Cap Analysis: Eagles

Updated: March 1st 2016

Philadelphia Eagles

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Eagles are set to begin a new era with familiar faces. Former GM and current Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman is back in charge of all things in the front office, and former quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson is now the Head Coach. The thing that was the most impressive about the Eagles franchise during the Andy Reid era, was the team’s ability to compete year after year while players and assistant coaches came and went. The personnel department, always led by Reid, and run by Tom Heckert and then Howie Roseman, had a winning formula, often investing early draft picks in lineman and building around that core. The football administration department, led by Joe Banner and then Howie Roseman, always put the team in a favorable salary cap situation with wise contract extensions. The Patriots, Ravens, Packers, and Eagles have had the most consistent and sustained success among NFL franchises from 2000-2014, though the team has endured a tremendous loss of talent in the last two seasons – DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Foles, and LeSean McCoy – but still has enough talent left to be better in 2016 than they were in 2015.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$131.8M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$30.67M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$7.3M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

The Eagles just completed a bevy of extensions for key players like Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Malcolm Jenkins, and Vinny Curry – and they still have almost $31M in cap space. They have several key positions they need to address, most visibly, quarterback. To be forthright, and I know I’m in the minority when I say this, I do not think it would be a terrible idea for the Eagles to give the keys to Mark Sanchez and draft a quarterback in the first or second round. Outside of that, improving the offensive line is probably the highest priority.

Notable Free Agents:

Eagles FAs

Sam Bradford cost the Eagles a second round selection in this year’s draft, so if he does not return to the team, it would go down as a pricey one-year rental. [Editor’s Note: “Adam Schefter has since reported that the Eagles have reached a two-year contract with Sam Bradford”].

Walter Thurmond was a quiet, but important, part of the Seahawks crowded Super Bowl secondary with Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. He had some success in 2015 as a utility member of the secondary which involved a switch to safety.

The team released DeMeco Ryans, a favorite in the building and locker room, so he could potentially return to the team – but he was close with Chip Kelly, so he could resurface in San Francisco.

Nolan Carroll was signed to be the nickel corner in 2014, but emerged as a starter in 2015 after the team moved on from some veterans at the position.

Cedric Thornton has started 45 games in the last three years and is an important part of the defensive line. He hasn’t made a ton of money for his time as a starter, since he was an undrafted free agent in 2011 and played under an RFA tender in 2015. He will have suitors in the market and could be anxious for a payday, though the Eagles would surely like to have him back.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Eagles Proj Cap Hits

The Eagles believe in investing in pass rushers and tackles, as is evident from the chart above. When healthy, Jason Peters is still one of the best left tackles in football, even at 34. The team just signed Lane Johnson to a new contract, which means he’ll slide to the left side if Peters is not on the team for the entire duration of his contract (through 2018).

I firmly believe that Ryan Mathews was the Eagles “running back plan A” in free agency last year. A Mathews/Sproles tandem would have been formidable on its own. Nobody outside the organization knows exactly how it developed, but when DeMarco Murray expressed interest in playing with Sam Bradford, I think Chip Kelly saw it as a move with multiple benefits – if the Eagles didn’t sign him, he was likely to return to the Cowboys. By signing him, the Eagles would add a talented player to the roster (even if he didn’t really fit the scheme), but they would mostly be taking away a star player (who fit really, really well in the system) from the Cowboys.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Eagles Cap Cas List

At $9.7M, Jason Peters is still a relative value for a starting left tackle of his caliber, so he should be back with the team. But, it’s not a certainty, depending on what the team decides to do in the draft.

Normally if a player appears on the list, it means he’s a veteran whose release would represent a significant financial savings, cash or cap, for the franchise. This list has a special appearance – DeMarco Murray. Murray’s “Dead Cap” of $13M (as it appears on Spotrac) calculates what it would cost the team if he is released. However, because most of Murray’s 2015 mega-contract guarantees came in the form of guaranteed base salary, the team could trade him (as they’re reportedly trying to do) and only incur a $4M charge.

In my estimation, there’s a 33.33% chance that Mark Sanchez is the Eagles starter, a 33.33% chance that Mark Sanchez is the Eagles backup, and a 33.33% chance that he’s released.

Extension Watch List: 

Eagles Ext Watch List

This list is extremely short, because the Eagles have already completed several extensions this offseason. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had indicated that the Eagles will run a 4-3 defense. That conversion impacts outside linebackers Connor Barwin (which is why he was listed in the previous section) and Brandon Graham, but it also impacts potential extensions for Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan. The Eagles ran a 4-3 when Cox was drafted, and the team has already indicated that they want to keep Cox despite the conversion.

However, the terms of the extension itself are impacted by his position and the players with which he best compares. As a 3-4 defensive end, Cox compares favorably to Cam Heyward (PIT, $9.87M APY), Mike Daniels (GB, $10.25M), and Cory Liuget (SD, $10.25M) and likely would have slotted in right at, or just above, Calais Campbell (ARZ, $11M APY). As a defensive tackle in a 4-3, things get murkier. His statistics aren’t necessarily better than Geno Atkins (CIN, $10.66M) who only has 28% of his contract guaranteed, and the next jump is to Gerald McCoy (TB, $15.87M) who has 54% of his contract guaranteed. That’s a really wide range to be negotiating within, so although both sides are likely to figure it out, it could take a while. Ultimately, I think his extension will end up in the middle, in the neighborhood of 5 years, $60M ($12M APY), with approximately $30M guaranteed.

Position Needs: 

Quarterback, Offensive Line, Corner.

Sleeper Watch: 

If the Eagles are able to move on from DeMarco Murray, I expect Ryan Mathews to be one of the top producing backs in the NFL.

Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

More Analysis by Matt Papson