The $9.4 Million dollar question facing Howie Roseman and company this offseason is ‘what do we do with Nelson Agholor?’ In principle, the answer is relatively straight forward. Agholor is under contract for 2019 and has enjoyed a real resurgence over the last two years, becoming a featured player in Pederson’d offense. But, this is the NFL…and nothing is ever simple.
The Elephant in the room is that Agholor carries a $9.4M cap hit after the Eagles opted to exercise their 2015 first-round pick’s fifth-year option following his sensational 2017 breakout. This immediately raises concerns for a team pressed for cap space that by this point need no introduction. With Golden Tate sassily tweeting about negotiations that don’t exactly seem to be going swimmingly, and Jordan Matthews, who would be much cheaper, hitting the free agent market, one has to wonder what the future holds for Agholor.
Cutting Agholor would give the Eagles some instant cap relief as none of that $9.4M salary is guaranteed. However, there may be value for both parties in a trade, should they find a welcoming partner. The free agency market isn’t exactly littered with explosive slot receivers, but there are a couple of names that stand out.
Fresh off of an 816-yard season where he posted 5 touchdowns, 26-year old Adam Humphries is already setting the benchmark.
Free agent slot WR Adam Humphries was reportedly seeking $8 million a year in long-term talks with the #Bucs before last season. Now has shot at even more on weak FA receiver market: https://t.co/VnP0kVVJg0
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) February 13, 2019
After setting career highs in both receptions and touchdowns, finishing second on the Buccaneers in receiving, Humphries will be one of the more sought after receivers this offseason. But if we compare that Agholor’s 736-yard campaign where he caught 4 touchdowns in a year of drastic offensive instability, the rise to $9.4M isn’t exactly that intimidating.
What makes this interesting is that the other top free agent slot wideouts include names like Randall Cobb, who hasn’t really been able to shine like he did in 2014 and has battled injuries ever since. Cobb still posted 383 yards and two touchdowns in 2018, but featured in just 9 contests, having not played a full season since 2015. If one of the more veteran wideouts of this class could realistically still clinch a contract around that same value, again, Agholor’s stock will only rise.
This is a blessing and a curse for the Eagles. No matter how they view this scenario, a restructure is surely on the cards, but on one hand, they could be getting extremely good bang for their buck in 2019. On the other, they realize that there would be virtually no chance in keeping Agholor past that point, and perhaps not investing in a developmental slot receiver or finding a longer-term option would work against them in the long run as the pressure of backloaded contracts starts to mount.
So, would a trade benefit both parties? Absolutely. Nelson Agholor is in a strange situation where his 2017 breakout was supported by a similarly impressive season that on tape, was overshadowed by inferior quarterback play by comparison and a midseason identity crisis offensively. The Eagles aren’t the type of team to overpay skill position players and they wouldn’t give Agholor the type of deal he could realistically get elsewhere. Meanwhile, the USC product at just 25-years old is only going to get better and a huge deal as he enters that ‘three-year prime’ window would be fitting. So, the Eagles either try to restructure or potentially risk losing him at the end of next season.
The alternative, as you’ve guessed, is trading. This benefits the Eagles, who can cash in on the value of one of their youngest and most productive offensive players, knowing they can at least get a very strong supporting cast at a cheaper rate, while Agholor has a chance to bargain for the deal he deserves.
In an offseason where cap space is minimal, roster turnover is at a new high and holes are opening up rapidly, trading Agholor could be seen as ‘cutting their nose to spite their face’. It’s a goodbye that no Philadelphia fan wants, but one that could open up the doors to finally finding the key ar WR2 and drafting an eventual replacement for a player who scrapped for playing time after the signing of Golden Tate. Agholor is too talented to let simply slip away into free agency, he’s too expensive to keep around at his current price and he deserves a deal where his long-term future is secure. A trade may ultimately be what’s best for both sides.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports