Just taking a gander at EaglesCap.com, which is an excellent site/research tool that projects the franchise's cap situation with a fair degree of accuracy, the Birds have slightly less than $10 million to work with as free agency opens. (The number is probably significantly less after today's Todd Herremans extension.)
Now that's after DeSean Jackson signs his franchise tender for $9.5 million, as is expected soon. However, the team presumably would like to re-sign Evan Mathis, along with a couple of their own guys, and the fans wouldn't mind if management picked up a middle linebacker along the way, maybe even one or two role players. Cash also must be set aside for incoming rookies... oh, and LeSean McCoy might be interested in a slice of the pie as well.
So it seems there may not be enough of less than $10 million to go 'round. The Eagles have a few of areas where they can cut costs though, and the contract that looms largest on the books right now is that of one Asante Samuel.
Samuel has been on the trading block since last summer when the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a huge deal. However, there wasn't as much urgency to move Samuel last year because is salary was still manageable.
Samuel's base salary balloons to $9.4 million this season though, then $11.4 in 2013, the final year of the deal. Basically, if the Eagles can move him, they would have twice as much cap room.
And while he continues to play at a high level, the truth is the defense has outgrown its need for Samuel. That's not to say they have somebody who can replace his knack for baiting opposing quarterbacks into interceptions, but Nnamdi Asomugha will be under wraps for awhile, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a starter on just about any other club.
The Eagles also have prospects in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes, as well as proven nickel corner Joselio Hanson.
In fact, while losing a player with Samuel's ability doesn't improve their overall talent by any stretch, at least the coaches wouldn't be required to invent ways to get all three Pro-Bowl corners on the field. DRC fared much better on the outside than in the slot, and all of the experimentation with Asomugha exposed him. Both players would be more comfortable at their traditional positions.
It might be cliche, but this is addition by subtraction 101 -- especially if it frees up money for the front office to improve the team elsewhere.
The only potential hang-up is another team may not be so eager to take on Samuel's salary either. That probably causes a dip in his value, but $9.4 million is not an outrageous sum to pay a premier corner, the type who quarterbacks don't even want to look at. Plus, it helps that hos salaries aren't guaranteed, so if things don't work out, his new team is off the hook in one year.
Ask any fan if they would rather the Eagles hold on to Asante Samuel, or create an additional $10 million in cap space and receive a mid-round draft pick in exchange, and most would tell you it's a no-brainer -- but how quickly they move to part with Samuel could dictate how aggressively the Birds can play this free agent period.