I hope Howie Roseman enjoyed the parade because he has a tall task in front of him for this off-season. The General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles faces a tight cap situation that places the team $6 million over the cap (spotrac.com) and tough decisions to be made about key championship pieces. Oh, and he has the Super Bowl MVP as a backup quarterback. Here is how I would do it if I were in charge of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles (still not tired of saying it).
Priority number one on Roseman’s list should be taking care of his own players. All reports are pointing towards Brandon Graham wanting to re-structure his deal. He deserves it after the past two seasons that he has had as one of the best pass rushers in the league and is going to get paid like it. In order to do that, there will need to be a conversation had with Jason Peters. Peters currently accounts for the fifth highest cap hit on the team. It is the twilight of his career, and although he is still a great player, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has proven to be a pretty good left tackle, and a starter for the future. Realistically, this should be a sign to Peters that he is gonna have to take a little less in his base salary to lower his cap hit, or he may end up getting released.
The Eagles currently have 13 unrestricted free agents, namely Beau Allen, Darren Sproles, Nigel Bradham, Trey Burton, Patrick Robinson, and LeGarrette Blount. Roseman should make it a priority to keep Blount, Allen, and Bradham. The best part of this roster is their line play (on both sides) so keeping that rotation intact on both sides is the motivation for keeping Allen. Bradham helps with linebacker depth, and Blount is an absolute force in the postseason. I think the trio of him, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement is lethal and must be kept together. The name that the Eagles should not bring back is Darren Sproles. With the emergence of Clement in the passing game this season, I do not think Sproles adds anything to this offense, and will just crowd the backfield and the cap space. He is a dynamic punt returner, but paying him for the potential of a punt return touchdown or two is not worth it in my eyes. If the cap is still tight when trying to negotiate with these three players, it may come down to letting go of Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, or Brent Celek.
According to spotrac.com, Patrick Robinson‘s market value is 3 years $20 million. After the year that he had, combined with his low salary, he is going to want to get paid, especially since he has already accomplished the greatest feat in the sport. I would not pay him this figure and would rather address cornerback in the draft. This is especially true if you consider that he is the only cornerback they are losing, he is 30 years old, and the rest of the “core” at cornerback is a young group. Essentially you would be paying him $7 million per year to be on the field in a timeshare since Jones, Darby, and Mills are your top corners for the future.
The Eagles should stay away from free agency unless it is for “roster fillers.” They don’t have the cap space or really the need to sign any big name guys that would demand a sizable chunk of money.
In the draft, the Eagles need to address offensive line depth, specifically the interior linemen. That can be addressed with one of the two fourth-round picks they have. Even though they have one of the best offensive lines in football, you can never have too much depth on the offensive line. I am a big proponent of going “best player available” in the first round and am hoping that either a cornerback or a linebacker worthy of that pick is available in that spot.
The secondary is young and adding an elite finger-waggin’, dreadlock havin’ cornerback like Donte Jackson to go along with the elite dreads of Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby would be a nice fit for a secondary that got carved up in the Super Bowl. Having a four-man group of Jones, Darby, Mills, and Jackson would set up your secondary to potentially match the talent and success of the defensive line somewhere down the line. A linebacker is also going to turn into a big need if you cannot find a way to keep Kendricks and Bradham. I could see the Eagles realistically taking Rashaan Evans which would be a great addition for this defense. I could even see them selecting Evans and then trading Kendricks right after. Kendricks has been rumored to be getting traded for years now so it may be a matter of when, not if, at this point.
The most important decision to be made will be with Nick Foles. I want Nick Foles on the roster. He is a great insurance policy for Carson Wentz. However, if I am offered a first rounder or an early second rounder for him I am accepting the offer. If Wentz isn’t ready for week 1, we can bite the bullet early on and just wait for him to return. Getting value for Foles before he hits free agency would be tremendous and you can’t pass up an opportunity at a pick like that.
The window for this team is still about 2-3 years to capture another Lombardi Trophy. Once Wentz becomes the highest paid player in the NFL it will be really tough to keep this defense and offensive weapons together cap wise. It will begin to look like what happened to the Seattle Seahawks. With everything that Roseman has accomplished, he will pull out some creative moves to keep this roster together and I have the utmost faith in him. I don’t see a scenario in which this team isn’t playing deep into January again next season.