In case you’re a normal functioning human and don’t spend most of your days worrying about Philadelphia sports teams, the Eagles are in a slightly tricky spot. They may have $24M in cap space ahead of the upcoming season, but they’ll be $84M over the cap by the time the 2021 season starts. With a potential Zach Ertz extension on the horizon and a few important decisions to make, having such a huge Mountain to climb is problematic. With the pandemic meaning that the cap remains stagnant next year, it’s time for Howie Roseman to get to work. Here is one path the Eagles could pursue on their road to salary cap redemption.
Roll last year’s total
Let’s start with the easy one. There’s probably a reason the Eagles didn’t pursue Everson Griffen or a multitude of more expensive free agents. Roseman knows that any unused cap space will roll over into next season. This would mean that the $24M currently available would bring the 2021 total down to -$60M. Baby steps.
Trading or cutting Alshon Jeffery
This one is fairly logical. In an ideal universe, Jeffery plays a fairly big role in the outcome of the 2020 season, redeems his character concerns from years past, and proves himself as a viable trade-target for WR-needy teams across the league in an offseason where the Draft could be a total unknown. Adam Caplan recently cited that Jeffery could be ready to go as early as September and would obviously be the team’s primary ‘X’ receiver.
Even that doesn’t happen, cutting him would net the Eagles $7.8M in salary cap space, bringing their remaining debt down to $53M.
Trade/restructure/cut Malik Jackson
I’m not the biggest fan of this, but the reality of the situation is that he has a huge cap-hit and is essentially a DT3 on this team. Jackson’s first year in Philadelphia was ripped away by injury, but a rebound here could do wonders for his trade value.
The Eagles may be able to restructure Jackson’s contract, but with the depth at the position, it may prove more viable to at least explore the trade market.
If they trade or cut him, they’ll save $12.6M in salary cap space, bringing their debt down to $40.4M.
Restructure Lane Johnson
This is where things get tricky. All restructures are predicated on the premise that the player is willing to help the team. Howie has some wizarding ways and he’s going to need to flutter his eyelids frequently next offseason.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll leave Roseman’s Matrix-decoding skills to the side and assume all restructures will be the ‘standard’ ones the NFL sees. This would reduce the base salary to a veteran’s minimum, converting the rest to a signing bonus. The new CBA means that these values rise 20%.
For Lane Johnson, his base salary is $7.7M. $6.2M worth of cap-saving that would be paid as a bonus means the Eagles would move their cap down to -$34M.
Trade Derek Barnett
This is probably the easiest decision to make barring a breakout next year. The former first-round pick has been underwhelming outside of a few splash plays, but is entering an offseason fully healthy for the first time in his career. If he struggles to stun in year 4, then that $10M fifth-year option becomes a lot harder to handle.
Barnett is still incredibly young and an intriguing candidate. Parting ways with him and lifting that $10M weight brings the cap down to $24M.
Cut Marquise Goodwin
Marquise Goodwin is sitting out this season and will count for $4.4M worth of cap space next year. By that time, I’d like to think Greg Ward Jr, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins can take a step forward in their development and make the veteran expendable, as sad as it is that we never got to see him play a snap in midnight green.
His $4.4M hit off the books brings the Eagles down to $19.6M.
Carson Wentz restructure
It’s only a matter of time until Howie comes knocking at the door of the face of the franchise. He’s set to make $15.4M next year in base salary. A veteran’s minimum restructure would drop that down to $1.7M, converting $13.7M to a bonus. If Wentz agrees to this, the Eagles are only $5.9M over the salary cap.
Cutting DeSean Jackson
This one also seems like a no brainer with Jalen Reagor already waiting in the wings, again, barring a breakout. Jackson’s 2019 was a total write-off and unless something drastically changes, the Eagles could pocket $5.8M in cap space by letting the veteran go, putting them just $100k over the cap.
Brandon Brooks restructure
And to put the cherry on the cake, Brandon Brooks has his new deal chopped into. His base salary would drop to $1.1M, leaving $8.9M to be converted to a bonus, pushing the Eagles firmly over the threshold and their heads above water, with $8.8M to play with.
In conclusion: Buckle up, next offseason is going to be a wild ride.