The Eagles had a big setback on the season when Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks was likely lost for the season to an Achilles tear. Brooks had signed an extension last November and this will be his second injury since signing, as Brooks also suffered a dislocated shoulder in the final game of the 2019 season. Of course whenever anyone goes down following a contract extension all kinds of things are written so I wanted to offer some thoughts on the subject.
The Eagles extended Brooks last year to a pretty massive contract that averaged $14.05 million per year that guaranteed him $32.7 million. The numbers are a bit deceiving on this one though as the extension was more or less a way to relieve salary cap pressure wrapped up in an extension.
Last season the Eagles were one of the teams that were proactive in addressing the possibility of the CBA not being extended reworking multiple contracts in the last two months of the year. Brooks at the time had the balance of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season under contract, but at cap figures in the mid $11 million range. The team had already tacked on two void years which housed about $3.2 million in sunk costs. To get any cap relief at all the Eagles would need to extend him rather than adding another void year to the deal since a void after the 2020 season but before the start of the 2021 league year would in practice be the same as having all those cap charges count in 2020.
The actual extension is more or less a tradeoff of cap relief for some added injury protection. The Eagles were already committed to paying Brooks $10.794 million between the balance of the 2019 season and the 2020 season. Both were effectively guaranteed since they were not cutting him which makes the true guarantee on the contract $22.1 million. In return the Eagles saved $6.067 million in cap room.
The increase in cash payments in 2019 and 2020 totaled just $3 million so the actual payout for the cap relief was not much. Brooks salary in 2021 is injury protected and not fully guaranteed until the start of the 2021 free agency period. The actual cash salary for the additional year is $13.5 million (plus escalators) which is certainly in line with the market. The actual bump of the contract value into the $14 million per year range doesn’t occur until 2024 when the salary jumps from the mid $13 millions per year to $15.5 million. 2024 is more or less the same as a dummy year in a contract since we would be talking about a 35 year old player at that point in time.
The cost to cut Brooks on the cap next year would be $12.25 million, a savings of $2.3 million, assuming he can pass a physical by the start of the year. While that is not the outcome anyone wants it’s just to point out that it would not be the catastrophe that some may be making this out to be. There would also be room to negotiate a salary down. It’s a net cap loss of $3 million from the 2019 to 2021 period compared to the scenario of not extending at all. The point is the Eagles do have options provided Brooks can rehab from the second tear. If he can not it is a different story but generally players do recover from this and he has about 9 months before any real protection kicks in on the contract for 2021. That should be enough time to get back if surgery and rehab go well at the start.
As for replacements the Eagles do have cap room in part because of moves like the Brooks extension with somewhere in the ballpark of $25 million in cap space before rookies are factored in. The biggest name available is Larry Warford. Warford could be seeking a multi year contract and that may not be what the Eagles would want to do since it is likely that Brooks would fit into their plans next year. Other options would be Ronald Leary, Josh Kline, and Mike Person who would all be lower cost serviceable players. The other option is to bring back tackle Jason Peters and see what they can do with him. He had already indicated last year he would be willing to switch to guard if necessary. Depending on how short training camps will be they may also be willing to wait to see if any players shake loose during cuts. Normally you would want to have your offensive line working together if possible but if the summer is cut short in any way that might not be possible anyway. In any event they have the ability to add any player if needed. They probably didnt have as extensive a set of options if they didnt extend Brooks in the first place.
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.