5 Potential Eagles’ Salary-Cap Casualties
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - No one manipulates the NFL salary cap better than Howie Roseman.
That stipulated, however, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations has his work cut out for him this offseason. As things stand right now, Philadelphia figures to be about $9 million over the projected cap for the new league year which means some tweaking will have to be done, some of it painful.
For stars like Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce, it could mean lucrative contract extensions that ease the cap burden in the short term. For other pending free agents like Trey Burton and Beau Allen, it could mean a ticket out of town.
Meanwhile, some of those already under contract will also have to be looked at with an eye on either reworking deals or releasing players in order to open up some space for the April draft class, as well as some potential targeted free-agent signings.
Here are the five members of the Super Bowl champions most likely to become salary-cap casualties:
5. - LB Mychal Kendricks - Kendricks played very well last season but Jordan Hicks will be back from his Achilles injury in 2018 and it's pretty obvious that Jim Schwartz would like Nigel Bradham back. In today's NFL, there is only room for two LBs to garner significant playing time and Kendricks is paid like a starter.
Meanwhile, if Kendricks is back in the third LB role he obviously won't be happy, best evidenced by his trade request last offseason. The best-case scenario is re-signing Bradham, trading Kendricks for draft capital and bolstering the depth with some young talent but Kendricks' $7.6 million 2018 cap hit could make that difficult. Outright releasing Kendricks with a post-June 1 designation would give Roseman $6M in extra space.
4. - P Donnie Jones - Jones remains a top-tier punter but he will turn 38 in July and with 14 seasons under his belt, he's very expensive for the position. The Eagles have already brought back Cameron Johnston on a futures deal and the former Ohio State punter, who was with the team through training camp as an undrafted rookie last year, will have every opportunity to make a case for himself during voluntary work. If the latter shows he's ready, the Eagles may decide to go the cheap route and pick up $1.75M in extra space.
3. - TE Brent Celek - There is some thought that the longest-tenured Eagle may walk away himself after finally getting a Super Bowl ring and his $5M cap number is significant for a part-time player at this point. The Philadelphia offense does need a blocker at tight end, however, but could garner that on the open market at a far-lesser price. If Celek doesn’t retire, the Eagles could save $4 million in cap space by releasing the popular 32-year-old.
2. - DE Vinny Curry - The Eagles have to do something with Curry's contract because he's paid more than Graham, the star left end, and projected to lose his starting job at RDE to Derek Barnett. You simply can't pay a backup $9M and endure a $11M cap hit (projected as the fourth-highest on the team) for a situational player even though Curry would figure to be very effective in that kind of role. A restructure is possible because Curry is a New Jersey native who loves the area and the organization, but if nothing can be worked out the post-June 1 designation is the likely end game.
1. - WR Torrey Smith - Smith is a locker-room leader and really upped his game when it counted most making big plays in both the NFC Championship Game as well as Super Bowl LII but he simply isn't consistent enough catching the football for the Eagles to pick up his $5M option. While Mack Hollins probably isn't ready to step in right now he's shown enough potential to want that $5M to go in another direction.
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
LT Jason Peters - Doug Pederson has already insisted that he wants Peters back as his starting left tackle but the potential future Hall of Famer is 36, coming off an ACL tear, and his replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, got better and better as the 2017 season wore on. Peters 2018 cap number is $10.67M and some kind of restructuring is possible.
ST Chris Maragos - Maragos is also coming off knee surgery and his standing as an elite special teams player on the team will likely have Dave Fipp pounding the desk to keep him back but releasing the veteran could save the Eagles $1.75M.
OG Chance Warmack - A Jeff Stoutland favorite dating back to their days together winning national championships at Alabama, the hope was that the former top-10 pick would seize the LG spot when Isaac Seumalo faltered. That never happened and opened the door for Stefen Wisniewski, who finally solidified the spot. Generally, backup offensive linemen have to be versatile and those who play in the interior need to be able to play all three spots (like Wiz) or being able to swing between right and left tackle,
Warmack is strictly a guard and one who has trouble getting off the football so although it would only open up $1.2M in cap space, the Birds will likely be leaning on Seumalo as the interior backup.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen