Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Cap After Cox
The Eagles actually picked up about $1.5 million in cap relief for this season after inking Fletcher Cox to a mega-deal and now have a touch over $8 million to play with, according to former agent and contracts/salary cap expert Joel Corry. A nice perk for the here and now. It’s down the line where the obstacles lie.
Given the $280 million spending spree they have been on since the start of the year — including the recent Cox contract that includes $63 million worth of guarantees — it may not come as a big surprise to hear that the Eagles have more cap commitments than any other team in the NFL for 2017.
The number, Corry says, currently sits at just shy of $178 million. OvertheCap sees it the same way. Even when you factor in an 8-10 percent increase in the league salary cap (it’s currently a touch over $155 million) and some carryover money, the Eagles are projected to be north of the ceiling. (OTC has them at plus-$11 million at the moment.)
“They’re going to have to shed people next year,” Corry said during a conversation with Birds 24/7.
“You’re going to see a different composition of the roster. I don’t see Jason Peters surviving past this year. He’s going to have to have a great year to survive. Connor Barwin already doesn’t seem like a fit with the change of scheme. Ryan Mathews continues not to be able to stay healthy. And [Sam] Bradford, you assume, is going to be traded or cut. So if you cut those four guys it’s going to create a ton of cap room. You can get $7.75 from Barwin, $9.2 from Peters, if Mathews is injury-prone, that’s $4 million. And if you had to cut Bradford as opposed to trading him, that’s $13.5 million.”
If the Eagles trade Bradford, the cap relief jumps to $17.5 million. There is a potential savings of between $34.5 million and $38.5 million, then, if the team decides to part with the names Corry mentioned. They’re some pretty big names, which helps drive home the level of risk involved in the game of resource allocation and the importance of getting it right. But it shows that even though the dollars spent this offseason are staggering, there are ways to make it work.
“It’s so jarring because they’re doing [the deals] all at once but it’s a sound strategy. It’s the approach every team that is going to be fiscally responsible with the cap should do,” said Corry.
“Nothing’s changed. They’re still smart with the cap. Anytime you can get your core players locked up sooner rather than later is beneficial provided they don’t get hurt. Look at J.J. Watt in Houston now: he’s locked up through the 2021 season and I’m sure he’s looking at these guys — because Fletcher Cox makes more than he does now — and is going, ‘Something’s not right about this.’ And there will be deals that hit the marketplace [that will trump this one], like whenever Muhammad Wilkerson gets paid, it’s going to be more than Fletcher Cox; you’ve gotta assume that whenever Kawann Short signs a deal it’s going to be in the same neighborhood; then guys like Khalil Mack are going to blow this deal out of the water.”
Still, spending $17 million per season and what should be at least $55 million in guarantees (based on structure) on a defensive tackle — even an elite one — is not necessarily ideal when you’re talking about constructing a roster. But it’s financially feasible in this case given the Eagles’ quarterback situation, Corry notes.
“You can’t do a deal with Carson Wentz until after the 2018 season at the earliest [because of the CBA],” he said, “and you have the fifth-year option so you may not do it until after 2019. You can afford to carry Cox at a pretty high cap number because you’re not going to have a quarterback at a high cap number.”
There is clear risk involved when you’re dealing with projections and this kind of money, but Corry is of the belief that the Eagles are going down the right path.
“Being proactive is always sound. I think they did what they needed to do,” he said.
“If you’ve identified the right players, you’re going to save money in the long run.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“You can’t let a guy like that, a cornerstone guy, get away, and that’s the market rate, you’ve got to give him big money.” What They’re Saying.
“The Eagles went into the offseason with two philosophies top of mind: take care of your own and invest in the quarterback position.” The Eagles finished the first part with the signing of Fletcher Cox.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Zach Berman from the Inquirer has three thoughts on the Cox extension.
This is not to belittle what Cox received, but to point out that the top of NFL payrolls are usually fluid – especially with a rising salary cap and fixed rookie salaries. Two years from now, the deal will be trumped by a handful of new contracts. That’s the way the NFL works. The specific figures of the deal matter to the Eagles’ salary cap staff and Cox’s accountant. To Eagles’ fans, the most important part of Monday’s contract is that the team locked up its best player through the 2022 season.
As is the case with most NFL contracts, Cox might never see the 2022 part of his deal. But he is 25. If the Eagles have him through 2020, that’s through his age 29 season. What be a fair market value for Cox’s age 25-29 seasons?
The notion that the team overpaid for Cox only holds up if Cox doesn’t perform. But the terms of the deal were expected for a player of Cox’s age, talent, and production. And when looking at what the contracts were for Buffalo’s Marcell Dareus and Miami’s Ndamukong Suh after playing in Jim Schwartz’s defense, consider the alternative if the Eagles waited.
In case you missed it, an unbelievable story from Jeffrey Laughhead on The700Level.com about Walter Thurmond and his softball-playing alter ego, Dick Mahoney.
I play in a softball league called Center City Softball on a team sponsored by the Bishop’s Collar bar in Fairmount. Back before the season started, one of my teammates Greg was sending vague emails on our softball thread about how he’s ‘bringing some kid named ‘Mahoney’ onto the team’, that ‘Mahoney is ready to go if we need him,’ and ‘Do you want me to bring Mahoney on board?’
Flash-forward to April, I meet Mahoney. Now, Greg grew up in Delco and is a hockey player, and so when I first met *Dick* Mahoney, I was taken aback because I figured Mahoney would be a hockey-playing Delco. No. Mahoney was more like Eazy-E circa 1988: black dude with a jheri curl hairstyle, LA Dodgers shirt and hat. “I’m Dick Mahoney,” he said when I shook his hand. Nice guy with an odd name.
Adam Schefter on Cox’s deal, Wentz’s timeline.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.