Led by Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, the Philadelphia Eagles have a vision. This vision is to build depth through free agency, and stash star-caliber players in the draft. While this strategy has been ineffective thus far, especially when you look at the James Casey’s and Marcus Smith’s of the world, the Eagles still have plenty of cap room to make a splash this offseason.
Sportrac.com registers the Eagles with $22.5 million in cap space heading into free agency, meaning they have plenty of money to spend. That being said, the Eagles do have two major free agents that must be re-signed in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and defensive end Cedric Thornton. Inking these two crucial building blocks would likely tie up Philadelphia’s financial freedom to go after big-name free agents. To accomplish all of the team’s goals of improvement this offseason, other roster moves may be both imminent and necessary prior to the start of free agency.
While we saw the release of James Casey earlier in February, the Eagles could decide to further add to their cap space with additional releases. DeMeco Ryans is slated to make $6,9 million next season, and would cost the team nothing in dead cap to release him. As effective as Ryans has been in Philadelphia, an Achillies tendon rupture at the age of 30 is incredibly difficult to come back from.
Other players Philadelphia may decide to part ways with include Trent Cole and Cary Williams. Releasing these two veterans would save the team about $18 million in cap room.
Philadelphia’s current cap space might stand at just over $22 million, but it has a whole lot of flexibility here. In reality, the team could very well have about $47 million in cap room if it cuts the aforementioned players. That was made possible by how the Eagles structured free-agent contracts in the past.
Jeremy Maclin will likely be the fourth highest-paid receiver on the market behind Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb and Dez Bryant. In addition to this, Brandon Marshall might hit the open market. That could very well limit the cash Maclin receives in free agency. Regardless, the Eagles fully intend to retain him.
Maclin’s value to the Eagles is similar to how the New York Giants thought of Victor Cruz prior to his injury, and the advent of Odell Beckam Jr. into the spectrum of the wide receiving elite. Thus, expect Maclin’s price tag to come similar to that of Cruz’s next season. That’s an annual average of nearly $9 million.
Now take into account Cedric Thornton, who is deserving of a payday as well. Thornton is the second-most valuable defensive tackle on the team behind Fletcher Cox, and will be paid accordingly. Thornton will likely cost the team in the neighborhood of $3 million, potentially making him one of the top 25 highest-paid defensive tackles based on average salary.
While Byron Maxwell and Darrell Revis are the hot names on the free agent market at cornerback this year, do not expect the Eagles to entertain offers for either player.
Rather, a tandem of San Francisco 49ers corners seem more tantalizing to the financially aware. Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver are budding young corners with starting experience. They should also be had at a bargain price, especially in comparison to the deals Maxwell and Revis are slated to receive.
Finally we come to wide receiver—a market overflowing with talent heading into the free agency period. Assuming Maclin has already been re-signed, the Eagles would still be in need of one more quality target or risk Riley Cooper’s major involvement in the offense yet again. Cecil Shorts III and Kenny Britt are mid-level talents that would thrive in a Kelly offense. Britt shined in 2014 with Austin Davis at the helm for the St. Louis Rams, while Shorts III has led the Jacksonville Jaguars in receptions in each of the past two seasons. Britt is a tremendous deep threat, while Shorts III is an above-average possession receiver, making both viable targets for the Eagles in free agency. Even better for Philadelphia would be the price tag accompanying these little-known value players.
What does this mean for the Eagles? The team can still hit the free-agent market hard even if it re-signs both Maclin and Thornton. A lot of that will depend on what it does with some high-priced veterans of its own, but the flexibility is surely there.
Philadelphia fans should salivate over the upcoming free-agent period, as it should be fun to watch. With anywhere from $22 million to $47 million in cap space, expect the Eagles to be major players when free agency kicks off on March 10th.
Photo: USA Today