One thing Howie Roseman learned from Andy Reid was to spend as much as possible on the two lines and as little as possible everywhere else.
A look at the Eagles’ 2021 salary cap breakdown shows that Roseman learned well.
According to figures on Spotrac, the Eagles are allocating about $82 million under the salary cap to their two lines this year, by far the highest figure in the NFL.
Considering they only have about $156 million available under the cap this year after all their dead money, that means they’re devoting more than half of their cap to the big guys up front.
The Eagles rank at or near the bottom in projected 2021 cap expenditures at almost every other position.
The Roseman way is to go either very expensive or very cheap everywhere. And the Eagles are either in the top eight or the bottom eight in every position group (other than special teams).
Let’s take a look at how much the Eagles are spending at each position this year and where they rank in the NFL, according to Spotrac’s research.
Quarterbacks: $3.8 million, 31st
When your quarterback room consists of a second-round pick on his rookie contract, a 36-year-old journeyman who hasn’t been a full-time starter in four years and a sixth-round pick on his rookie contract, your quarterback payroll is going to be low, and the only team spending less on their QBs this year is the Patriots ($2.8 million).
Now, if you want to include Carson Wentz’s dead money, this figure skyrockets to nearly $38 million, which would put them at the top of this list. But for the purposes of our survey — which is to look only at the cap figures on the current roster — the Eagles are spending very little money on their quarterbacks. And considering their dead cap situation, they don’t have a choice.
Running backs: $3.1 million, 31st
Since ill-advised contracts for DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles, Roseman has gone cheap at running back. Running backs have a short shelf life, and in an increasingly pass-oriented league, the notion of paying big money for running backs that are easily replaceable doesn’t make sense. But the Eagles this year have taken that to a new extreme, with the second-lowest RB payroll in the league. Only the Bears ($2.9 million) are allocating less cap space to running backs.
Wide receivers: $9.7 million, 25th
Another relatively budget skill group at a position where the Eagles drastically overpaid DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery a year ago. In 2020, the Eagles ranked fourth in WR payroll at a whopping $30 million, so this is what happens when you go young and don’t have any veterans. The bulk of the $9.7 million is for DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ first-round picks the last two years.
Tight ends: $15.2 million, 2nd
Zach Ertz has a cap figure of $12,721,500, which is more than 27 teams are spending overall on all their tight ends. That’s the second-highest cap figure on the roster, behind only Fletcher Cox’s $23.88 million. It’s a lot to spend on tight ends, but in Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have two players who when they’re healthy are top-10 tight ends in the NFL. The only tight ends signed for 2022? Tyree Jackson and Jack Stoll.
Offensive linemen: $34.2 million, 8th
The Eagles are spending a lot on the O-line, but when you have three multiple Pro Bowlers on long-term contracts, that’s going to happen. Still, to be able to pay Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce market value and still be at No. 8 is impressive. It doesn’t hurt that Jordan Mailata is on the final year of a rookie seventh-round deal. Washington (third at $39.7 million) and the Cowboys (12th at $30.1 million) are also pretty high up the list.
Defensive linemen: $47.7 million, 1st
Reid made defensive line a priority when he was here and that hasn’t changed. And not surprisingly the top two teams in the NFL in terms of D-line salary cap allocations in 2021 are the Eagles and Chiefs ($46.6 million). Three of the Eagles’ seven-biggest cap figures belong to defensive linemen — Cox’s $23.9 million is first, Brandon Graham’s $8.0 million is fourth and Javon Hargrave’s $5.8 million is seventh.
Having inexpensive groups at running back, wide receiver and linebacker gives Roseman the ability to pay the defensive linemen nearly $50 million.
Linebackers: $4.9 million, 32nd
Not only are the Eagles devoting the lowest amount of cap space in the league to their linebackers, only three teams are spending less than twice than the Eagles. This is a very clear Roseman philosophy, that as long as you have talent at D-line and in the secondary, you can get away with a budget linebacker corps. Eric Wilson ($1.4 million) has the largest cap hit in the position group, and everyone else is at $1 million or less. This is the Eagles’ second straight year in the No. 32 spot at linebacker and fourth straight year in the bottom 10.
Secondary: $16.9 million, 26th
Adding key pieces Steve Nelson and Anthony Harris on cheap one-year deals helped Roseman upgrade the secondary while still keeping costs down. Darius Slay’s $6.6 million figure accounts for about 40 percent of the Eagles’ entire secondary cap figure and slot corner Avonte Maddox is actually second at $2.4 million. Five of the nine defensive backs currently on the 53 have cap figures below $1 million. Pretty good value all around for a position the Eagles had to upgrade.
Specialists: $4 million, 19th
Jake Elliott’s big contract extension and $2.1 million cap hit accounts for about half of the special teams cap allocation. The only position that’s not either in the top eight or the bottom eight.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: