One of the most interesting parts of the offseason is watching Eagles general manager Howie Roseman figure out a way to work around the rules of the NFL salary cap to build a roster of 53 players. Now that the Super Bowl is over, teams will begin to make moves to clear salary cap space to prepare for free agency.
The Eagles are going to have to make a few moves to get under the cap.
As of now, their exact salary cap space might vary depending on the source, but according to Overthecap.com, my personal favorite site for NFL salary cap information, the Eagles are about $16 million over the cap for 2019. This is technically the “worst” cap situation in the NFL if you go strictly on how much space a team has, but there are a couple caveats to consider for the Eagles’ situation.
Nick Foles is on the books for a $21.6 million cap hit for 2019, which won’t be a reality for the 2019 season. The Eagles picked up Foles’s option, but he already opted out by paying $2 million back, therefore making him a free agent and eliminating his cap charge from the books. The tricky part is that the Eagles are also expected to use the franchise tag on Foles in an attempt to trade him. As soon as he signs the franchise tender, it immediately becomes fully guaranteed and will be higher than the $21.6 million value on his current contract.
The team can place the franchise tag on Foles beginning February 19 and has until March 5, but the team of course has to wait until Foles actually signs the tender before it counts against the salary cap. The Eagles sort of will be in a holding pattern until they trade Foles, if they’re able to do so at all. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t get a deal done, but teams might be wary to trade for a quarterback at a salary of around $25 million, which is probably what his franchise tag value will be. I doubt Roseman would tag Foles unless he had at least the framework for a deal or two in place, though.
Roseman has shown plenty of times that he’s able to wiggle around the confines of the cap to make the team better. However, this wiggle room will be limited as long as Foles is expected to take up over $20 million in cap space because they’ll need to have that space ready for when he signs the franchise tag. The Eagles will want to move him as fast as possible.
Rodney McLeod’s contract restructuring has been updated, which ultimately moved his cap hit from $9.9 million to $4.8 million in 2019, according to Overthecap. There had previously been conflicting reports between Ian Rapoport and Field Yates about the updated terms of the deal. The restructuring also turns the final year of his deal, 2020, into a voidable year by the team if they choose to do so. It has a cap hit of $3.16 million, which might be desirable if he plays well next year.
Additionally, Timmy Jernigan has a cap hit of $13 million, but the team reworked his deal after he got hurt last offseason, eliminating all future guarantees in his deal beyond the $2 million prorated bonus for each of the next three seasons. Basically, the Eagles could designate him a post-June 1 cut and save $11 million. I could see this happening, or at least another restructuring of the contract to take a pay cut if he wants to stay. Jernigan played well when he was healthy after missing 13 games, so I assume the team would like to have him back if it’s financially possible.
And of course, there will probably be a couple players on the team who restructure their contracts to convert base salary to a bonus and push cap hits into future years. Roseman has been using this method for the last couple of years. Later I will outline in more detail some of the players who could be candidates for this, but names that come to mind are Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks and Malcolm Jenkins.
Depending on how much the Eagles want to push salary cap hits into future years, though, could determine what free agents they’ll want to retain, such as Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, and Jordan Hicks. I’ll also discuss this in a later post.
The moral of the story? Roseman will get it done, but it’ll take some maneuvering. Figuring out the Foles situation is the most important step.