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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