap number isn’t feasible. The Eagles will either extend his deal and lower that figure ... or release him to save that $10 million. The former option seems more likely. Over The Cap projects a $7.2 million clearance with a Barnett extension.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Eagles have a lot to work to do before March 17 gets here. A combination of cuts and restructures will be necessary to get the Eagles under the cap before the new league year begins.
From there, the Eagles can gain some more space via trade(s). The team shouldn’t be looking to clear up a TON of extra room since 2021 isn’t about going all in to win a title. The Eagles need to be smart and limit the damage they’ll be doing to their cap in future seasons by restructuring. But they’ll need to do enough to make space for some free agents (smaller scale acquisitions) as well as having enough room to sign their 2021 NFL Draft picks.