Eagles to face major 2015 salary cap decisions

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Eagles to face major 2015 salary cap decisions

Whether or not DeSean Jackson returns to the Eagles, one thing is certain.

The Eagles are going to have to make several difficult and most likely unpopular decisions in the next year to get under the 2015 salary cap.

Forget this year for a minute.

The Eagles are already in cap trouble next year.

The good news is that the cap is expected to increase by $7 million to $10 million next year, thanks to revenue from the new TV deal.

Although the actual figure won’t be announced until next winter, people who track this stuff believe the unadjusted cap will increase from $133 million in 2014 to about $142 million in 2015.

The Eagles currently have 51 players under contract in 2015, and their combined cap figure is $144,766,514.

Several members of that 2012 draft class will be eligible for contract extensions after the season, and there is no way the Eagles would risk losing Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox through free agency after the 2015 season, so re-signing those four after 2014 will be imperative for the Eagles next winter.

Foles, if he comes anywhere close to his 2013 performance, will demand a massive contract. Boykin, if he repeats his six-interception breakout 2013 season, will also be due a commanding deal. Cox and Kendricks are fundamental building blocks of the Eagles’ young defense, and they will be due sizable, long-term, multi-million dollar deals as well.

So you see the predicament the Eagles are in. They’re already over the projected cap figure, they still have to re-sign at least four key players, and they’ll certainly need money available to go after some free agents a year from now and sign their 2015 draft picks.

Something has to give.

A look at the Eagles’ 2015 contracts shows that 13 players make up nearly half of that $144.77 million figure.

Those 13 players have a combined 2015 cap hit of $68,025,140, or 47 percent of the Eagles’ current 2015 total cap figure.

They are:

• $10.25 million … LeSean McCoy
• $10.025 million … Trent Cole
• $10 million … DeSean Jackson
• $7.55 million … Jason Peters
• $6.9 million … DeMeco Ryans
• $6.5 million … Cary Williams
• $5.5 million … Connor Barwin
• $4.8 million … Brent Celek
• $4 million … James Casey
• $4 million … Riley Cooper
• $4 million … Todd Herremans
• $4 million … Malcolm Jenkins

Safe to say that anybody on that list, other than McCoy and Peters, could become a cap casualty after this upcoming season.

The Eagles still have plenty of room under the 2014 cap, and they’ll probably carry over $10 million to $12 million in unused cap space to 2015, which would increase their adjusted cap figure to somewhere in the $155 million range.

But they’ll still have some decisions to make about the veterans listed above to get under the cap.

No team in the NFL currently has the 2015 salary cap commitments the Eagles do. In fact, no team is within $10 million of the Eagles.

Here are the top five current 2015 cap responsibilities in the NFL:

• $144,766,514 … Eagles
• $131,941,818 … Cardinals
• $129,786,728 … Dolphins
• $125,454,961 … Chiefs
• $123,585,579 … Saints

Any player the Eagles release or trade after the 2014 season would give the Eagles dead money in the cap if he got a signing bonus that is still being pro-rated. To determine the amount of dead money, you simply add the remaining pro-rated amounts. The longer the player is still under contract and the larger his initial signing bonus, the higher that number will be.

How much dead money would the Eagles incur releasing some of their higher-priced veterans after the upcoming season? Remember, the cap savings is a player’s projected cap number minus dead money:

• $4 million … DeSean Jackson
• $3.2 million … Riley Cooper
• $2.6125 million … DeMeco Ryans
• $2 million … Evan Mathis
• $1.8 million … Connor Barwin
• $1.7075 million … Brandon Graham
• $1.666668 million … Cary Williams
• $1.6 million … Trent Cole
• $2.4 million … Todd Herremans
• $0 … Brent Celek
• $0 … James Casey

So you see whose jobs are in jeopardy. But it’s always risky unloading a player with a high cap figure because now you have to replace him.

If the Eagles cut ties with, say, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, Cary Williams, Brent Celek, Todd Herremans and James Casey in January, they would have a net gain of $37,970,832 in cap space, which is a lot.

But that raises a whole new set of challenges.

Casey didn’t contribute last year, but Cole has been the Eagles’ best pass rusher for the past decade, Ryans was the Eagles’ defensive MVP a year ago, Williams is one of the team’s emotional leaders and a physical corner, Celek has been one of the NFC’s most consistent receiving tight ends since 2007, and Herremans has been a steady starter since late in 2005.

Which leads us to why it’s so critical that the Eagles put together a third consecutive outstanding draft.

It’s easy to get rid of expensive players. It’s a lot harder to replace them with younger, cheaper versions who are just as talented.

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

It almost seems futile to do a prospect watch piece after the Eagles moved to 3-0 by demolishing a Super Bowl contender.

I know you've all bought your tickets to Houston already, but even after the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, they'll still need to draft a player or two come April.

Here's a look at six offensive prospects that could help the Eagles defend their title:

Dalvin Cook, Florida State, junior, RB, (5-11/213)
Cook finally had a breakout game this weekend with 267 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in Florida State's 55-35 win over South Florida. Defenses have really been keying in on Cook with a redshirt freshman quarterback under center for the Seminoles. Besides LSU's Leonard Fournette, Cook may be the best running back prospect in the draft.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, junior, RB, (6-4/240)
Hurd had a solid weekend, running for 95 yards on 26 carries in Tennessee's first win over Florida in 12 years. Hurd is by far the tallest running back I've ever profiled. He's built like a wide receiver. Considering his size, he does a good job of not running high and he's quicker than his size would lead you to believe. He's able to turn the corner and he's tough to tackle low. He's a physical runner but it doesn't translate well into his pass protection.

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, junior, OT, (6-7/311)
Johnson was a disaster in the first half of Florida State's opener against Ole Miss, but he's recovered nicely. He's excellent in the run game, helping pave the way for Cook's huge game against USF. His struggles in pass protection are from technical issues. He needs to get his hands on opponents quicker. When he does that, he can swallow defensive lineman with his massive frame and long arms.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, senior, OT, (6-7/310)
The Philly native and Penn Charter grad is one of the top three tackles in the draft. A former basketball player, McGlinchey — who people say is closer to 6-foot-9 — moves like a tight end. He dominated in Notre Dame's loss to Duke. Against Michigan State, he got fooled on a couple stunts, but looked strong overall. How cool of a story would it be for a Philly kid to get drafted by the Eagles in Philadelphia? That scenario is far from impossible. Fun fact: McGlinchey is the cousin of Atlanta Falcons quarterback and fellow Penn Charter grad Matt Ryan.

James Washington, Oklahoma State, junior, WR, (6-1/201)
Washington had six catches for 89 yards in a loss to Baylor, but he popped up on my radar after a nine-catch, 296-yard (no, that's not a typo) performance against Pitt a couple weeks back. The opposite of Hurd, Washington is a receiver built like a running back, generously listed at 6-foot-1. He's explosive and quick out of his breaks. He also does well on 50-50 balls, outmuscling smaller defensive backs. I'd like to see a little more consistency from him, though. His 40 time will be an interesting measuring stick when the combine comes around.

James Quick, Louisville, senior, WR, (6-1/180)
Against Marshall last weekend, Quick caught his second pass of over 70 yards this season and finished with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. When your quarterback is the best and most exciting player in college football, it's easy to get overshadowed. But Quick has been the favorite target of Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson, leading Louisville in catches (16), yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (three). He's quick in and out of his breaks and is a decent route runner with decent hands. Quick is another player we'll learn more about through the combine process when he's not catching balls from Jackson.

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Pinpoint touch passes show Carson Wentz has a killer changeup, too

Pinpoint touch passes show Carson Wentz has a killer changeup, too

Now the kid has a changeup, too.

A couple of the most impressive passes Carson Wentz threw Sunday weren’t fired to the receiver. They didn’t show off Wentz’s rocket-launcher right arm.

They were touch passes. Lobs. Looping things of beauty that floated high into the air above the coverage and settled softly into the hands of a receiver on the run.

Wentz, the Eagles’ 23-year-old wunderkind of a quarterback, displayed remarkable touch on a couple of his biggest passes in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Steelers at the Linc on Sunday.

It’s just the latest evolution in the development of the remarkable young Eagles quarterback.

He doesn’t just fire it. He floats it, too.

“It is a challenging thing,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Because in practice, if you’re not working on those types of throws, it just doesn't happen.

“It’s sort of a math problem in your head as a quarterback because you have a receiver that's running away from you at full speed and you are trying to put a touch pass on a 20-, 25-yard throw and so you have to judge it just right.

“That's a lot harder to do than just zipping it right at your target.”

On the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles, Wentz stood in the pocket, looked to his left and started scrambling to the right when he spotted Sproles racing down the right sideline with a step on Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.

In full stride, running to his right, Wentz threw across his body and lobbed the ball from the Eagles’ 25-yard line to a point near the 50-yard line. Sproles caught the ball without breaking stride and did the rest, eventually scoring a TD that turned a 10-point lead into a 17-point lead early in the third quarter.

In the third quarter, Wentz connected similarly with tight end Brent Celek on a 24-yard gain, this time lobbing the ball above linebacker Vince Williams and in front of safety Sean Davis for a first down inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard line to set up another touchdown.

After three games, Wentz is 3-0 with five touchdown passes, no interceptions, 65 percent completions and a 103.7 passer rating. He's the first quarterback in NFL history to open his career with three wins without an interception.

A lot of young quarterbacks want to fire every ball as hard as possible. But Wentz’s ability to change up and lob the football to his receivers makes him even more dangerous. Kind of like a young fastball pitcher who suddenly shows up in spring training with a killer changeup.

“It can be hard because you are so geared on throwing everything fast and hard,” Pederson said. “That throw to Celek was a thing of beauty. The week before, the Monday night (game), to Jordan Matthews, the little touch pass was great. The little floater to Darren for the long touchdown run was another one that was a touch pass with accuracy.

“Those are hard throws to make. Having been in that position before, those are hard. The guy is running away from you and you are trying to put air on a throw but still judge the distance and the speed of the receiver. Those are tough things to do. He really has a good feel for that and it just makes him an all-around solid quarterback.

“That’s just who he is and (shows) his ability to make really all the throws.”

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