Eagles’ Early Offseason Outlook: What happens if it all stays the same?

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Defensive Linemen

While some expected him to be moved at the deadline, Vinny Curry is still in midnight green. While he’s not the same Vinny Curry he was in his last stint with the Birds, he is still a very solid rotational run stopper. The Eagles could probably convince him to stay for a hometown discount. With so much youth at the defensive end position, it might be wise to do so.

As much as I love Tim Jernigan, he just can’t stay healthy. On top of that, he always seems to be at odds with coaching staff. Even though he took a pay cut to be here last season, it might be too much to ask him to do it again. The Eagles will have Malik Jackson back at some point and are very high on Hassan Ridgeway as a third defensive tackle. As good as he has been coming off of injury, the Eagles need someone that can stay healthy opposite Fletcher Cox, and Jernigan has not.

Speaking of Hassan Ridgeway, the coaching staff loves him. He’s still a young player and doesn’t have the stat sheet that Jernigan does, but expect him to earn a similar deal.

Linebackers

Every offseason there seems to be some debate as to whether Nigel Bradham will still be with the team. His contract is expensive, but he fits the defense to a tee and free-agent options will be somewhat limited. If the Eagles feel confident that TJ Edwards can take over, the team will have a club option on Bradham’s deal both this year and next. In this scenario, they keep him but may ask him to restructure.

Kamu Grugier-Hill looks like he’ll be in the Eagles plans for the foreseeable future. He still hasn’t shown he can consistently produce as a starter in the NFL, but that’s mostly because he was sidelined for the beginning of the season. $4.5M/year is the same as Mychal Kendricks got from Seattle, and a tad less than Kyle Van Noy and Kiko Alonso received from New England and Miami, respectively.

Defensive Backs

$4.5M is more than Rodney McLeod made last season after reworking his contract but less than he was offered in the original deal. The Swiss cheese consistency of the Eagles secondary has overshadowed just how good of a player McLeod has been. Just two years ago, he and Malcolm Jenkins made one of the best safety tandems in football. This contract would be a huge win for Philadelphia.

Based on the current state of affairs, the Eagles can probably only afford to keep one of their starting corners. As a 7th round draft pick, Jalen Mills has been underpaid for first years. Even if his play has been spotty, he’ll want to be compensated like a number 2 corner. At $4.5M, he would make the same guaranteed cash as Ronald Darby did last season. Darby’s contract was very team-friendly but included a lot of incentives. It seems unreasonable to count on Mills taking a team-friendly deal and young corners are often overvalued in free agency, but a deal similar to Darby’s may be enough to convince him. He’s a candidate to get overpaid by another team this offseason.

Between Mills and Ronald Darby, the choice will likely be the latter. He’s been best Eagles corner the last few years, and he’s still only 25. Eventually, it will be the time to look to other options on the outside, but with Darby already willing to take team-friendly deals it’s clear he wants to be in Philly. He may want more than what he got from his heavily discounted wage last season — reflected in the extra $1M per year. The question is whether or not the Eagles are willing to pay.

Eagles 3rd safety position is incredibly important, but the Eagles always seem to find someone to fill the void. Expect Sendejo to field offers for a more expanded role.

Special Teams

Rick Lovato’s contract will be similar to his current one. $1M is rounded up.

Jake Elliott has been one of the most consistent kickers in the league so far in his career. $2.5M is at the low end of the upper echelon kickers. It may seem steep, but the Eagles do not want to have kicking problems. Plenty of teams will be willing to shell out some money for a kicker. The final price could even be higher than $2.5M, but Eagles will get a chance to match.

Obviously making all these moves leaves the Eagles with very little space to maneuver. By retaining all these players, they would essentially play themselves out of the 2020 free agency stakes. With the belief the Birds can contend now if they can avoid the injury bug, maintaining a bulk of the current roster would be a win. Plus, in his tenure with the Eagles, Howie Roseman has been masterful with restructuring contracts and finding wiggle room.

Restructure

Unfortunately, with all the previous restructuring, the Eagles have a lot of back-loaded contracts that aren’t realistic candidates for restructuring. For example, the Eagles could restructure Carson Wentz’s new contract, but they would barely save any money, with the quarterback base minimum salary being close to what he is owed. Also, being owed almost double in 2021 what he is due in 2020, adding a lump of money owed to future years isn’t a fiscally responsible option. The same could be said for multiple contracts on the roster. Although small amounts of value could be squeezed from each contract, it would put a lot of financial strain in 2021 and 2022.

Among the players that have already recently restructured their contracts are: Alshon Jeffery (2019), Rodney McLeod (2019), Zach Ertz (2019 and 2018), Lane Johnson (2019 and 2018), Brandon Brooks (2018), Fletcher Cox (2018), Malcolm Jenkins (2018). While many of these players have already restructured their contracts in multiple years, it is a big ask to continually convert base salary into prorated signing bonuses — even if it is to help the team. Nevertheless, the team will need to find money somewhere, and putting the onus on future years is just how business is done in the NFL.

Therefore, below are all of the current candidates for restructure. If the Eagles truly believe they are in win-now mode they will have to find some money to compete in free agency. The amount saved represents the maximum amount possible if a salary is converted to the base minimum. That means the amount saved is the highest it can get. Keep in mind that longer salaries are better candidates for restructures as it lengthens the proration and therefore decreases the average yearly payout.

ExpiresOwedBase MinimumSaved
Fletcher Cox2023$23.8M$16.2M$7.6M
Carson Wentz2025$18.6M$18.1M$500K
Alshon Jeffery2022$15.7M$9.7M$6.0M
Lane Johnson2022$13.6M$10.0M$3.6M
Brandon Graham2022$13.4M$7.3M$6.1M
Zach Ertz2022$12.2M$8.5M$3.7M
Malik Jackson2022$10.0M$5.6M$4.4M
Nigel Bradham2023$9.8M$4.5M$5.3M
DeSean Jackson2022$8.9M$5.5M$3.4M
Jason Kelce2022$6.4M$6.0M$400K
Isaac Seumalo2023$4.0M$2.3M$1.7M

Based on the number above, there are a few options you can rule out. Wentz, Kelce, and Semualo wouldn’t save the team much more than pennies by restructuring their deals. The top candidates for restructuring are Cox, who could save the team a whack of money and has the longest remaining contract outside of Wentz; Graham, who just signed on for an extra three seasons and hasn’t recently restructured; and Alshon Jeffery. Nigel Bradham could also save the Eagles a good amount of money, but the Eagles could create a lot of dead cap space by pushing back his payout if they eventually decide to cut him.

The Eagles could create a maximum of $19.7M by restructuring the contracts of Cox, Jeffery, and Graham. If Bradham is figured into the equation that number could rise to $25M. Either sum would be plenty to engage in free agency. Therefore, if Philadelphia believes they can win another Super Bowl with the current roster — give or take a few pieces — it’s absolutely manageable. If not, a bigger overhaul is in order — one which we will look into next week.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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