April 03, 2021
We're now less than four weeks from the start of the NFL Draft, where the Eagles will have 11 picks after trading back from sixth to 12th overall just over a week ago. And having double-digit picks is always a good thing, especially given that the team has a ton of holes to fill after undergoing a roster purge earlier this offseason.
The Eagles, despite being relatively cash strapped after entering the winter with the second most amount of money over the cap, could have done more in free agency but decided to make very few impact signings, with the biggest being either the addition of safety Anthony Harris or the signing of Joe Flacco to back up Jalen Hurts, depending how you look at it.
Neither of those are really moving the needle, at least not in the way fans hoped, but that doesn't mean the Eagles are done yet. While most of their remaining additions will likely be coming via the draft (and we'll get to that in a bit), the Birds still have some money to spend in free agency — and they could have even more.
That's where we'll start today's edition of What They're Saying...
Currently, the Eagles have $5.75 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, but it's actually a little more than that, with the NFLPA setting the number a bit higher at just over $6.4 million. We'll go with that latter number for now, if for no other reason than it's the better, more official number.
The Eagles will likely need to save some of that money to sign their 11 draft picks, but not all of those players will count against the cap, so they likely won't need to save that much. Whether or not they'll spend the difference remains to be seen, but if Howie Roseman wants to improve upon what has been a failure of an offseason so far according to our own Jimmy Kempski, then he might want to give himself a little more room with which to work.
And, as Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia wrote on Saturday as part of a very good breakdown of the current cap situation, the Eagles GM will have three different options should he choose to go that route. In fact, for one of these, he doesn't even have to do anything at all. Here's more from Dave on what they the Birds can do...
1. They just wait. On June 1, the Eagles will gain $4 million in cap space for this season from the releases of Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson. After restructuring their contracts, the Eagles released both with post-June 1 designations (they only get two), which means they’ll lose their base salaries at that date. So for now, the Eagles have to carry $7.59 million for Jeffery and $5.61 million for Jackson. But on June 1, their $2 million base salaries come off the books. Instant savings.
2. The Eagles can trade Zach Ertz. Earlier this offseason, it appeared like that trade was imminent but it hasn’t happened yet. Ertz is scheduled to have a cap hit of $12.72 million in 2021. If the Eagles trade (or cut) Ertz, they will save $4.92 million in cap space, leaving $7.7 million in dead cap space. (If they trade him after June 1, they’d save $8.5 million in cap space this season, which would leave over $3.5 million in dead money next year.)
3. The Eagles have a couple more moves in their back pocket if they need them. The Eagles reportedly began to restructure Lane Johnson’s contract before the new league year began on March 17 but stopped when they didn’t need that space anymore. But Johnson still has a cap hit of $17.8 million in 2021 and it would be easy to restructure that to save a nice chunk. Same goes for Fletcher Cox and his $23.9 million cap hit. Those are the two highest cap hits for players still on the roster. (Carson Wentz has a dead cap hit of $33 million in 2021.) [nbcsports.com]
While the Russell Wilson snippet has been getting the most attention — and we wrote extensively on Friday about why that should be taken with a massive grain of salt — it was actually the other stuff in the Eagles section of Mike Sando's massive free agency breakdown at The Athletic that had the most interesting stuff.
We intentionally didn't include that in our story on Friday so we could save it fur a future What They're Saying. And, as it turns out, we didn't have to wait very long.
The anonymous evaluators Sando spoke with view the offseason much in the same way Kempski does — the Flacco deal makes no sense and the Harris signing, while decent, doesn't really do much for a team that is nowhere near contending.
As for free agency this year, say hello to safety Anthony Harris and backup quarterback Joe Flacco. The latter signing confounded execs. Some backup quarterbacks provide upside for the future. Some serve as mentors for younger starters. Some are natural fill-ins because their playing styles mirror the styles of the men ahead of them on the depth chart. Flacco, who publicly declared his intention was to compete for playing time instead of serving as a mentor to the inexperienced Hurts, checks none of these boxes.
“It makes zero sense,” an evaluator said.
As one evaluator noted, Flacco’s signing is the sort of addition that can give an offensive play-calling head coach peace of mind heading into a season with an unproven starting quarterback. Nick Sirianni knows heading into camp that at least one of his quarterbacks has started a full season. [...]
If Hurts flourishes for the Eagles, they can use that draft capital to support him. If he struggles, they can use those picks to find a replacement in the draft or via the veteran market. In the meantime, signing safety Anthony Harris to a one-year, $5 million deal in free agency isn’t much.
“Talented safety — interchangeable, instinctive,” an evaluator said. “I don’t think he is a needle mover, but he will help them.” [theathletic.com]
Now we'll shift our focus back to the draft, where the Eagles will likely use at least one (and probably more) of those 11 picks on a cornerback. As we wrote in a recent WTS, they could also add a corner in free agency, but when they traded back six spots to 12th overall, it may have signaled that they intend to go defense in the first round. Why? Because the top receivers (which is one of their other biggest needs) will be gone, but a guy like Patrick Surtain, potentially the best defensive player in the whole draft, might still be available.
And even if he's not, the Eagles should have plenty of options, both in the first round or in either of the next two. Here's a look at some of their options from Hayden Winks over at NBC Sports Edge (formerly Rotoworld), who listed outside corner as their top need.
[NOTE: The numbers in parentheses are their expected draft position.]
1. Outside Corner
CB1 Darius Slay only has one more season with guaranteed money and didn’t live up to his contract in 2020, and CB2 Avonte Maddox has been picked on. The new coaching staff also could look for a different type of corner if they play less Cover 1 man in favor of Cover 2 zone. The Eagles were 16th in passing EPA defense last season.
1.12 Options: Patrick Surtain (EDP: 11), Jaycee Horn (15), Caleb Farley (16)
2.37 Options: Eric Stokes (EDP: 42), Tyson Campbell (44), Asante Samuel (49)
3.70 Options: Ifeatu Melifonwu (EDP: 65), Kelvin Joseph (69), Paulson Adebo (75)
3.84 Options: RoDarius Williams (EDP: 83), Israel Mukuamu (97), Benjamin St-Juste (100) [nbcsports.com]
Interestingly enough, Winks also has slot corner as the team's No. 3 need (with wide receiver sandwiched right there in between). The Eagles need corners, and I'm willing to bet at least one of those four picks listed above is used on a CB.
Over at ESPN, Tim McManus took a look at a handful of players who would fit in Philly after they traded back. While he mentions that any of the four Alabama prospects (WR DeVonta Smith, WR Jaylen Waddle, QB Mac Jones or CB Patrick Surtain II) falling to 12 could shake things up, he also offers up some other interesting names, including a CB that's been increasingly mentioned in connection with the Eagles and a couple of lineman. Here's a look at one player on each side of the ball...
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is expected to put a heavy emphasis on his secondary and needs a cornerback to play opposite Darius Slay. Horn (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) has ideal size and a physical style of play that should translate well to the pros. The Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a corner and pick two spots before the Eagles, who might be holding their breath while their NFC East rival is on the clock.
Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
History favors Philadelphia selecting a lineman. The Eagles have used seven of their past 10 first-round picks on big men. Building from the inside out has been an organizational principle dating to the coach Andy Reid days. Slater (6-foot-4, 304 pounds) played both right and left tackle in college. He is credited with giving up zero sacks at left tackle as a junior before opting out last season. Some evaluators believe he'd be best as a guard. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland could be drawn to his versatility. [espn.com]
Finally, we check in with PFF, where Ben Linsey took a look at one forward-thinking option for each of the NFL's 32 teams. For the Eagles, that would involve taking an interior offensive lineman. And while that may not be the sexy pick, it could certainly go a long way toward filling in a potential hole left by Jason Kelce, should this be his last NFL season.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: IOL LANDON DICKERSON
Philadelphia's offensive line was hit hard last season, with 11 different offensive linemen playing at least 50 snaps for the team. The one man who remained in place throughout the year was center Jason Kelce, but he will enter the 2021 season at 33 years of age, with a real possibility that his best football is behind him after earning pass-blocking grades below 70.0 in each of the past two years.
Dickerson doesn’t necessarily ease any durability concerns, considering he will be coming off a torn ACL in the SEC championship game. However, he does bring the quintessential offensive-lineman mentality to go along with the strength and size to impose his will on opposing defensive lines.
Dickerson played all over the offensive line at Alabama and could theoretically fit in anywhere on the Eagles' interior, potentially serving as a long-term replacement for Kelce or Isaac Seumalo. Dickerson mentioned that he has spoken to Philadelphia in a recent interview. [pff.com]