It's June 1, which is a pretty big day in terms of the salary cap. There are a few keys dates on the NFL calendar, and today is one of them, as teams can now make moves for this year in which the financial impacts can be spread over a two-year period. So, for example, Brandon Brooks can now officially retire, whereas he had to be on the roster before this date. That means the cap hit for him can be paid off in both 2022 and 2023. This will lead to a lot of "we are paying for a guy who isn't even on the team" talk next year, but from a financial management point of view, it makes a lot of sense.
As with everything that has to do with the Eagles, Jalen Hurts has a huge impact on the team's salary cap situation, namely because he doesn't. Former Eagles qbs Nate Sudfeld, Chase Daniel and Nick Mullens all have average annual cap hits that are higher than Hurts (as does another former QB, whose initials are Carson Wentz), and Hurts makes less a season than Arron Rodgers makes more for each half. So at some point in the third quarter of week one, the Packers will be paying Rodgers more than the Eagles will be paying Hurts for the year.
So I thought today would be a good day to dive into the salary cap to examine some of the team's moves, and also to look at the qb position in particular, since it was requested in the comments of my last post, and because the two issues are closely linked.
So first things first, let's look at what caused the comment in the last post, and some other qb-related things that have come up. And that was Hurts ranking at the bottom of the league in terms of checkdowns.
If you missed it, here's the story.
I think this stat can be interpreted in two ways. If you don't like Hurts, you can say it is evidence of his inability to see the field and his propensity to take off and run once his first read is covered. If you like him, you can say it is evidence of his ability to extend plays.
I try to be neutral when it comes to Hurts. It would be great if it works out, but I am pretty happy the team has two draft picks next year if it doesn't. As far as the checkdown stat, I think the addition of AJ Brown to a roster that already includes Goedert and Watkins on it means that you want Hurts extending plays and getting the ball into their hands when things go off schedule. This is especially true against zone defenses, which are perfect for stopping checkdowns. And since we face a lot of zone defenses, I am happy to see him continue to either run or hit receivers farther down the field.
There was another stat that was posted a few days ago that caught my attention. This was a compilation of TDs negated by penalties last year. This was the original tweet.
The author of the tweet found nine TDs called back by penalty, of which eight were on passing plays. One was a TD on a later play, so seven TDs were wiped out by penalty.
I think this was a function of a young qb playing for a young coach with a young supporting cast. A team like that is going to make more mistakes. At the same time, I think it also shows that the capacity for Hurts to improve is there.
If he throws seven more TDs last year, how does his season look? Adding those seven TDs gives him 33 total for the year, which places him in the same realm as Joe Burrow (36) and Kirk Cousins (34), who both played one more game.
It can be argued that those qbs may have had TDs wiped out by penalties as well, but the Eagles only had one rushing TD called back, so my hunch is that taking scores off the board is somewhat rare, and that the Eagles were an outlier in this last year.
Also, adding AJ Brown and Zach Pascal should help a lot, since the Eagles lacked red zone weapons. Here are our targets and TDs in the red zone last year for our top 4 targets.
Smith 8 targets, 3 TDs.
Goedert 6 targets, 2 TDs
Reagor 5 targets, 1 TD
Watkins 7 targets, 0 TDs
Adding Brown and Pascal (at least the 2020 version) should make us more dangerous in the red zone.
Brown, 11 targets, 3 TDs.
Pascal (2020), 13 targets, 4 TDs.
Pascal and Brown will also help in the run game, since they are better blockers than Watkins and Reagor.
So how does this relate to the salary cap?
You will hear a lot of talk about dead money, and the Eagles are certainly at the top of the dead money list. But they absolutely should be. And here's why.
Right now they are spending nothing on the qb position. As noted, Hurts will make less for a whole season than Rodgers will make in the first three quarters of week one. So we should be using that money in other areas. The dead cap hits mean that the Eagles are essentially spending future cap dollars this year, much like having a mortgage.
The Eagles could have easily decided to not do this. They could have decided not to sign Brown and Pascal, as well as Bradberry, Reddick, Cox and White. But I like the fact that the team has shown a willingness to support Jalen Hurts by giving him a competitive team to play for. If you look at the raw numbers, his life in the red zone should be much easier, and that's where qbs make their money.
Rodgers last year had 63 red zone completions and 28 TDs.
Hurts had 32 completions and 13 TDs.
We may never get that level of play out of Hurts, but Kirk Cousins had 44 completions and 22 TDs, which is certainly in the realm of the achievable.
What is perhaps most surprising is that Burrow and Hurts were almost the same throwing-wise in the red zone. He had 32 completions and 16 TDs. He was an outlier since a lot of his TDs were simply throwing deep to Chase (8 TDs of over 20 yards.)
So it makes sense to move "all in" on Hurts, since we are really only spending future dollars. And those dollars aren't really needed until we have to pay a qb a lot of money. And that day could be pretty far down the road. Even if Hurts gets a huge contract, that cap hit won't come into play until 2025, and the team will have two years to prepare for it. If they draft a qb next year in the first round, that big hit won't kick in until 2029.
So if you are worried about the salary cap, don't. It's not an issue right now or anytime in the future.
As far as Hurts, this is probably the best team an Eagles qb has had in a long time, and it's mainly due to his low salary. So let's see how he does surrounded by enough talent to potentially win it all.