Explaining Eagles’ salary cap situation for the 2021 season

Explaining Eagles’ salary cap situation for the 2021 season

By this point you’ve probably heard about the salary cap hell the Eagles will be entering in the 2021 season, but you probably haven’t heard a ton about the specifics. 

Let’s get into some of those. 

Because they’re not going to be in a great situation next year, but it’s not the end of the world either. 

Thanks to expected revenue losses in the 2020 season, there was a real fear about how much the 2021 league-wide salary cap might drop. But the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a $175 million salary floor for next season. It could be higher … but that’s the floor. It’s nice to have a floor for planning purposes but if that happens it will be a significant drop from the cap of $198.2 million this season. 

And the Eagles were already facing a tricky situation in 2021 based on how much money they have tied up in contracts for next season. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Eagles have $263,193,357 in top-51 cap room tied up for 2021 but that still included Marquise Goodwin’s incorrect $7 million cap figure, which is inaccurate. After Goodwin opted out of this season, he’ll have a cap hit of $1.35 million next season.

So the Eagles will have around $257.59 million tied up next season. 

But the most recent salary cap numbers have the Eagles with $24.67 million in cap space for 2020. That doesn’t include the Goodwin news or Jason Peters’ new contract. But this year’s cap space will get carried over. So figure on $20-$25 million getting carried into next year. (We’ll use a figure of $23 million to be in the middle). 

So if the league-wide cap gets set at $175 million, by my calculations, the Eagles are on schedule to be around $59.59 million over the cap in 2021. OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald a while back came up with an estimated figure of $71.54 million over (but that probably still includes Goodwin’s $7 million from his old contract). 

Either way, that’s not great. 

The good news is that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and VP of football administration Jake Rosenberg are very good at this. And they’ll figure out a way to be cap compliant. They have no choice. So it’s not like the 2021 cap won’t be a problem; it is. But it’s a solvable problem. 

For years the Eagles have used a kick-the-can method with the salary cap, presuming that the cap would continue to rise year over year and it has. It took a global pandemic to stop that trend. But back-loading contracts has created a situation where the Eagles have a pretty top-heavy roster. They have 12 players with cap hits in the double digits next season: 

Carson Wentz: $34,673,536
Fletcher Cox: $22,447,000
Alshon Jeffery: $18,486,500
Brandon Graham: $17,928,000
Lane Johnson: $16,501,500
Darius Slay: $15,750,000
Javon Hargrave: $15,200,000
Brandon Brooks: $14,544,235
Malik Jackson: $13,611,000
Zach Ertz: $12,471,500
DeSean Jackson: $10,934,000
Derek Barnett: $10,051,000

Some of that obviously won’t fly. Here are a few simple ways for the Eagles to create a bunch of cap room in a hurry: 

• That $10 million figure for Barnett is on his fifth-year option. That’s a non-guaranteed contract that the Eagles aren’t tied to unless he gets hurt. That contract is guaranteed for injury only. If they feel like he’s worth $10 million in 2021 that would be great news because that would mean he had a great 2020 season. But it’s hard to imagine the Eagles paying Barnett on his fifth-year the way they paid Nelson Agholor in 2019. So the Eagles could release Barnett to save that $10 million hit or they could sign him to an extension to lessen the hit in 2021. 

• The wide receiver room needs to get younger. Cutting Alshon Jeffery (~$8 million or ~$13 million with a post-June 1 designation) and DeSean Jackson (~$5 million) would create another $13-18 million in cap space. 

• As much as everyone loves Brandon Graham, a cap hit of $17 million is just too big. Graham has a base salary of $13 million, so they can cut him with a post-June 1 designation to save $13 million in cap space (there are dummy years on the end of this contract, a trick the Eagles like to use). Or they can try to figure out another way to restructure. 

• With Javon Hargrave under contract, Malik Jackson could be a potential post-June 1 cut to save another $10 million in cap space. 

• There are also going to be opportunities to extend some players to minimize their cap hits in the short-term with signing bonuses. By giving a player a signing bonus, they get their money up front and that bonus money is spread out over the length of the contract for cap purposes. Zach Ertz will be in the final year of his contract in 2021 so even a big extension with a signing bonus would create some cap room in 2021. Fletcher Cox is signed through 2022 so he could be due for an extension. And there’s even some room with Carson Wentz’s contact to lower his base salary of $15 million. 

• And while the Eagles would love for Jason Kelce to continue playing forever, there’s a very real chance that 2020 could be his final season. We’re at that point in his career. So his entire cap hit of over $8 million might not be on the books either. 

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Doug Pederson back coaching after clearing COVID-19 protocols

Doug Pederson back coaching after clearing COVID-19 protocols

Some good news from the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday morning: Doug Pederson is back to work. 

Pederson, 52, had been away from the team facility since early August when he tested positive for COVID-19. He informed his team on the evening of Aug. 2 and had been out since then. In order to return, Pederson had to pass the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. 

While Pederson ran virtual meetings from his home, assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley took over all in-person head coaching responsibilities while Pederson was quarantined. 

Before Pederson even tested positive, he spoke about the need for the Eagles to have contingency plans for all players and coaches. The Eagles had to use their contingency plan for him pretty early. 

But Pederson noted he was lucky in a way to contract the virus when he did. In fact, the timing worked out great. The Eagles enter the Gradual Ramp Up Period of training camp on Wednesday, which means Pederson will be able to coach the first practice of the summer in person. 

Despite his positive test, Pederson remained confident about a 2020 season. 

“My confidence hasn’t changed at all. I’m extremely optimistic,” Pederson said on Aug. 3. “I feel like we’re going to play. I’m confident that we’re going to play. 

“It’s unfortunate. Like I told my team last night, this virus, it holds no prejudices, right? It doesn’t matter. It can affect any one of us. I’m sure many of you have had family members or loved ones or people you know who have been affected by this virus. That part of it doesn’t matter. It’s just the fact that we’ve got to abide by the protocols that are in place. They’re in place for a reason, our safety. Our building is a great place to be. It is a safe place to be for our players and our coaches and all who are involved. 

“I’m looking forward. It’s full-steam ahead for me. Obviously, I’m itching to get back in the building at some point and be around our players and get these guys ready for a season.”

While there’s no list for coaches, the Eagles have placed three players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Of those three, who were placed on the list in late July, Lane Johnson and Nathan Gerry have been cleared to return to action. Only Jordan Mailata remains on the list. 

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Jason Kelce, Jason Peters already blending their 25 years of NFL experience

Jason Kelce, Jason Peters already blending their 25 years of NFL experience

Jason Kelce and Jason Peters have been teammates on the Eagles’ offensive line for nearly a decade, but 2020 is a new experience. 

Now, they’re lining up next to each other. 

Sure, it’s a bit of an adjustment as two of the longest-tenured Eagles learn how to play next to each other while Peters also learns how to play an entirely new position. 

But if anyone can figure it out, it’s gotta be these two right? 

Between them, Peters and Kelce have 25 years in the NFL, making them the most experienced center-right guard combo in the entire league and it’s not close. The next closest duo belongs to the Steelers, who have Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro (17 years). 

“We’re talking more than we ever have, really, to iron out all these details,” Kelce said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. 

I’d watch that TV show. Absolutely. 

Think about the high-level discussions going on right now between two of the smartest and most cerebral offensive linemen in the entire NFL. These are two guys who could probably coach an OL room tomorrow. And they’ve been busy exchanging ideas and techniques. And even though Peters has never played the guard position, he’s still making suggestions and bringing a unique perspective to the Eagles’ interior OL as the two learn to play next to each other. 

Obviously, with JP being new to the position, we’re obviously fast tracking a lot of that,” Kelce said. “We’re trying to iron out how he’s going to step, where he’s going to go, against what kind of defense we’re going to go with, maybe a different aiming point against maybe a different defense where we go a little wider. These are discussions that we’re going to continue to have. 

“It’s been awesome, honestly, to work with Jason Peters. He’s got so much knowledge from playing the game for so long and the ability to try to take all of that knowledge he has at left tackle and now apply it to a new position. He’s not really starting from ground zero. He’s not starting with a lack of reference. He understands the game, he understands angles, he understands footwork. Being able to bounce things off and really ask him questions. 

“Maybe there’s some things at right guard and center that he’s going to be learning throughout his whole thing but he’s already brought up a few things on ways to maybe do something better. Or ‘why aren’t we doing it this way?’ To be able to talk to a guy who has the amount of experience he does and really have those types of conversations, it’s really fun for an older guy.

It’s not a quick process, learning how to play next to another guy. In fact, Kelce said that he still has those same conversations with Isaac Seumalo and Brandon Brooks. So to expect he and Peters to figure all this out in one training camp just isn’t realistic. But they hope to at least get to a point by Sept. 13 where they have a base from which to build. 

Kelce on Tuesday said he had been hoping the Eagles were going to bring back Peters even before Brooks went down with an Achilles tear. Of course that didn’t happen. The Eagles are committed to playing Andre Dillard at left tackle and didn’t bring back Peters until they needed to replace Brooks. 

Brooks, by the way, said last week that he’ll be happy to offer Peters any help he can. … He just doesn’t think Peters will really need it. 

If Peters does need help, there are plenty of people around to lean on. Peters is playing between two Pro Bowlers in Kelce and Lane Johnson. And Kelce said Seumalo has also been a big resource for Peters. 

And Peters is still a big resource for this entire O-line. 

“Yeah, it’s definitely going to make me better in some ways,” Kelce said. “He’s got so much experience, so much knowledge from playing the game. … This is a great learning experience for both of us. I’m going to try to impart as much wisdom as I have playing center. I think all three of us talking about things, how things happen on the interior. 

“I’m excited to see how all three of us grow and get better and how we go about having success.” 

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