Eagles Wake-Up Call: Potential Cap Casualties

Several Eagles who could be playing their final seasons in Philadelphia this year.

Sam Bradford and Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

Sam Bradford and Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

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Looking at the Eagles’ 2017 salary cap, they are last in the league with only $5 million available. Is this fallout from the Kelly era, or are these Roseman contracts? What should we expect to see next year, cuts (Peters, Barwin, etc) or restructures (Bradford, etc)? — Shawn

This is why I think the phrase “contract year” is funny.

You often hear it when a player is on the last year of his contract and he’s set to be a free agent, but the reality of the NFL is many players are in “contract years,” even if they have multiple seasons left on their deal. That’s because they can be cut to save money if they don’t appear to be worth their future cap commitment, which is why I think Shawn’s question is intriguing to consider. Even though many Eagles still have multiple years left on their contracts, several of them could be playing for their futures in Philadelphia this year as they try to avoid being cap casualties in 2017.

Over the Cap’s Bryce Johnston wrote an interesting article last week about salary situations around the league, and he noted how the Eagles have the most salary cap commitments of any team in the NFL. They rank 9th in the NFL in that category for 2017, although they may have more flexibility than it seems.

Johnston explained: “The Eagles lead the league in total 2017 commitments by a wide margin, but a significant chunk of this commitment comes in the form of guaranteed base salary, which means that it can be traded to other teams.”

Of course, another way to get out of future cap commitments is by cutting players, which is what Shawn asked about. Here are the five Eagles who have the biggest 2017 cap hits — Chase Daniel is No. 6 — per Spotrac:

Player2017 Cap Hit2017 Dead Cap
Sam Bradford$22,500,000$9,500,000
Jason Peters$11,200,000$2,000,000
Lane Johnson$10,000,000$15,750,000
Vinny Curry$9,000,000$15,000,000
Connor Barwin$8,350,000$600,000

Lane Johnson and Vinny Curry both recently signed new deals, so it’s very unlikely they’ll be cut or traded. (Side note: I would say it’s impossible, but somehow Howie moved the Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray contracts). The other three, however, are interesting cases for different reasons.

We’ve discussed before how Sam Bradford’s deal is essentially a one-year contract, because he’ll likely be cut after 2016 or have his deal renegotiated. Either way, it would be stunning if the Eagles actually absorbed that $22,500,000 cap hit in 2017. If things don’t work out for Bradford, they would save $13,000,000 against the 2017 cap by releasing him. Whether he’s cut or has his deal renegotiated is almost a coin toss in my mind — it really does just depend on if he plays like a franchise quarterback in 2016.

If the Eagles let Jason Peters go after 2016, they would save $9,200,000. Peters is a future Hall of Famer, a fan favorite, and still a productive left tackle. However, if he is unable to stay healthy and only plays 66 percent of the offense’s snaps — as he did last season — again, there’s no reason to keep his contract on the books. Peters feels more like a renegotiation candidate than a potential cut, but if he isn’t willing to take a significant pay cut amid possible injury concerns, that may change.

As for Connor Barwin, the Eagles could save $7,750,000 against the 2017 cap by cutting him. He feels more like a trade candidate — if the team doesn’t want him — than someone who would be cut or have his deal renegotiated.

Here are a few more contract situations that caught my eye:

Player2017 Cap Hit2017 Dead Cap
Brandon Graham$7,500,000$2,000,000
Jason Kelce$6,200,000$2,400,000
Ryan Mathews$5,000,000$1,000,000

Brandon Graham is interesting not because I expect him to be cut (I don’t), but because the Eagles would save $5,500,000 in 2017 and they’re paying a trio of defensive ends a lot of money. It’s unclear how Graham, Barwin and Curry will produce in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3, but it’s hard to imagine all three guys remaining in Philadelphia for long.

I also don’t expect Jason Kelce to be cut next season, but he has a savings number worth noting — $3.8 million — and that may come up if he doesn’t bounce back in 2016. I think Ryan Mathews is the most likely of these three to be cut — or traded — in 2017 because of his injury history, and it’s fair to expect him to take a step back after averaging more than five yards per carry last season. However, if he stays healthy and can handle a larger workload this year, he’ll be worth keeping around.


Tim details yesterday’s Eagles road trip to visit Jared Goff.

“There’s a time and a place for (tempo) and I look forward to utilizing that.” Doug Pederson explains several of his philosophies.

Catch up with all of the latest college prospects to visit the Eagles.


Jimmy Kempski takes a peak at the history of teams trading up in the draft for a quarterback, concluding that — despite the Robert Griffin III trade — the price tag for an Eagles move up may not be so exorbitant.

A decent comparison from the Eagles’ perspective, sitting at eighth overall might be the Jets’ move to trade up from 17 to 5 to select Mark Sanchez. In that deal, all they had to give up was a second-round pick and three non-impact players.

If the Titans, for example, who are sitting at the first overall pick don’t see a huge difference between the top positional player in this draft and who they might get at eighth overall, it might make sense for them to move back at a cost that would wouldn’t require Redskins-level stupidity. Of course, that may also require a lack of extreme interest in Wentz or Jared Goff from other teams drafting in the top 10.

Speaking of Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson’s visit with Jared Goff, Tommy Lawlor thinks the Eagles would be smart to go after the quarterback.

Goff is my favorite quarterback in the 2016 draft. Goff had a terrific junior season and will likely be the first or second quarterback taken in the draft. Goff is a gifted pocket passer with a strong arm. He is an accurate thrower. While he did play in a spread offense, Goff made plenty of deep and intermediate throws. One of the things that impressed me most is that Goff was excellent at situational football. On third-and-short, Cal would run certain plays designed to get a specific receiver open quickly. Goff was very good at getting the ball out with accuracy and touch. Goff showed good pocket presence, which I think is crucial for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL. He’s not afraid to get hit, but he also can side-step rushers with small movements in the pocket.

The Eagles re-signed Sam Bradford and then added Chase Daniel in free agency. The team doesn’t need a quarterback right now, but the draft is more about the future than the present. When you have a high pick and a quarterback is available, you should take him. Back in 2004, the Chargers had Drew Brees and spent a top-five pick on a quarterback. When they lost Brees, Philip Rivers took over and has provided stability for more than a decade. That’s incredibly valuable. The Packers chose Aaron Rodgers when Brett Favre was still firmly their starter and playing at a high level. They didn’t spend a top 10 pick, but it was a first-round selection.


We get our Draft Daily series started with a high-profile guy who has been linked to the Eagles recently.

Asher Dark contributed to this post.