The Eagles may have to eat a steady diet of dead money this offseason in order to become salary cap compliant.
General manager Howie Roseman gave a very brief answer to the one salary cap question he was asked last week about the cap and how the pandemic made a bad cap situation even worse for the Eagles.
They were expected to be about $50M over the cap, but with COVID-19 impacting the financial side of the game, it is expected to decrease to the point where Roseman could find himself trying to shed some big money contracts with the expectation that he could be around $70M over the cap.
“We haven't been given exact guidance on what the salary cap is going to be next year or the years after that,” said Roseman when he spoke on Jan. 4. “Obviously since we found out around April, kind of the floor for the cap, we've been planning on that. None of this is a surprise. We've had a lot of time to go through it and we'll be prepared for whatever it is.”
Here are three candidates that could be released as salary cap casualties:
DEREK BARNETT. The Eagles picked up the final year of his rookie contract in the spring, but it doesn’t become guaranteed until the new league year begins on March 17. The DE is the easiest cut to make since there is no dead money involved. He is scheduled to count $10.05M against the cap, and there would be dead money to eat if the Eagles were to cut him and pocket that savings.
It would mean the Eagles would not have anybody left from the 2017 draft class unless free agent linebacker Nate Gerry was to return.
Brandon Graham made a noteworthy comment last week about the expected roster churn.
“I know some guys that aren’t coming back who have been here a minute with me,” said Graham. “You just don’t know who that person’s going to be. Injury has definitely hurt a lot of people’s chances of coming back because of the injuries and sometimes it just sucks because some guys I know can still play. When you’ve been hurt a lot here, and you’re hurt period, people know that you’re taking a risk.”
Barnett certainly fits that category.
It’s not a very good class for defensive linemen, so the Eagles would be taking a risk here.
MALIK JACKSON. This would also be a risk given the anemic nature of the D-linemen coming out of college, but Jackson hasn’t had the kind of impact the team had hoped for when they signed him two years ago.
The DT played in one game last year and missed only one this year.
The Eagles could opt to bring back free agent Hassan Ridgeway, though injuries have cut short both his years with Philadelphia, and/or be confident in Raequan Williams to play more of a role and/or take a defensive tackle in the second or third round.
To part ways with Jackson, who has a $13.6M cap hit, would likely require them to wait until after June 1 when the dead money goes down to $3.6M with a savings of $10M on the cap.
BRANDON BROOKS. This would qualify as a surprise. Or would it? Nate Herbig proved he can play right guard, though there was a little hiccup mid-season when the Eagles inserted Sua Opeta for a two-game starting run.
Herbig, who will turn 23 in July, is no Brooks, who will turn 32 in August, but his base salary is $850,000 compared to Brooks’ $10.4M. If the Eagles were to be content trading in a Ferrari like Brooks with two blown tires – OK, two Achilles’ tears in three years – for a lesser model like Herbig it would be costly.
Brooks’ cap hit is $14.5. The best financial deal the Eagles could do would be to wait until after June 1 to trade him. In that scenario, the dead money shrinks to $4M while the cap savings would increase to $10.5.
There will be other savings with the expected trade of Zach Ertz and the anticipated releases of Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.
Even to cut Jeffery and Jackson will mean some dead money to absorb.
Jeffery has a cap hit of $18.4M. To release him prior to June 1 would cost the Eagles $10.5M in dead money but save them $7.9M on the cap.
Jackson’s pre-June 1 release would require the team to eat $5.8M in dead money with a cap savings of $4.8M. After June 1, Jackson, who is scheduled to count $10.6M on the cap, would bring a savings of $8.7M to the cap with only $1.93M of dead money.
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