by Paul Wanecski
The Philadelphia Eagles are a bit cap-strapped at the moment. With only $9.3 million in cap space entering 2015, the team will need to look at some veteran players and have a restructure-or-relocate conversation with them. Not a team known for holding onto players past prime years, the Eagles are in a bit of an interesting position, having two players on the wrong side of 30 taking up premium salary cap space.
Make no mistake, Chip Kelly runs the show when it comes to the talent on the roster. While the team was able to grab the 20 pick in this draft after doing the quarterback tango last year between Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez, they enter a year when the bell-cow of the Chip Kelly era as an Oregon Duck sits at the top of a draft class just when his team finds a need at quarterback. Unless it comes out in the next 5 weeks the Marcus Mariota is an absolute nightmare of a person (which it won’t), under no conceivable circumstance will he slide past several quarterback needy teams into the Eagles pick in the first round. Now, let’s go over what the Eagles need to do in freeing up some much needed cap space.
DE Trent Cole is set to make $11.6 million against the cap this season. His contract extends until 2017. Currently, he is 32 years old and still effective but not at that price. He could renegotiate his deal down to the $7 million range that would best fit across the team’s future financial plans. He would not make more than that on the open market. If the team cannot restructure, he could be released, saving $8.4 million.
ILB DeMeco Ryans is entering the final year of his contract. At the age of 30, he could be extended another 2 seasons after this, converting some base salary into signing bonus and moving cap impact into later years.
RB LeSean McCoy has the 2nd highest contract at his position. His salary cap figure drops in 2016 and 2017 considerably given his current 2015 cap hit of nearly $12 million. Converting base salary into roster bonus is the best way to side-step current cap troubles and free up additional space if needed. Since his figure is favorable in future years, this restructure the team should do only if they struggle to stay under the salary cap.
Want to save $6.5 million against the cap for 2015? Cut CB Cary Williams.
WR Jeremy Maclin is a free agent and he won’t come cheap. He will want #1 wide out money which will put him the ballpark of $9 million a season. The team could take advantage of another deep wide receiver class but that is always a risk, whereas Maclin is a proven (but expensive) commodity.
QB Mark Sanchez will be the most talented (shudder) quarterback on the free agent market. No team sounds to have an opportunity for him to start besides the Eagles. His price tag will most likely be in the $4-5 million range per season, which is a lot to spend on a QB who will be competing with another player, however, Foles contract is very team friendly for his last season.
The free agency market hasn’t been kind to the Eagles (remember the Dream Team a few years ago?). The draft becomes the best place for the team to address 3 key areas: defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback. This draft will build the foundation for the 2016 free agency market, as they will by then have made a commitment at the quarterback position.
Simply because we have to say it, if CB Trae Waynes (Michigan State) is on the board, the Eagles will take him (news flash, he won’t be). This will leave Marcus Peters (Washington), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Quinten Rollins (Miami-Ohio) and PJ Williams (Florida State) as the consolation prize. If two of these are off the board, the Eagles, unless they are in love with a player, will probably see the pool too diluted and move on to another position
Outside linebacker will be a position that will fly off the board in the first 2 rounds of this draft. We don’t see it possible for players like Dante Fowler (Florida) or Vic Beasley (Clemson) to be available at the 20th selection. This leaves Eli Harold (Virginia), Shaq Thompson (Washington) and Hauoli Kikaha (Washington) as the remaining possible 1st round selections. Of course you have your late risers (Davis Tull from Chattanooga could be one) who will slide up the boards because of respective pro-day workouts, but the top appears is relatively set in stone.
Defensive ends will be a target given the pending restructuring of several veterans (see- Restructure section above). Again, Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Shane Ray (Missouri) will already be gone by this point. Alvin Dupree (Kentucky) could be the pick here. Owamagbe Odighizuwa remains on the fringe of the 1st round however Dupree would be a great fit for what the Eagles defense would like to do.
Depending on the resigning of Maclin, the Eagles could be in the market for a $5-6 million receiver. They will also be on the hunt for tight end depth with Brent Celek aging and Zach Ertz not being comparable to the free agent tight ends on the market today. They could be a major player in the Jordan Cameron or Jermaine Gresham sweepstakes.
If you are reading this, then you deserve a free whacky prediction:
The Eagles will trade QB Nick Foles to the Cleveland Browns for a 1st round selection, which will then be packaged with the Eagles 20th selection to send to Tennessee for the 2nd overall pick. This trade will be last minute completely predicated on Tampa Bay drafting QB Winston (Florida State)
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)