Eagles find another way to create more cap room

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Eagles find another way to create more cap room

The Eagles are staying creative as they work through a difficult salary cap situation in 2018. 

After already restructuring Lane Johnson’s contract earlier in the week to save $7.5 million in cap space, the Eagles have reportedly done it again, this time with Zach Ertz. 

The Eagles created over $5.4 million in cap space this year by reworking Ertz’s contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates

Just like Johnson, Ertz isn’t taking a pay cut. The Eagles turned $7.21 million of his $8 million base salary into a guaranteed bonus. This is another move that will spread out Ertz’s cap hit over the remaining years of his contract. 

Ertz agreed to restructure his contract in a similar way last March, too. The nice thing about Ertz’s contract, from the Eagles’ perspective, is it wasn’t insanely back-loaded. That’s probably why they feel better about adding more money to the last three years. 

As NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank wrote Wednesday, it’s foolish at this point to question Howie Roseman’s mastery of the salary cap. Every year there are questions and every year Roseman finds a way to make it work. 

But there are reasons teams don’t do this more often. In a way, these types of moves just push the problem off to future years to help in the present day, but it’s likely Roseman’s plan extends well beyond this year. 

For now, the Eagles have gotten themselves out of salary cap hell. They were under for the start of the league year and these moves will allow them to fit in Nigel Bradham and Haloti Ngata. They could still use some extra room to sign more free agents and eventually pay their draft picks. 

The next possible moves that would create more space would be to cut or restructure Vinny Curry’s contract. On Wednesday, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn reported the Eagles asked Curry to restructure and if he doesn’t, it might force them to release him. And Mychal Kendricks is reportedly being shopped for the 256th straight offseason. Cutting Curry would save $5 million in space and trading Kendricks would save $4.4 million. 

Another option would be to offer an extension to Brandon Graham, who is entering the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $8 million, but we haven’t heard much about that recently. 

It’s never boring with Roseman around. 

Eagles could target TE Martellus Bennett

Eagles could target TE Martellus Bennett

A sad day in Eagles history might become the catalyst for a joyful reunion between two brothers.

Following the release of Brent Celek (see story) and the impending departure of free agent Trey Burton (see story), the Eagles could potentially attempt to fill the void at tight end with Martellus Bennett.

Cut by the Patriots last week, Bennett is rumored to be interested in playing on the same team as sibling Michael Bennett, according to ESPN's Kirk Morrison. The Eagles acquired Michael in a trade with the Seahawks on March 7, with Martellus' release coming hours later.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

The Patriots reportedly made a trade offer for Michael Bennett as well, releasing Martellus only once the attempt fell through. It’s possible one or both of them were vocal about playing together.

The Eagles were certainly aware of their looming hole at tight end at the time of the trade. Celek had one year remaining on his contract but wasn’t expected back at the scheduled $5 million against the salary cap. With the club’s cap issues and a rabid market awaiting, retaining a younger, talented commodity like Burton was even less likely.

Zach Ertz remains the starting tight end after a Pro Bowl season, while Billy Brown will be a prospect to watch at training camp this summer. The Eagles could still use proven depth.

Bennett is an attractive option ... if the price is right. A Pro Bowler as recently as 2014, the 10-year veteran is a willing blocker with 433 career receptions for 4,573 yards and 30 touchdowns. Whereas Celek was used primarily as a blocker, and Burton was more often deployed as a receiver, Bennett possesses the versatility to fill both roles.

The Eagles must first do their due diligence on Bennett’s bizarre 2017 campaign.

Bennett was waived by the Packers in November for his supposed failure to disclose an injury. The 31-year-old was claimed by the Patriots the next day, appeared in two more games, then landed on injured reserve with shoulder and hamstring injuries.

Finishing with 30 receptions for 286 yards and zero touchdowns in nine games, it was Bennett’s worst season since becoming a starter in 2012.

A second-round draft pick by the Cowboys in 2008, Bennett also played for the Giants and Bears. He last played with his brother all the way back when they attended Texas A&M.

Though the Bennetts have not played on the same team in nearly a decade, the duo has joined forces for some notable interviews in the recent past and clearly have a strong relationship.

The Eagles aren’t going to sign Martellus simply because he has a bond with Michael. There is a need, however, so exploring the reunion even as a sign of good faith makes sense.

Eagles' heavy lifting in free agency came already

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Eagles' heavy lifting in free agency came already

While the Eagles are expected to fly under the radar — Haloti Ngata aside — a little bit during free agency thanks to limited cap space, it’s important to remember they’ve already done a lot of their heavy lifting. 

During their Super Bowl season, Howie Roseman locked up WR Alshon Jeffery and DT Tim Jernigan with four-year contract extensions, keeping them in Philly through the 2021 season. 

If the Birds didn’t do that, Jeffery and Jernigan would top the list of 16 soon-to-be free agents from the Super Bowl team and there would probably be a lot more panic among Eagles fans, especially after seeing some numbers roll in on Tuesday morning. 

Two of the top receivers on the free agent market reportedly agreed to new contracts the day before free agency officially opens, according to NFL Network. First, the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year deal worth $48 million, with $30 million guaranteed. And the Bears signed Allen Robinson to a three-year deal worth $42 million, with around $25 million guaranteed. 

While Jeffery didn’t put up monster numbers in 2017, his deal with the Eagles is looking more like a slight bargain now. Jeffery’s four-year deal — signed on Dec. 2 — is worth $52.25 million, with $27.25 million guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. 

So Watkins’ average annual salary is $16M, Robinson’s is $14M and Jeffery’s is just over $13M. 

Now, it’s fair to point out that Jeffery just turned 28, while Watkins and Robinson are both still just 24. But Watkins and Robinson aren’t without their flaws. Watkins has had just one 1,000-yard season in his four years and is coming off a 39-catch, 593-yard season with the Rams. He’s never lived up to being the fourth pick in the 2014 draft. And Robinson has shown incredible ability, but he’s coming off a torn ACL. 

Jeffery wasn’t able to get back to another 1,000-yard season, but he played well in 2017 (with a torn rotator cuff) and had 12 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ playoff run, including a big performance in Super Bowl LII. If the Eagles didn’t lock him up, he was going to be a hot name on the market. 

Then there’s Jernigan. There haven’t been a lot of deals to compare his to yet, but let’s remember what his deal looks like: Four years, $48 million, with $25 million guaranteed. After a hot start in 2017, Jernigan cooled down later in the season, perhaps hampered by a lingering ankle injury. 

But locking up Jernigan and Jeffery during the season went a long way in locking up the future of the team for the next several years. The Eagles have 19 players under contract through the 2020 season (that’s a lot) including Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins and others. Now, things in the NFL are flexible and eventually, they’ll need to find a way to pay Carson Wentz over $30 million annually, but for now, things look good. 

That’s important to remember if it seems like the Eagles are having a quiet offseason.