March 08, 2021
At least a glimmer of sunshine peeked through the blinds at the NovaCare Complex last week when veteran leader Jason Kelce took to Instagram to confirm he was not only running it back for his 11th NFL season, the three-time All-Pro would be doing it in Philadelphia, serving as a bit of tranquility inside the chaos of the shift away from Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz to the unknown of Nick Sirianni and perhaps Jalen Hurts.
Whether the realization that veteran stars like Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Brandon Graham aren’t hellbent on abandoning a sinking ship actually turns out to be the eye of the hurricane — with the backside offering more devastation than the front — remains to be seen, but that result will be tied to decision-making moving forward and little else.
The thought that the Eagles would be undergoing some sort of Sam Hinkie-inspired rebuild fails to understand the differences in the landscapes when it comes to the NBA and the NFL. Tear-downs are simply not needed in the latter — it’s about cycles in professional football.
There’s no question the Eagles are on the downside of their recent Super Bowl LII championship with the bigger and more prudent question being, have they hit bottom yet and will the ascent begin in 2021?
The salary cap might be the most overblown thing in the league when it comes to fans and worrying even in the wake of COVID-19 where the cap will be going down for the first time in history from $198.2 million to anywhere from $180M to $185M, according to most projections.
Philadelphia, like everyone else, was budgeting under the pre-COVID mentality with incremental gains baked in. For instance, the 2019 cap was $188.2 million, and the year before that was $177.2 million so it's fair to assume the 2020 cap would have been close to $210 million if you remained unaware of Dr. Anthony Fauci's existence.
Howie Roseman is still in the midst of working his way down to be cap compliant for the start of the new league year on March 17 but the bloodletting has already essentially finished with the largest domino being the trade of Wentz and the medicine of a record $33.8 million dead-money hit. Ultimately that was a football [and financial] decision tied to the quarterback’s awful 2020 campaign and his unhappiness in Philadelphia, however.
The other decisions, which include DeSean Jackson and will include Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson as well as Zach Ertz, whether by trade or release, were ones that would have been made even if the cap reached over $200 million.
The rest of the maneuvering by Roseman and VP of football administration Jake Rosenberg from there were re-worked contracts to players like Darius Slay and Kelce, who got $9 million upfront with escalators up to $12 million in exchange for some short-term relief. The same is coming for Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, and perhaps others like Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Brooks.
Some of that — like Kelce — would have been needed, but not all of it so there's your "dramatic shift."
Yes, the can is kicked down the road again but hand-wringing about that in the most malleable of financial environments is silly unless you feel the need to worry about the billionaire class. The new TV deals are approaching with rights fees increasing anywhere from 30% to 50%, and some sense of normalcy is beginning to break nationwide when it comes to the pandemic.
In other words, the gravy train is back on the tracks and the golden goose is getting ready to produce the biggest egg yet.
What many fans still don’t understand about the salary-cap is that cyclical nature. The teams with a lot of money generally stink — Jacksonville and the New York Jets being the prime example there — or are in the ascent where they haven’t had to pay their young stars just yet — think Indianapolis and Cleveland.
My annual prediction that every #nfl team will be cap compliant by the start of the new league year is looking good again. I’m on quite the run with that 🙄— John McMullen (@JFMcMullen) March 6, 2021
The teams with no money are either really good with veteran stars — New Orleans, the LA Rams, Kansas City, and Green Bay — or were good and stuck with the veteran core a little too long like the Eagles, Minnesota, and Atlanta.
You don’t even need Roseman or Rosenberg to figure it out.
The sun in South Philly isn’t coming from Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day this time, though. It’s projecting a healthy offensive line with Kelce, Johnson, Brooks, and Andre Dillard protecting a young QB who almost has to play better than Wentz. It's also coming from the rest of the NFC East, where Washington has yet to fix its QB issues, the Cowboys will have to pay Dak Prescott coming off injury even more than the Eagles are paying Wentz to play for the Colts, and the NY Giants are still seemingly stuck in neutral.
This isn’t “The Process” for the Eagles. It’s the normal process of the NFL.
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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