Now that Golden Tate is an Eagle, the biggest question is will he remain an Eagle.
The Eagles have a main rotation of four healthy wide receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Tate, with Mike Wallace languishing on injured reserve. And then some young, unproven kids like Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter.
Of the five key guys, only Jeffery is guaranteed to be here in 2019, which means the Eagles will have the opportunity to shape the wide receiver corps any way they want this offseason without having to worry about dead money under the cap.
Wallace is earning just over $1.9 million this year. He didn’t catch a pass before getting hurt in Week 2, and he turns 33 during the summer. Hard to imagine he’ll be back.
Matthews is earning minimum wage — $790,000 pro-rated over 15 weeks, which is $697,058. He’ll get more than minimum next year, but he’s a role player. A good one but a role player. Considering his connection on and off the field with Carson Wentz and the way he’s played, I’d expect him back as a No. 3 or No. 4 wide out. Cheap.
Which leaves Tate and Agholor in the market for long-term deals and not a whole lot of money to pay them.
The Eagles last spring excercised Agholor’s fifth-year option from his rookie deal, which would pay him somewhere between $9 and $9 ½ million next year. But that doesn’t become guaranteed until the first day of the 2019 league year, which will be March 14. It would be unusual to cut a player after exercising his option year, but can be done with no cap hit.
If it means cutting Agholor to keep Tate, would you do it?
Tate is finishing a five-year, $31 million deal, that makes him the 38th-highest-paid receiver in the league. He’s outplayed that with four straight 90-catch seasons and is pace for a fifth.
I love Agholor. Love everything about him. I love the mental toughness he showed powering through his nightmarish 2016 season and love the way he showed up in the Super Bowl.
But Tate over the last four years has nearly doubled Agholor’s production. Let’s take a look:
Games Rec. Yards TDs
Agholor 52 162 1,788 12
Tate 55 317 3,410 18
Even since the start of last year, since Agholor’s renaissance, the numbers still favor Tate, just not by as much:
Games Rec. Yards TDs
Agholor 24 103 1,140 9
Tate 23 136 1,520 8
If you can only keep one and you can afford him, you keep Tate.
But can you keep everybody?
Tate will probably be seeking a deal in the $8 million range. The Eagles already have Jeffery under contract with cap numbers of $14.73 million next year and $15.98 million in 2020 and 2021.
Can they keep Jeffery, Tate and Agholor? That’s something around $32 million just on three wide receivers. Only one NFL team spent that much on receivers this year.
But there are ways.
The Eagles can clear out a ton of cap space by cutting ties with Nick Foles and Rodney McLeod and restructuring a few deals. But they have other needs. Other areas where they’ll need to spend. And limited resources under what will likely be about a $190 million cap.
Then there’s the small detail of a quarterback who’s going to get a deal north of $100 million soon.
The Eagles could sign Agholor to a long-term deal and spread out the cap hit, but I’m not sure they’re ready to make a long-term commitment to him. If they were, would they have dealt for Tate?
Then again, Agholor is only 25 and headed into his fifth season. When was Tate’s first big year? When he was 25 and in his fifth season. I still think Nelly’s going to be a star. I hope it’s here.
The Eagles have exclusive negotiating rights with Tate until free agency starts, and you know Howie is going to be up nights figuring this out.
And when you step away and forget the numbers for a second, there’s this: Unless Tate struggles these next two months, I can’t imagine Roseman letting him walk.
He’s a top-10 guy over the past five years, and the Eagles just don’t let that type of guy slip through their fingers.
Howie will find a way. He always does.
Eagles WRs 2018 Contracts
Salary Cap Figure
Mike Wallace: $915,000/$4,000,000
Alshon Jeffery: $1,000,000/$3,975,000
Nelson Agholor: $1,713,732/$2,990,374
**Markus Wheaton: —/$920,000
Jordan Matthews: $790,000/$697,000
Shelton Gibson: $555,000/$626,192
Mack Hollins: $555,000/$543,797
DeAndre Carter: $460,765/$460,765
**Kamar Aiken : —/$259,412
*Dorren Miller: $129,200/$129,200
*Braxton Miller: $121,600/$121,600
**Bryce Treggs: — /$63,115
**Rashard Davis: —/$51, 980
**Greg Ward: —/$21,564
**Dominque Williams: —/$8,440
**Marquess Wilson: —/$6,880
* : On practice squad
** : Not on roster.
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