Eagles' limited salary cap flexibility creates a challenging offseason

Eagles' limited salary cap flexibility creates a challenging offseason

The Eagles find themselves going into the offseason missing more than cornerbacks, wide receivers and running backs.

They’re also missing the salary cap flexibility the franchise has gotten used to since the early days of cap guru Joe Banner.

That means a tricky offseason ahead.

Lack of cap space means no free agency shopping spree, which considering this team’s recent record may be a good thing.

But it also means the Eagles are severely limited in how they can rebuild a roster that is sorely lacking at several positions and how quickly they can infuse talent on a roster that projects as the oldest in the NFL in 2017 based on players currently under contract.

They may have to release or try to restructure players they want to retain. They may be unable to bid for first-tier free agents. They may not be able to give extensions to players they want to keep.

So not only are the Eagles trying to rebuild after an eighth straight year without a playoff victory and a third straight year out of the postseason, they’re trying to do it with their hands essentially tied as well.

“Yeah, it's unusual, certainly since I've been here, to have a more challenging situation,” vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

“But part of our job in the front office is to look at this over a long period of time. So as we sit here today, it isn't like the first time that we are looking at that situation, and we'll do whatever's best for the football team.”

The NFL’s unadjusted cap is expected to increase about $10 million in 2017, from $155.3 million in 2016 to an estimated $164 million or $165 million.

Every team has an adjusted cap figure, which takes into account carry-over money. Generally speaking, money not spent under one year’s cap is added to a team’s cap figure the following year.

The Eagles’ adjusted cap figure in 2016 was $161,806,117, and their adjusted cap figure in 2017 projects to $165,096,643, according to Spotrac.com, which exhaustively tracks salary and contract information for all major sports.

According to Spotrac, the Eagles have the fourth-smallest amount of projected cap money this offseason at $12,440,825.

They have 49 players currently under contract for 2017 and 18 of them have a 2017 cap figure of at least $4 million.

They also have 21 players whose dead money will count against their 2017 cap. Those are players who were released with remaining pro-rated portions of their signing bonuses. Most of those dead money charges are minimal, but some are significant — namely, Sam Bradford ($5.5 million) and Eric Rowe ($904,496).

When a player’s cap figure is significantly higher than the amount of dead money releasing him would create, he becomes a candidate to be released in a cap move.

Here are some examples of players the Eagles could release to gain cap space:

Jason Peters ($9.2 million)

Connor Barwin ($7.75M)

Ryan Mathews ($4M)

Jason Kelce ($3.8M)

Leodis McKelvin ($3.2M)

Allen Barbre ($1.8M)

Ron Brooks ($1.6M)

“You’d like to have everyone back,” Roseman said. “As we look toward putting a plan in place, we've got to look at everyone on the team and figure out what the value is.

“Don't want to talk about anyone specifically out of respect for those guys about contract situations, but we've got to do whatever is in the best interests of this team going forward.”

The Eagles have to ask themselves this: Are we better off with Lane Johnson at left tackle, Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle and $9.2 million more cap money available or with Peters at left tackle and Johnson at right tackle?

Tough question.

The problem with releasing high-priced players is that you still have to replace them with cheaper players at the same position. And cheaper generally means not as talented, unless they’re draft picks. And the Eagles’ drafting has been poor to mediocre for years.

The best way to avoid overpaying free agents and getting into cap trouble is to draft well.

“No question,” Roseman said. “It's one of the things where you look back and when we made some decisions, we compromised on guys, as opposed to just sticking to the board and doing the right thing, not based on a need ... but based on who is the best player to be part of a core going forward. I sit here very confident that that will not happen again.”

One of the reasons the Eagles got themselves into this situation was the flurry of offseason re-signings last year.

In retrospect, did the Eagles need to sign Vinny Curry to a five-year, $47.5 million deal? Or Chase Daniel to a three-year, $21 million deal? Or Brent Celek to a three-year, $13 million deal? Even Fletcher Cox's six-year, $102.6 million deal raised some eyebrows.

Roseman, asked about last spring’s series of signings, said one of the benefits of adding a guy like Joe Douglas — the new vice president of player personnel — is that he brings a fresh set of eyes to the team’s roster where Roseman may have tended to overvalue those guys because he was familiar with them.

“Yes, I think there is that danger, and I think that's another one of the values that you have by bringing people outside this organization to look at your roster and to be able to give you different perspective, because we're human,” Roseman said.

“And there's no doubt that just like your kids, you want to see your own players succeed.
 I think we have that balance now to make sure that we have a good way of making these decisions and seeing it through a different lens.”

The bottom line is that the Eagles have some very difficult decisions to make in the coming months.

It’s hard enough to turn a losing team into a winner. Doing it without the benefit of cap flexibility is much tougher.

“Ideally in free agency, you're signing 26-, 27-year-old guys who can be part of the core,” Roseman said.

“Unfortunately, teams are doing a good job of locking those guys up, as well. 
So we have to try to balance that and bring in guys that fit what we're trying to do.

“(And) understand that there's no way to do everything in one offseason.”

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr and general manager Reggie McKenzie never doubted the two sides could reach a long-term contract agreement to keep the quarterback with the Raiders before Carr's self-imposed training camp deadline.

Carr was open about how much he wanted to spend his entire career with the organization and after a decade searching for a franchise quarterback the Raiders weren't about to let a player they drafted and developed leave just as he was becoming a star.

So the two sides were able to agree on a five-year, $125 million extension that makes Carr the NFL's richest player, at least temporarily, and won't hinder the team's ability to give its other young stars like AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and guard Gabe Jackson new contracts before they hit free agency.

"I think that both sides wanted it to get done," Carr said Friday. "It was two family members just figuring out how to get along, and we did. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not just to take every single dime that we could."

Carr will still get plenty. The $25 million per year in new money is the richest contract ever in the NFL, beating out the $24.8 million a year Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis. That could be surpassed with Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Kirk Cousins in line for new deals soon.

But Carr is not worried about that and the Raiders are pleased to have the face of their franchise under contract through 2022 as they prepare to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

"From the outset, both sides wanted the deal done, and I felt our guys did a great job getting together and hammering it out," McKenzie said. "We both wanted the same thing. That part was easy. We could tell that Derek wanted to be here. And we let him know, without a doubt, that we wanted him here" (see full story).

NFL: Prosecutors appeal Hernandez's voided murder conviction
BOSTON -- Massachusetts prosecutors on Friday appealed a court ruling that erased former NFL star Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction in the 2013 killing of a semi-professional football player.

Hernandez's conviction in the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd was voided after the former New England Patriots player killed himself in prison. Under a long-held Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III filed an appeal with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday. He called the rule "archaic" and said it "does not serve the public interest."

"A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life," Quinn said.

Hernandez's appellate attorneys, John Thompson and Linda Thompson, could not immediately be reached for comment. A message was left at their office in Springfield.

Hernandez took his own life in April days after he was acquitted in a separate, 2012 double slaying in Boston.

The legal principle known as abatement ab initio, or "from the beginning," holds that a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal in the criminal case can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

In their appeal Friday, prosecutors argue that some states have moved away from automatically erasing convictions when defendants die before appeals can be heard. More than a dozen states allow appeals to continue even after death and only dismiss convictions when the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted.

Prosecutors said courts should strike a balance between the rights of defendants and the rights of victims. Lloyd's mother fought back tears after a judge voided Hernandez's conviction in her son's killing.

Michael Vick's father arrested on drug-ring charges

Michael Vick's father arrested on drug-ring charges

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The father of former pro-football star Michael Vick has been arrested on charges of being involved in a drug ring.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that federal authorities arrested 55-year-old Michael Dwayne Boddie on Thursday. A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in Newport News alleges that he and 11 others conspired to sell heroin.

Boddie is being held without bond until a Monday detention hearing. He was assigned a court-appointed attorney.

Lawrence Woodward, an attorney who's represented both men over the years, did not respond to requests for comment. The federal prosecutor's office declined to comment on the case beyond the charges.

Vick rose to stardom with the Atlanta Falcons before serving prison time for running a dogfighting operation. He played for the Eagles, Jets and Steelers before announcing his retirement in February.