The Eagles are one of the NFL’s best teams at managing the salary cap. They’re almost never pushed to the limit and always have cap flexibility to be selectively aggressive in free agency.
One way they’ve maintained cap success over the years is by getting veterans to agree to pay cuts. It works for both parties. When a player accepts a pay cut, his roster spot is preserved and he doesn’t have to worry about making the team. On the flip side, the money saved through pay cuts enables the team to hand out contract extensions to young, promising talents without pushing their salary cap to the limit.
Here’s a list of Eagles veterans who could be asked to reduce their salaries to ensure their place on the 2014 roster:
OLB/DE Trent Cole
2014 base salary: $5M
Comment: Five million, up from $3.5M last year, isn’t an expensive price tag for a starting rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense. There’s just no guarantee Cole is still the starter next season, especially if the Eagles beef up on natural 3-4 outside linebackers in their offseason moves. Cole adapted nicely to the position after spending his entire career at defensive end, and he finished strong, piling up eight sacks in his last eight games after going his first eight without one. The team is still on the books for around $5 million in pro-rated signing bonus from Cole’s 2012 contract extension, so it’s unlikely he’ll become a cap casualty.
ILB DeMeco Ryans
2014 base salary: $6.8M
Comment: Ryans is worth every penny his contract calls for, especially since he had the most sacks (four) and interceptions (two) of his career in 2013 at $6.6 million. But he’ll be 30 next season and his price tag is a little high. He’s the NFL’s 10th-highest paid inside linebacker. The Texans were forced to absorb the rest of his pro-rated signing bonus when they dealt Ryans to the Eagles before the 2012 season, so Ryans could be cut without any dead money against the Eagles' cap.
RG Todd Herremans
2014 base salary: $3M
Comment: The Eagles would probably like to retain all five starting offensive linemen who helped the team set records for points scored and total yards and plowed the way for LeSean McCoy to win the NFL’s rushing title, but Herremans struggles in pass protection and he’ll be 32 next year. The pro-rated signing bonus from his 2012 extension has the Eagles on the hook for $1.2 million for the next three seasons against the cap, so expect him to return for at least one more year.
TE Brent Celek
2014 base salary: $4M
Comment: Celek’s contract is pricey for a No. 2 tight end, unless Chip Kelly is changing the offense to a heavy two-tight end attack. His signing bonus came off the books this past season, when he made $3.256 million in base salary, so the Eagles could cut him without any dead money. That’s highly unlikely.
2014 base salary: $2.9M
Comment: Fletcher had a really good season in 2013, when he made $750,000 in base salary and $1.6 million in bonus ($2.35 million total), so he deserves the $550,000 raise. He could probably net more than $3 million on the open market, so why would he agree to a pay cut? He wouldn’t. An extension, however, would lower his 2014 base.