The Eagles sit comfortably perched at the top of the NFL with a 9-1 record, after the dismantling of the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles now hold a commanding four-game lead on the NFC East. They’re now setting their sights on securing a first-round bye with a strong finish to the remaining six games left on the schedule. Regardless of how the season finishes out for the Eagles, they’ll have some big decisions to make with their impending free agents.
According to Over The Cap, the Eagles have just under $2.7 million dollars in cap room for the 2018 season. They can, however, save $9 million dollars by cutting Torrey Smith and Brent Celek. The later could easily come back on a restructured deal to stay with the team. The former has been inconsistent, with Mack Hollins breathing down his neck for more opportunities. Another popular option to save money would be cutting ties with Mychal Kendricks, which would yield the team another $4.4 million dollars in cap space.
Upcoming Tough Decisions
An unpopular and realistic offseason cut would be Brandon Graham. Graham can net the Eagles another $6.5 million in cap savings with one year remaining on his contract. I can’t see the likelihood of the Eagles resigning him being high after giving out big contracts to three members of the defensive line in Cox, Curry, and Jernigan. They could decide to cut ties with Vinny Curry instead and give Graham the monster contract he deserves. Factoring in Derek Barnett’s improving play is making him an obvious in-house replacement to be a starter. Add that to Carson Wentz’s upcoming contract in 2020, and you can see how his time with the Eagles may be limited. The Eagles, however, could very well play out the rest of his contract and still have $15.5 million dollars in cap space to work with.
Timmy Jernigan was already given a big contract extension at 4 years and $48 million dollars and other top players are looking to cash in as well. Alshon Jeffrey, Nigel Bradham, and Patrick Robinson are the other big free agents looking to get resigned, with Trey Burton, Kenjon Barner, and Beau Allen all looking to cash in as well. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’ll likely only be able to bring back one of the bigger and one of the smaller free agents.
Veterans On The Way Out
The writing does seem to be on the wall for Darren Sproles and Lagarette Blount. With the acquisition of Jay Ajayi and incumbent running backs Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnell Pumphrey, their time with the Eagles are likely over. Kenjon Barner and Donnell Pumphrey will also look to battle it out for return-man duties and the potential pass-catching back.
As great as Patrick Robinson has been as the nickel cornerback this year, he’ll likely command too much money on the open market for the Eagles to re-up. Especially considering he’s 30 years old and the Eagles will have a young nucleus of Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasual Douglas and Sidney Jones going forward. All four players are under 23 and are clearly the future of this secondary.
Staying with the defense, Nigel Bradham has had his best years under Jim Schwartz, and that trend continued this year. He’d be wise to try to sign a fair deal with the Eagles, who get the most out of his talents in Schwartz’s scheme. If he does decide to hit the open market, his salary might be too rich for the Eagles to match. The Eagles do have a contingency plan in place as they did draft Nate Gerry in the 5th round and he could take over the position with a strong showing at next years training camp.
Beau Allen may also bolt for a bigger role and more money just like Bennie Logan did a year ago. He’s proven to be an effective run-stopper and the Eagles have his replacement in-house. Last years 6th round pick Elijah Qualls will look to prove that he can step into a more prominent role for the Eagles next season.
Impact of Alshon Jeffrey
The one big player I do expect to be back for the Eagles is Alshon Jeffrey. In the last three games, he’s gained good chemistry and consistency with Wentz putting up 213 yards and 4 touchdowns in the process. This has effectively made him the big play receiver and red-zone threat the Eagles envisioned he could become when they signed him last off-season. Not re-signing him would also seem like a bit of a gamble, as the Eagles would have to try to find another top end receiver in free-agency or the draft.
The Eagles have competent receivers besides Alshon Jeffrey like Nelson Agholor.The former first-round pick has been a revelation in the slot this year with 30 catches for 426 yards and 5 touchdowns. While fourth-round Mack Hollins has proven to be a reliable deep threat with 10 catches for 179 yards and 1 touchdown through 10 games. Even with their promising play the Eagles still need a top playmaker on the outside to pair with Carson Wentz. Jeffrey has become that guy over the last few games, and it’s up to him to continue that trend over the next six games and beyond.
Alshon Gets Paid
Trey Buton is a favorite of Carson Wentz and a more than capable backup to tight end Zack Ertz. He shouldn’t command too much money as a backup tight end and special teams player. If the Eagles can get Burton at another cap hit of $2.75 million, that should be plenty of enough room to resign Alshon Jeffrey. According to Spotrac, the Eagles should be able to get a contract done in the ballpark of 5 years and $51 million dollars. Of course on the open market, that number could rise by a few million dollars per year. Even still the Eagles should have enough money to bring back the both of them.
Replacing Kendricks and Bradham
Signing Jeffrey and Burton means losing talent at the linebacker position. Both Kendricks and Bradham leaving in one offseason would be a daunting task for the Eagles to overcome. Although, the Eagles do have a first-round pick and an abundance of linebackers are pegged to go in the first two rounds this year. Roqaun Smith of Georgia, Malik Jefferson of Texas, Rashaan Evans of Alabama, Kendall Joseph of Clemson, Cameron Smith of USC, Micah Kiser of Virginia, and Jerome Baker of Ohio State, could all be fits for the Eagles.
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