After slogging around the AFC for a few days we finally move onto the NFC where the Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly ended up with the worst record in the conference. I will say this for the Eagles. I think for years that they have been one of the best run franchises from a salary cap perspective. They are a tremendous organization in that respect, but I think in the last few years there has been a shift on the personnel side to be far more splashy. It has not hurt their cap one bit, but there is a reason why the “dream team” has been nothing but a nightmare.
Despite having three players making more than $11 million in cap dollars in 2013 the Eagles will find themselves with a comfortable $15 million or so in cap room before making any other moves. How is that possible? They carried over $23 million in unused cap space from 2012 due to their financial management skills. One of the most impressive moves they made last year was the dumping of Jason Babin which created just under $1.64 million in cap room last year to carry over. Babin’s salary was fully guaranteed but the Eagles felt that a team would pick up the remainder of that guarantee by claiming him off waivers. It was essentially what may have been one of the first baseball style “player for cash consideration” trades. I was stunned other teams didn’t follow the same plan after that.
The Eagles have the ability to get well below the salary cap and become major players in free agency if that is what they want to do. The Eagles allowed $3 million of Vick’s salary in 2013 to become fully guaranteed when they failed to release him this week. Had they released him they would have created an additional $12.9 million in cap room, but if they can find a trade partner he will free up that same amount. Its unlikely that he will remain on the Eagles, but his contract should contain offsets when he signs with another team so that $3 million guarantee will only be a temporary drain on the cap if they decide to release him in April.
The other big money player, Nnamdi Asomugha, is set to earn $15 million in 2013 with $4 million in fully guaranteed salary. Unlike Vick’s $3 million, Asomugha’s salary contains no offset so he will earn that money plus whatever he will make from another team if he is released. I tend to think that makes him more of a candidate for a paycut than an outright release. Asomugha has had a terrible two years in Philadelphia and has limited value because of that. I look at former Eagle Asante Samuel as a contract model for Asomugha.
Samuel signed a 3 year deal with a base value around $4.8 million a year, a great deal of which was incentivized. His 1st year cash takehome was $3 million, $1 million of which was dependent on playing in 16 games. That is the real market for Asomugha. Now the Eagles already owe him $4 million so you have to add the salary onto that, but if I am the Eagles my offer is to reduce his base salary from $15 million to $7 million or so if he wants to stay. They should be able to easily free up $7 or $8 million by redoing his contract.
Often injured LT Jason Peters, who played a total of zero games in 2012, could be on the chopping block. When Peters plays he is extremely talented but injuries have always been an issue with him. The Eagles basically used the uncapped season in 2010 to dump a huge chunk of change out of his contract and thus can create $10.458 million in cap room if released. He has a small roster bonus due early in the offseason, but at $250K it is doubtful that the due date makes a material impact on their decision making. Last year the Eagles restructured Peters contract to pay him $4 million while on an injured list rather than his normal base salary so I would think they are amenable to having him back but it will need to be at a much lower salary than the $10.4 million he is scheduled to earn in 2013. I would expect them to use a high priced incentive structure that will essentially give him a minimal cap charge in 2013 and offer the Eagles more injury protection.
The Eagles could also look to restructure LB DeMeco Ryans ($6.6 million base salary and no dead money on the books) if they wanted to create more cap room, but its really those big three that dictate the cap room the Eagles can create. My guess is they will end up with an additional $18 million or so pretty early in the free agency period.
Notable Free Agents
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is likely going to test free agency and see if he can get the 5 year $50 million dollar type deal most players at the position seem to be getting. The Egales have the room to lock him up and with Asomugha all but gone from the roster I cant see any reason why the Eagles would not look to lock DRC up.
Other than Rodgers-Cromartie the Eagles have not real notable free agents. King Dunlap is a reserve offensive linemen whose future could be tied to Peters staying or going, but Philadelphia should have the depth to let him walk. Long snapper Jon Dorenbos is the next most important free agent the Eagles have.
The Eagles hold the fourth pick in the upcoming draft which should cost them about $3.609 million in cap space. According to the Eagles website they own 8 picks in the draft so the following estimates are based on that report. Its unlikely that the Eagles rookie pool numbers will play a role in their overall cap planning in March.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.