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June 11, 2018

An early look ahead at the Eagles' potential 2019 salary cap casualties

If you look ahead to the Philadelphia Eagles' salary cap space in 2019 on, you'll find that the Birds are presently projected to be $30 million-plus over the cap. They have by far the most money committed to the 2019 salary cap in the NFL.

Would I say it's time for Eagles fans to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside? No, I would not.

To begin, $20 million of the Eagles' projected 2019 cap allotment is scheduled to go to Nick Foles, who almost certainly won't be back with the team next season unless Carson Wentz's leg falls off. We'll cover his contract details soon.

But additionally, the Eagles are among the most proactive teams in the NFL at getting contract extensions done early, well before players reach free agency. While the Eagles have a high cap number in 2019, they also have the vast majority their core players locked up long-term.

Still, money is going to have to come off the books to make room for more salary cap space. Here are five players (listed in order of 2019 cap figures) who will need to play very well in order to keep from being a cap casualty in 2019:

Timmy Jernigan, DT: $5,000,000 (2018), $13,000,000 (2019), $14,000,000 (2020), $14,000,000 (2021)

Jernigan was a very disruptive presence on the interior of the Eagles' defensive line early in the season in 2017, earning a four year, $48 million contract. At some point during the season, however, his play noticeably fell off.

Jernigan had surgery this offseason to repair a herniated disk that is being classified as a non-football injury. The remainder of Jernigan's contract is no longer guaranteed as a result, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

The Eagles would amass a huge savings if they let Jernigan go next offseason, and it's perhaps noteworthy that the 2019 NFL Draft could provide the deepest group of high-end talent at defensive tackle in recent memory.

Jernigan feels like a long shot to be on the team in 2019.

Rodney McLeod, S: $8,406,250 (2018), $9,906,250 (2019), $10,906,250 (2020)

McLeod is a solid starter, but his contributions are not worth the nearly $10 million he'll count toward the cap in 2019. If the team traded or released McLeod next offseason, they would save $5,093,750, with $4,812,500 in dead money. The Eagles don't presently have a replacement for McLeod on the roster, however, so he's not completely expendable. The team could look to restructure his contract.

Michael Bennett, DE: $5,650,000 (2018), $7,000,000 (2019), $8,000,000 (2020)

Bennett will turn 33 during the season, and the Eagles can save his $7 million salary in full next offseason if they decide to release or trade him. Bennett would have to prove to be a very valuable player in 2018 to stick around in 2019.

Stefen Wisniewski, OG/C: $3,208,333 (2018), $3,708,334 (2019)

Wisniewski was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2017 season. After Isaac Seumalo was benched, Wisniewski was part of a strange "LG by committee" with Chance Warmack, before quickly making it clear on the field that he was the superior player. If the Eagles cut or traded Wisniewski, they would save $3 million, with $708,334 in dead money. 

Wis had a good 2017 campaign, but pressure will be on for him to perform again in 2018.

Chris Maragos, ST: $2,000,000 (2018), $2,250,000 (2019)

Maragos is a respected team leader and special teams standout. He is one of the fastest players on the team, but is still recovering from a serious knee injury suffered during the season last year. In 2018, Maragos will have to prove that he still has the speed to beat everyone down the field on the kick coverage and punt coverage teams. There are valid concerns there, as Maragos is now 31 years old.

If the Eagles cut or trade Maragos next offseason, they would save $2,000,000, with $250,000 in dead money. And really, Maragos may not even be a stone-cold lock to make this year's team if his knee doesn't recover as desired. The team would save $1,500,000 if they traded or cut him this offseason, with $500,000 in dead money.

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