The Eagles can create some breathing room under the salary cap in 2018 with a relatively simple move at wide receiver. At the same time, the club also has a decision to make at receiver that could inevitably drive costs up for 2019.
Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor each played a huge role in delivering the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship. Now, determinations must be made on their futures with the team.
The question is whether either call is very difficult to make.
First, the Eagles must decide whether to pick up Smith’s option for 2018. The three-year contract the veteran wideout signed last offseason acts more like a series of one-year deals at $5 million apiece. The structure and amount could result in a convenient source of savings.
With the organization seriously up against the cap — currently over the projected spending limit — Smith might be a luxury the Eagles can no longer afford.
Smith posted mediocre regular-season numbers: 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. However, he enjoyed a strong postseason, racking up 13 receptions for 157 yards and one score. Dropped passes were an issue throughout.
While still a dangerous vertical threat, Smith was perhaps underutilized at times with the Eagles. The team also chose a pair of speedy receivers — Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson — in last year’s draft.
As for Agholor, a decision is coming whether or not to pick up the fifth-year, 2019 option on his rookie contract at a projected $9.4 million. The Eagles’ window to accept or decline the option ends May 3.
A first-round pick in 2015, Agholor finally lived up to his promise this season, a breakthrough sparked by his move to the slot. He wound up with 77 receptions for 935 yards and eight touchdowns, including playoffs, eclipsing the combined totals from his first two NFL seasons.
Though $9.4 million may sound steep for a slot receiver with one decent year under his belt, Agholor became a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. Plus, the option is guaranteed only for injury, so the team isn’t necessarily bound to that amount.
More than anything, exercising the option delays Agholor from becoming a free agent by a year, buying the Eagles another season of evaluation.
The fifth-year option is often a precursor to a long-term extension. By 2019, the Eagles should have a better sense of Agholor’s value, and will perhaps be in better position with regards to the cap.
WIDE RECEIVERS BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018
2018 cap hit: $5 million
Eagles quarterbacks didn’t even utilize Smith’s vertical ability all that often. According to Pro Football Focus, the seven-year veteran was targeted 19 times on passes of 20 yards or more, including playoffs. By comparison, Agholor had 18 such targets, while Alshon Jeffery led with 28.
2018 cap hit: $4.125 million
Brilliant bit of accounting here by Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman to keep Jeffery’s cap hit low in the first year of his contract extension. Four million for a No. 1 receiver is a steal, though that figure will balloon to over $14 million in 2019.
2018 cap hit: $2.983 million
Perhaps Agholor was simply miscast in his previous role. Per PFF, he led all receivers in touchdowns out of the slot, and finished third in yards. Agholor also showed up at OTAs looking bigger and stronger than he had in previous years, or so it seemed. His eight broken tackles were a new personal best.
2018 cap hit: $714,000
One of two options to potentially replace Smith, Hollins turned on the burners for a 64-yard touchdown against Washington in Week 7. However, the fourth-round pick was largely used as a possession receiver, finishing his rookie season with 16 receptions for 226 yards.
2018 cap hit: $619,000
Gibson’s only real action on offense came in the meaningless Week 17 tilt with the Cowboys — two receptions, 11 yards. If his hands ever catch up to his feet, he could become a viable deep threat. Work ethic shouldn’t be an issue, as Gibson worked his way from a regular inactive at the beginning of his rookie season to a regular role on special teams.
2018 Cap Hit: $560,000
Signed to a futures contract in 2017, Williams quietly landed on injured reserve in May with a torn Achilles. He impressed in the previous year’s preseason with the Chargers, catching 10 passes for 132 yards in exhibition games.
2018 Cap Hit: $555,000
Johnson made the 53-man roster off of a strong training camp but lost his role on special teams midway through the season and was inactive the rest of the way. There will be plenty of competition for his roster spot. So far, Rashard Davis, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward and Marquess Wilson have been signed to futures contracts.