Cap space. Two words we are going to hear regurgitated until we eventually start dreaming of spreadsheets and front office meetings and with good reason. The Eagles aren’t exactly swimming in freedom when it comes to cap space. In fact, according to OverTheCap, they are actually $9M over the allotted budget. This is crucial given that the team are coming off of their first ever Lombardi Trophy victory which of course means that many players will be seeking a big payday that the Eagles may not be able to grant. Naturally, this has caused a few weeks of observations, analysis, predictions and sheer panic. But fear not, this was all part of the plan.
The Eagles have the least amount of cap space in the league and this isn’t something that’s going to change anytime soon. This isn’t lazy reporting, it’s not playing on a narrative, it is the narrative. It’s easy for people to say that “Ah, once Jason Peters retires…” or “Well the Eagles are going to trade…”, but that doesn’t change the fact in 2021, the team will currently be paying an estimate of $72,485,000 out to players on the roster. That’s nearly $40,000,000 more than the league average. The Eagles aren’t just in cap bother now, but they will be for quite some time and that will go far beyond the career of Jason Peters or anyone else currently vacuuming up salary.
But why? Why are the Eagles so seemingly doomed? The answer is simple. Not too long ago in a galaxy just down the I-95, the Eagles made a pair of hirings. Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl joined the team in order to help reinvent the way that the Eagles evaluate talent. From the Ozzie Newsome school of scouting, Douglas and Weidl played key roles in setting the Eagles draft board for Howie Roseman to then pick from.
The Eagles fundamentally changed the way that they wanted to build their team. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at where most of that $72,000,000 is going in 2021.
Player: Contracted through
Fletcher Cox 2023
Lane Johnson 2022
Alshon Jeffery 2022
Timmy Jernigan 2022
Zach Ertz 2022
Derek Barnett 2021
Vinny Curry 2021
Brandon Brooks 2021
Jason Kelce 2021
Malcolm Jenkins 2021
Rodney McLeod 2021
Carson Wentz 2021
(Remainder of 2017 draft class)
I wrote a report at around this time last year. A source close to the situation told me that the team were planning to build from the ball outward, re-enforcing the trenches on both sides before adding skill players. It’s safe to say that one full season later, the Eagles are right on track. The idea behind the new direction is simple. We’ve seen how quickly how the team have become an offensive juggernaut with their offensive line that has now finally received the credit it deserves. The Eagles have their ENTIRE offensive line except a left tackle signed through the remainder of their franchise quarterback’s contract and that’s no coincidence. A little further out, Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery both received big paydays and will also remain in Philadelphia during this time-frame, giving Pederson an offensive blueprint to build from.
On the defensive side of things, two franchise defensive tackles, two (likely) starting defensive ends and two starting safeties, all signed through 2021. That’s an astonishing prospect and something that Howie Roseman will be most proud of. So why is this so important?
Let’s forget sustenance and familiarity for a minute. Let’s forget what happens on the field and the fact that the Eagles have essentially invested in what could be for all of the aforementioned players. The Eagles also changed the way they broach the free agent market. Instead of sniping up talent that could reminisce the ‘dream team’, they smartly offered older players ‘prove-it’ contracts.
Patrick Robinson, LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, Chris Long. These are just four examples of players who were not just brought in to fill out the depth chart, but go on to have key roles on the roster. Mentoring the younger players with an incentive to earn one last long-term contract, the Eagles found talent that has simply been caught in the wrong scheme or maybe suffered a decline. But their presence wasn’t just about play on the field. Players who had been there and done it all, players who have experience and composure and fit the emotional identity of this team.
By signing free-agents to prove-it deals it creates a process.
- It saves investing in long-term deals for players that may not ever reach that ceiling again, giving the Eagles more flexibility.
- Fills the holes on the team with proven talent who can pave the gap until the drafted players are able to develop and take over that role.
- When the players are ready to take on the starting reins, the Eagles aren’t paying extensive sums of money and are still paying rookie contracts.
- Repeat this process and sign developed players to extensions (CC: Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry).
So you see, the Eagles may not be swimming in cap space like the Cleveland Browns…but that’s because they’re not the Cleveland Browns. Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas have found the perfect way to build a championship winning roster and who can really argue that they haven’t? Sure, there may be some shock moves. Some big trades, sneaky waves and contract extensions that go amiss…but while all this is going on, the Eagles are building the foundations of a dynasty…and there is nothing to panic about if that’s the path this team is on.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports