Who Will the Eagles Cut To Save Money?

The five players most likely to be cap casualties.

Connor Barwin. (Jeff Fusco)

Connor Barwin. (Jeff Fusco)

With the Eagles’ 2016 season in the rearview mirror, the focus will quickly shift ahead to the their offseason and how they plan to address their holes. But before the Birds can spend their resources on a running back, wide receiver, defensive end or cornerback, the team will have to make some cuts to give Howie Roseman more money to play with.

Roseman is one of the most active general managers in the NFL, but the Eagles currently have one of their worst 2017 cap situations in the league. According to Over The Cap, Philadelphia has around $9.4 million in projected 2017 cap space, which is 29th in the NFL.

Here are five players who may be cap casualties, ranked in order of likelihood (all figures are via Over The Cap):

1. Ryan Mathews

2017 Cap HitSavings If CutDead Money
$5 million$4 million$1 million

It already appeared unlikely the Eagles would bring Mathews back before his neck injury, but now it’d almost be shocking. While Mathews is a talented 29-year-old who has averaged 4.6 yards per carry as an Eagle, he’s too unreliable. The 2010 first-round draft pick played only 25 percent of the offense’s snaps this season and has only played in more than 14 regular season games once in his seven-year career. Mathews has also fumbled the ball three times in each of the last two seasons, and he’s simply not worth his 11th-ranked 2017 cap hit among running backs. The Eagles like 2016 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood, but expect Roseman to add another quality running back to the roster during the offseason.

2. Connor Barwin

2017 Cap HitSavings If CutDead Money
$8.35 million$7.75 million$600,000

It’s very difficult to see Barwin back on his current deal. Perhaps he could stay by restructuring his contract, but the Eagles didn’t get enough from him as a starter, regardless of his big cap number. The 30-year-old finished the season with just .5 fewer sacks than Brandon Graham, but he pressured the quarterback far less. Per Pro Football Focus’ Ryan Smith, Barwin tallied just 29 pressures on 430 pass-rushing snaps. For comparison’s sake: Graham recorded 82 pressures on 464 pass-rushing snaps, while Vinny Curry totaled 40 pressures on 284 pass-rushing snaps. Barwin looks to be a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and I expect the Eagles to get rid of him as they try to bolster their pass-rushing from the edge.

3. Leodis McKelvin

2017 Cap HitSavings If CutDead Money
$3.45 million $3.2 million$250,000

When I asked the 31-year-old after the Eagles’ finale against the Cowboys about whether he believes he’ll be back next season, his answer was simple: Yeah, that’s my contract says. But unfortunately for McKelvin, Roseman would be smart to save a few million bucks by parting ways with the cornerback. McKelvin hasn’t been good this year, and although the Eagles don’t have any good options on the outside — Jalen Mills’ ceiling may be as a good slot corner — the 2008 first-round pick isn’t worth the money. Per PFF’s Smith, McKelvin ranks last — out of 118 NFL cornerbacks — in yards allowed per snap in coverage (2.28). He surrendered more than 800 receiving yards this season and seven passing touchdowns, despite playing just 58 percent of the defense’s snaps in 2016.

4. Jason Kelce

2017 Cap HitSavings If CutDead Money
$6.2 million$3.8 million$2.4 million

Kelce had a rough start to the season, even admitting himself that he wasn’t good at all in the first three games of the year. But he got much better as the season progressed and became a valuable partner to Carson Wentz when it came to getting the offense in and out of calls at the line of scrimmage. However, Kelce could be gone not necessarily because of his own play, but because Isaac Seumalo looked good in his limited playing time this year. The 2016 third-round pick looks like he’s capable of being a reliable starter, and he’d be a much cheaper option than Kelce.

5. Mychal Kendricks

2017 Cap HitSavings If CutDead Money
*$6.6 million*$5 million*$1.6 million
*Whereas all of the numbers in the other tables are reflective of cuts before June 1, these are reflective of Kendricks being cut on or after June 1.

Kendricks is in an interesting situation because the Eagles would only save $1.8 million by cutting him before June 1. However, if the Birds cut Kendricks on or after June 1, they’d save $5 million against the 2017 cap. Although it doesn’t happen very often, Roseman could designate Kendricks to be a June 1 cut prior to June 1 on the first day of the league year (which is when free agency starts). According to Over The Cap: “The designated player becomes a free agent at that point in time but his cap charge remains in full until June 2 at which point it acts just like a June 1 cut. This can be used on up to two players each year.” The 2012 second-round pick only played 27 percent of the defense’s snaps this season, so you’d think the Eagles would take advantage of any way to get out of Kendricks’ big contract that they can.