We’ll keep you up to date on team needs, all things salary cap and free agency, and the draft. Today, we are focusing on the team’s cap space and what they can do with it.
***The too-long-didn’t-read of this article can be found at the bottom, under the headline, “The Cap, and the Recap.” You’re welcome.***
In just a few days, the Eagles will be allowed to openly contact players’ agents to discuss free agency, in hopes of signing new stars. On Wednesday the 13th at 4p.m., free agency will officially begin, and players will start signing contracts.
What will the Eagles do? What do they need to do? What can they do? To get the answers, we’ll have to re-evaluate the team’s monetary situation.
In Review: Team Needs
The other day we discussed the Eagles’ team needs. We determined that the Eagles need to fill holes in the roster at running back, wide receiver, defensive tackle, defensive end, and possibly linebacker and offensive line.
That is, in fact, pretty much all of the defensive positions minus the secondary. On offense it’s just a matter of choosing particular weapons for particular positions, and adding depth at the O-line in case the front office lacks confidence in some of their depth players now.
For the sake of this article, we will focus on the biggest needs of the team, which are the running back, wide receiver, and defensive line. We will also discuss the linebackers, but that’s really something that will be addressed in our upcoming article about the draft.
The Eagles’ Cap Situation
At the start of the offseason, nobody would’ve expected the Eagles to be names in free agency. Howie started the offseason with practically no cap space, but has made his way into freeing a lot of money.
Nick Foles leaving the team frees cap space. Not picking up Tim Jernigan’s 2019 option freed cap space. Restructuring/re-signing Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, and Isaac Seumalo freed up a lot of cap space, and trading Michael Bennett will lead to freeing up even more cap space.
On the flip side, re-signing Brandon Graham will take away money from the Eagles’ cap, and the signing of upcoming draft picks will also lead to less cap space.
Based on OverTheCap.com, one can plug in some numbers and calculate that, with Michael Bennett’s trading and Brandon Graham’s extension, the Birds should have just under $18 million in cap space. Add in approximately $7 million in rookie contracts, and the Eagles will have about $11 million in cap space as of March 10 at 8:00 pm.
What can be done with $11 million in cap space? Well a few things. Howie Roseman has always been good at manipulating the cap, and there are still a few players who could leave the team to free space.
For example, if Nelson Agholor is traded, as Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice expects he may be, Howie could free up another $9 million in cap space.
If Jason Peters were to leave the team, another $8 million could be freed up. If Chris Long leaves the team, that’s another $4 million.
If all of these hypotheticals were to actually happen, Howie would have almost $40 million in cap space. After rookie contracts that turns into just under $32 million.
For now, we are going to look at this free agency under the assumption that the Eagles will have the $11 million in cap space.
Now, onto free agency…
Economics 101: The Eagles’ Running Back Question
Welcome students to Professor Underdog’s Econimics 101: A Guide to the Running Back position in this year’s free agency.
Let me point out that I never took an economics class, seeing as I got my degree in English, and Philosophy & Religion.
However, in 3rd grade my math teacher played a song about supply and demand that I will never forget, and I don’t know why. The song said, “When supply is high, and demand is low, prices go down down down.” It continued, saying “When demand is high, but supply is low, prices go up up up.”
Which brings us to our first lesson of today.
Le’Veon Bell- Supply is low, but demand is (mostly) high
The Eagles are not going to sign Le’Veon Bell. If they do, I’ll write an entire article about how bad of a decision it was, especially given the price of the talent available elsewhere.
There is only one Le’Veon Bell, and he is the best RB on the market, production-wise. Talent-wise, he is still probably the best guy in free agency. Therefore, the “supply” of Le’Veon Bell is very low.
Teams have been looking to snag Bell off the Steelers ever since it became obvious that he was unhappy with his contract there. Therefore, the “demand” for Bell is high. Now, if a player is unhappy with how much he is getting paid, how can you make him happy/want to play for you?
You pay him. Like the song says, the price will go up. Le’Veon Bell is going to get a nice paycheck from a team that has the cap space to do so (the Jets). The Eagles, running with our $11 million number, does not have that cap space to spend on a 27 year-old running back who wants a lot of money.
Tevin Coleman/Other RBs- Supply is high, and demand is low
“It’s a passing league,” says any cliché NFL commentator on Sunday afternoons. And they’re right. There are a few running backs in the NFL who are the driving force of an offense, guys like Zeke Elliott, Todd Gurley (maybe not anymore), Leonard Fournette (two years ago), and Saquon Barkley. David Johnson could also be included here.
Most NFL teams use the RB-by-committee approach to the RB position these days. This literally means that each team is using 2 or 3 RBs consistently. Therefore, supply is very high, and demand really isn’t that high either.
There also really isn’t much of a difference between most RBs in the NFL, statistics-wise. Zeke Elliott’s and Saquon Barkley’s aside, most RBs produce very similar results on the ground. Behold:
|Le’Veon Bell (2017)||321||1291||4.0||9|
|James Conner (2018)||215||973||4.5||12|
Add in the fact that Conner split carries with Jaylen Samuels, and Le’Veon Bell’s production as a “Bell Cow” RB doesn’t really seem as important when Conner and Samuels can produce just as well.
So! My point is, the Eagles have already shown they see the value in a RB-by-committee approach. Last season carries were split between Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams. Some of this was because of injury, but Sproles, Smallwood, and Adams were splitting the carries to end the season.
A guy like Tevin Coleman– who has been linked to the Eagles, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network– makes a lot of sense as an addition to the Eagles’ RB-by-committee backfield.
Coleman has receiving and running ability, and doesn’t have a whole lot of tread on the tires as a 25 year-old running back who was the backup to Devonta Freeman.
It is anticipated that Coleman will cost something around $4-5 million in cap to whatever team he goes to. If that team is the Eagles, then that leaves them with about $6-7 million left in cap space.
Good RBs in free agency this year are: Tevin Coleman, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray, and TJ Yeldon, as well as many, many less-good-but-still-solid rotation guys.
The Eagles would also likely add a player in the draft.
Speedy Wide Receiver- mostly a draft option
As we mentioned in our day 2 combine results article, there are a bunch of fast and talented receivers in the draft.
Most free agent WRs this offseason are going to be expensive. If anyone, the Eagles may be able to sign a guy like Phillip Dorsett for cheap, but the expectation is that they will pursue fast WRs in the draft. Let’s just say the Eagles manage to sign Dorsett for about $1 million on a prove-it deal, as he has only 1237 receiving yards in his 4 year career.
Other speedy WRs in free agency this offseason include: John Brown, Donte Moncrief, Breshad Perriman, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Tavon Austin (who is expected to re-sign with the Cowboys).
Defensive End- the most expensive part of the market
I flirted with the idea that the Eagles could sign Trey Flowers. I have since walked back on that idea now that I’ve begun to crunch some numbers.
Going on with our supply/demand/3rd grade math lesson point, good pass-rushers are fairly low in supply, but they are probably the second-most demanded position in the NFL, behind QBs.
It always feels like there are so many sack artists in the NFL, but that’s likely in comparison to elite offensive linemen (which have become few and far between).
The other problem with the low supply of pass-rushers is that when a team has one, they usually don’t give them up easily. Think DeMarcus Lawrence, who has had two elite seasons and has been franchise-tagged twice in his 5 seasons.
Supply, though it feels high, is actually quite low, but demand is extremely high, so prices are going to be very high. Any team trying to sign the pass-rushers on the market are going to get into some very pricey bidding wars.
I think the Eagles will look to the draft to get developmental 4-3 pass-rushers, as they will be too expensive in free agency.
Good DEs in free agency: Ezekiel Ansah, Trey Flowers, Dante Fowler Jr., and a few mid-tier guys who could be argued could be in this conversation (Shane Ray, Preston Smith).
Defensive Tackles- there’s like one realistic guy
I’ll start by listing the available DTs in free agency: there is Christian Covington, Mario Edwards, Malik Jackson, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Ndamukung Suh, and a guy named Darius Philon.
A lot of these guys are kinda old–in football years, of course. They’re also mostly going to be pretty expensive. Richardson and Suh could sign deals in the 10-millions. Suh last year signed a one-year deal for $14 million. Richardson made $8 million last year, and arguably could get a better deal this offseason. I wouldn’t expect the Eagles to pursue these guys.
Enter Darius Philon, who I had never heard of until Jimmy Kempski answered a question about him, uh…today actually. If you haven’t noticed, I follow Kempski very closely, as I see him as the most reliable and consistent Eagles reporter there is.
Philon is an up-and-coming DT who is 25 and has shown improvement in his career.
I couldn’t find a highlight reel, so here’s a low-quality video of his draft day. Notice that the commentator says that Philon would be good in a rotation, which is reminiscent of the Eagles’ “fastball” philosophy:
Philon’s market could be hotter than expected, but I still see the guy signing a deal worth about $3-4 million, as he still isn’t a truly proven talent in the NFL. He’s the only free agent DT I can see the Eagles pursuing. I used to think they Eagles would attack Margus Hunt in free agency, but he recently re-signed with the Colts.
Linebacker- a day 3 draft guy
The Eagles are not going to spend a lot of money on a LB in free agency, as it is not a high-priority position of theirs.
Good LBs in free agency: Kwon Alexander, CJ Mosley, and Preston Brown.
The Cap, and the Recap
Based on our idea that the Eagles will have about $11 million to spend this free agency (after allotting $7 million for rookie contracts), we at Underdog expect the Birds to use that $11 million like this:
- Sign Tevin Coleman to a deal worth, we’ll say, $4.5 million
- Sign Phillip Dorsett to a deal worth $1 million
- Sign Darius Philon to a deal worth about $3.5 million
This leaves about $2 million worth of wiggle-room to make up for all the numbers I certainly can’t predict with 100% accuracy, as well as the old-guy veterans that Howie Roseman always signs to minimum contracts.
Holy crap, that’s 2000 words on the Eagles’ free agency. Thank you SO MUCH if you read it all.
Also, I tried to find that supply and demand song on YouTube, but I couldn’t find the one from my 3rd grade teacher.