Welcome to Salary Cap City
Welcome to Salary Cap City, the sports town where we don’t win a heck of a lot, but by gosh, we have an awful lot of money stored up for future use.
The Eagles joined the party (started by the Sixers and Sudden Sam Hinkie) this week when they dropped a series of bombs on their fan base. Boom went Cary Williams and his $8 million salary. Bang went Trent Cole and his $11 million paycheck. And then the carnage culminated with the elimination of LeSean McCoy and his $12 salary cap hit in a trade to Buffalo that brought the Birds linebacker Kiko Alonso.
The sentimentality for McCoy leaving dissipated in about 10 hours, which was surprising since the man known as Shady leaves as the team’s all-time rushing leader. Was it the 20-cent tip McCoy left at PYT that hardened this fan base? Nah. Probably the fan base is buoyed by the promise of things to come. See, with the Eagles now some $50 million under the salary cap, they can now spend those dollars on better defensive players as they use their draft picks to trade up in the NFL draft to land quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Eagles have put themselves into a position to add FOUR premier free agents, while also signing erstwhile wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. On defense, they can grab all of cornerback Byron Maxwell, safety Devin McCourty, and outside linebacker Jason Worilds – three tremendous upgrades to what they don’t have now. And the Eagles would still have leftover cap money to grab a running back to replace McCoy – say free agent Mark Ingram of the Saints, or free agent C.J. Spiller, who McCoy just knocked out of a job in Buffalo.
Know this though; loading up on a multitude of free agents doesn’t necessary guarantee calm waters. A large part of team success is team chemistry. These new players will have to be acclimated first into Chip Kelly’s unorthodox system on the field and in practice. The Eagles run a lot in practice. Some guys, especially star players who were purchased as mercenaries and therefore labeled as “special” don’t exactly relish being ground out with cardiovascular drills every day, including the Saturday before a game.
Besides that, free agents create a subconscious jealousy amongst the already-branded Eagles. Guys have sweat blood for years in Eagle green, and now here comes a crop of players, from somewhere else, who are making a bigger Eagle paycheck than the already branded. That engenders a bit of resentment towards the front office – as it did a few years ago when the Birds assembled the so-called “Dream Team.” And it cranks up the salary demands of the promising Eagles players who are soon coming up on new contracts.
In addition, it exhausts your salary cap. In the old days of Joe Banner, the Eagles were lauded for their managerial strategy of using their remaining cap dollars to re-sign those promising younger players, earlier in their career, to longer term contracts – essentially getting them at a cheaper price. After Kelly’s haul, the Eagles might only have enough left over for a Shady McCoy tip.
But those are worries down the road. For the time being, the Eagles fan base is mollified. They’re going to get their beloved defensive upgrade AND perhaps move up in the draft to get the franchise quarterback Mariota. That’s reason for huge optimism with Philadelphia professional football. Mariota is the only entity that can breathe Super Bowl life into this franchise. He is the perfect alignment of the sports planets.
I leave you with this: on Wednesday, I received an e-mail from a guy who told me he had a source within the Eagles organization (a coach he said). The e-mailer told me he was informed that the Eagles are working on a deal to land the No. 1 pick in the draft from Tampa Bay. The deal would be this: the Eagles would get Tampa’s No. 1 draft pick, plus receiver Mike Evans, in exchange for the Eagles first, second and third round draft picks this year, their first, second and third picks next year, and their first and second draft picks the following year, PLUS quarterback Nick Foles.
Who knows whether this e-mailer has a source? Since blogs have now taken over the world, and a blog most certainly would have printed that, I figured, why shouldn’t I? And if that deal happens, remember, you heard it here first. Take that Crossing Broad.