March is Here and the Eagles have Work to do With Salary Cap

Could Derek Barnett be traded, or just about anybody else for that matter with so few untouchables on roster?
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Trades, trades, and more trades.

One down for the Eagles, and it was a biggie, obviously, with the peddling of quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts. How many more to come?

Nobody it seems is untouchable on the Eagles, except for maybe a small handful of players such as, maybe – maybe! - Miles Sanders and Jalen Reagor, to name just two.

Defensive end Derek Barnett may be on the trade list.

The Eagles aren’t actively shopping him, but GM Howie Roseman is getting calls, according to Chad Forbes with NFL Draft Bites. Forbes indicated that the Eagles have had conversations with the Cleveland Browns about Barnett.

It makes sense, considering Barnett’s $10 million contract, the final year of his rookie deal.

Barnett has been had one injury after another since arriving as the 14th overall player in the 2017 draft, but, in between his ailments, he has been a relatively productive player, maybe not as productive as befitting a top-15 pick but productive, nonetheless.

He has 19.5 sacks in four seasons and has been on the scene for some big plays in Eagles’ history, including a key sack in the NFC Championship Game as a rookie and key recovery of a Brandon Graham sack in Super Bowl 52 that same year.

A trade would save the Eagles $10M against the salary cap, and with March underway, finding ways to shed salary is paramount for GM Howie Roseman.

The countdown to the NFL’s new league on March 17 is on, and with it comes the harsh reality that the Eagles have some work to do to make it under the salary cap, which, at the moment has a floor of $180M.

The Eagles have one of the worst cap situations in the NFL. They are $43M over right now, per www.overthecap.com. Only the New Orleans Saints, who are $69.5M over the cap, are in more dire straits.

So, trades could make some sense for the Eagles – at least to a point.

Anyone thinking the Eagles are going to blow everything up on the roster in order to tank the season and get back into the top 10 of the draft next year, needs to understand that this isn’t the NBA or the Sixers, who spent seemingly an eternity losing on purpose to try to get good draft picks in a never-ending quest to rebuild.

The NFL is a league where teams’ fortunes can turn around in a single year. It is a league where the downtrodden don’t need to stay downtrodden for long, provided sound decisions are made.

Keep in mind, too, that a players’ value never quite matches up to the compensation some fans may think their team can get in exchange.

While owner Jeffrey Lurie made it sound like a rebuilding season, that doesn’t mean the Eagles aren’t going all-in on winning. GM Howie Roseman isn’t wired that way, nor are veterans such as Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham.

Think quarterback Jalen Hurts won’t do everything he can to lift up an offense to competitive levels at a bare minimum?

Also, take into account the NFC East isn’t some juggernaut division and hasn’t had a repeat winner since the Eagles in 2003 and 2004.

There's just no way the Eagles are blowing this thing up and mailing in the 2021 season. TAaht wouldn't be a very good welcome to fans who have a good chance at being allowed to attend games in some capacity this fall. 

There is still, however, the need to shed some salary, so some trades are likely as well as come restructured contracts.

Tight end Zach Etz is in the deal category, but a team may not be willing to part with even a sixth-round pick to ensure they get Ertz. If that's the case, the Eagles could release him with a post-June 1 designation and save $8.25M. A pre-June 1 release saves $4.7M.

Maybe even Graham could be dealt, but the Eagles are in a precarious position at the defensive end post, with only Josh Sweat and Barnett – should the Eagles hang on to Barnett. 

Then who?

A post-June 1 trade or release of Graham would save the Eagles $13M, but would it be worth it to leave yourself thin at that position?

As for Cox, he could be in line for a restructure, should he choose to do so. The defensive tackle has already had the six-year, $102M extension he signed in 2016 tinkered with twice to save the Eagles $6.5M in cap space in 2018 and $10M in 2019, but he now counts a whopping $23.8M against the cap this year and $23.7 next year.

Perhaps Roseman ties to bring those numbers down while adding voidable years to the end of his contract.

Whatever is done will be tricky, but it will need to be done soon – March 17 is right around the corner.

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.