A small break of sunshine stabbed through the dark clouds on Friday that have hovered above the Eagles’ headquarters in South Philly since the end of a 4-11-1 season, which led to the dismissal of the head coach and the trade of the once-franchise quarterback.
The weekend was on the horizon, but it began with some promising news for the Eagles.
First, veteran center Jason Kelce announced his plans to return for the 2021 season. His return will be vital for a new culture that head coach Nick Sirianni and his mostly brand-new staff of assistants will try to instill.
Second, general manager Howie Roseman saved the Eagles a lot of money under the salary cap by getting veteran cornerback Darius Slay to agree to a pay restructure that will save the team more than $9 million on the cap, ostensibly bringing the number down to about $34M, but it could be even lower if the NFL decides to increase the salary cap from the current floor of $180M to about $185.
To get the Slay deal done and lower the cap charge, the Eagles had to put some voidable years into the end of the contract.
Suddenly, though, the salary cap doesn’t seem as dire as it had been, though there are still some twists and turns ahead.
The biggest will be deciding what to do about Derek Barnett.
Would the still-just-24-year-old defensive end be willing to accept a pay cut?
Right now, Barnett is scheduled to make $10M in 2021. That’s a lot of an oft-injured player who has yet to fully live up to his capability as a first-round draft pick in 2017.
The Eagles have to decide what to do with Barnett by the start of the league’s new year on March 17.
If Barnet chooses not to bend salary-wise, the Eagles will likely cut him.
And think about that for a second. The 2017 draft class will be all gone, assuming linebacker Nate Gerry, who is scheduled to be a free agent, does not return. The entire class wiped out – Barnett, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Gerry, and Elijah Qualls. All gone.
Except one…GM Howie Roseman is still around.
Missing so badly on an entire class is one reason there is so much gloom and doom surrounding the Eagles.
Four years later, you have to be getting, at minimum, consistent contributions from a draft class. There should even be a Pro Bowl or two if the evaluations are being done properly.
Anyway, Roseman is now doing what he does best, and that is manipulating a salary cap that has gotten away from him, in large part due to the pandemic’s impact on every NFL teams’ bottom line.
Roseman is reportedly working on restructuring the contracts of defensive end Brandon Graham and right tackle Lane Johnson.
Graham has a $17.9M cap charge. Johnson’s is $17.8M.
The exact savings on Kelce aren’t yet known, but he is reportedly getting $9M guaranteed with the ability to make up to $12M. Like the Slay contract, there are likely some voidable years on the Kelce restructure. Currently, Kelce’s cap hit is $8.4M but likely coming down.
Whatever Kelce’s charge is it is well worth it.
He is one of the most popular players in team history and still, at the age of 33, playing at a high level. Even more so, he is an available player and will bring a streak of 105 straight starts into his 11th season that began as a sixth-round draft pick in 2011.
Kelce is also inserting himself into Hall of Fame consideration. Since the 1970 merger, only six NFL centers have been named first-team All-Pro at least three times.
Dermonti Dawson leads the pack with six followed by Mike Webster with five, Dwight Stephenson with four then comes Kelce, Jim Langer, and Kevin Mawae.
Had Kelce decided to retire, the Eagles would be left scrambling for his replacement because that player isn't likely on the roster.
Isaac Seumalo has settled in at left guard and Nate Herbig proved to be a valuable commodity at guard last year.
Now, though, Kelce is back and that, along with Roseman doing what he does with contracts, perhaps preventing any further cuts beyond DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and maybe Malik Jackson, was a respite from the gloom and doom if only for a few days.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.