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February 19, 2020

Let's all get on the same page in regard to the Eagles' options with Alshon Jeffery

Eagles NFL
43_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Alshon_Jeffey_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery.

Before we even get started, let's acknowledge that Alshon Jeffery was a key contributor in the Eagles' Super Bowl season, he played through shoulder and rib injuries, and whenever Jeffery's career in Philly is over, his contributions will certainly be recognized. There. Now that we have properly put that disclaimer in place, let's get down to business.

This offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles will have a very difficult decision to make on Jeffery's future with the team. As many of you are aware, the Eagles made the error of guaranteeing Jeffery’s 2020 salary in exchange for a small pay cut just before the start of the 2019 season. 

Jeffery then had the “bad year trifecta.”

  1. He had a down year as a player on the field, both in the stat sheet and on the "eye test." 
  2. In November, the Eagles' radio network partner's sideline reporter outed Jeffery as the anonymous (Alshonymous) source who criticized Carson Wentz in each of the last two seasons to national ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, which created significant distractions for the team. (This matches with what I know.)
  3. And then in December, Jeffery suffered a Lisfranc injury, had surgery, and the typical nine-month recovery period puts him on track to maybe be healthy for Week 1, though that's only if all goes well.

If the Eagles could cut Jeffery without penalty, he would already be gone, but his release comes with a $26 million dead money charge, and the team's 2020 cap space would decrease from about $41 million currently to around $30 million, which would obviously be a brutal pill to swallow.

OK, so if you're with me so far, congratulations! You're doing good. From here on out, we're going to go deep down the nerd hole, and answer some more of the extreme nitty-gritty questions in regard to Jeffery's contract situation. For some added help, I interviewed former NFL agent and current NFL analyst Joel Corry of CBS Sports. Joel's answers are where quoted as such. The rest are mine.

First of all, the Eagles can't even cut Jeffery anyway because he's hurt, right?

Wrong. Three offseasons ago, the Eagles were clearly going to release running back Ryan Mathews, but they waited until the middle of August to do it. Why? They were waiting for him to pass a physical so they didn't have to pay his Injury Protection Benefit, which would have been 50 percent of his salary, up to (at the time) $1,150,000.

Because Jeffery's salary is fully guaranteed, he's going to get 100 percent of his salary (duh), no matter when the Eagles release him, if they do. In other words, the Injury Protection Benefit doesn't come into play since the Eagles owe Jeffery his full salary.

So how do the Eagles get out of that guarantee? If they were to be able to prove that Jeffery was the anonymous source who criticized teammates to a national reporter, would that constitute conduct detrimental to the team to the degree necessary to void his guarantees?

"It would depend on the exact language of the guarantees to determine what would void it or not," Corry said. "The Bengals used to have a loyalty clause generally in their contract, and some teams have negotiated similar language to that effect in their guarantees, so you’d have to be able to look at the actual contract to see what is in there or what isn’t in there. 

"That’d probably be a tough argument to make. If they were going to do that, they would have probably gone for conduct detrimental at the time. (Jeffery) could make the case that if the Eagles didn’t do it then – didn’t deem it to be conduct detrimental – you can’t retroactively try to do it."

Essentially, the only way Jeffery could have his contract voided is if he got suspended in some way, whether that be via a PED violation or substance abuse violation, or if he were healthy and just didn't show up for team activities.


On that same note, teams can also trade for him, knowing full well that he won’t pass a physical, as long as they’re fine with the fact that he’s hurt, correct?

Correct. A team could trade for Alshon Jeffery.

But would they?

God no. No team out there is going to give anything up for a slow, aging, injured, quarterback-criticizing receiver who is almost certain to miss all offseason activities, including training camp, who might also not even be ready for the 2020 season.

Of course, if the Eagles were to be able to trade Jeffery in any way, they would "only" have a dead money hit of $16,196,000, instead of $26,106,000. 

So maybe the Eagles could trade Jeffery along with an asset just to lower that dead money charge by $10 million, like the Texans did a few years ago with Brock Osweiler?

"That’s the only way a trade would work," said Corry. "You’d have to be giving something as well. 'Here, take this guy'… How big of an asset do you want to give somebody to try to get rid of him I guess is the question. Because if (the acquiring team) doesn’t know what they got, and if all goes well, he’s still going to miss practically the whole offseason, what kind of contribution is he going to make the first half of the year for somebody else?"

So what kind of asset would you have to trade along with Jeffery just to get rid of him?

"You’d have to give me a high pick to do it," Corry said. "Osweiler was a second-round pick. If I had a ton of cap room, like the Colts or somebody, I’d take the second. I’d ask for a first, but settle for a second. Does Philadelphia really want to give up a second-round pick? Do they really want to get rid of him that badly. I wouldn’t want to get rid of him that badly to give up a second-round pick."

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick just to get rid of Jeffery? 

Hell no.

So a trade just isn't going to happen?

Afraid not.

OK, so let's get back to releasing him. 2020 is the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement. How does that factor in to this situation?

In the final year of the CBA, teams don't have the benefit of releasing players with a "June 1st" designation, which would allow them to kick some of the dead money into future years. 

As noted above, if the Eagles cut Jeffery without the June 1st designation, he would count for $26.1 million in dead money. If they cut him with a June 1st designation, he would count for $16.639 in dead money in 2020, and $9.467 million in 2021, per Corry.

That would certainly be more palatable.

"A new CBA could be Philadelphia’s best friend, because you’d go back to the old rules, presumably, and there’d be post June 1 treatment," said Corry. "If we’re operating under the current CBA, it’s virtually impossible to cut him this year."

Is cutting him with a June 1st designation, and without one, really that big a difference? You're going to have $26 million in dead money either way. All the June 1st designation does is split it up in between two years.

"I don’t think there’s ever been an individual dead money charge of $26 million," Corry said. "I think that’s a problem. You could do it, but that’s a huge amount of dead money. And it takes away $11 million in workable cap space."

I asked Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap to give me the biggest dead money hits in NFL history. Corry was indeed correct that there has never been an individual dead money charge of $26 million. Fitzgerald's list:

  1. Antonio Brown: $21.12M
  2. Peyton Manning: $19.3M (they received a big credit for that though)
  3. Ryan Tannehill: $18.4M
  4. Jamarcus Russell: $17.9M
  5. Nnamdi Asomugha: $17.2M
  6. Blake Bortles: $16.5M

Fitzgerald also noted the following: 

Ndamukong Suh was over $22M but that was split across two years. Marcell Dareus was also split across two years and included a few weeks of salary with the Bills which put him at $24M.

So what if the Eagles put Jeffery on injured reserve just to keep him out of the building? He’d be on the cap for $15.4 million, and then if they released him in 2021, that’d be a hit of $10.6 million, which would be a similar outcome as if they used a June 1 designation on him.

"Alshon won't be eligible for IR," said Corry. "He would likely start training camp on PUP because of the foot. He's out a minimum of 6 weeks if put on reserve PUP after the roster cutdown."

And of course, by Week 7 of the regular season, Jeffery would likely be ready to play. Obviously, you can't just keep guys on PUP – or IR them – if they are healthy.

Is there any relief if they cut Jeffery?

Yes. Jeffery has an offset in his guaranteed salary. Whatever amount another team signs him for, that amount will come off the Eagles' dead money charge.

"You’ll still get some relief from whatever he signs elsewhere, because he’s going to sign at least a minimum deal," said Corry.

So basically, Howie Roseman and the Eagles' front office are rooting for a new CBA to be able to release him. What are your thoughts on whether or not that will get get done?

"I don’t think the players realize the leverage they have," Corry said. "Any time one party is anxious to get a deal done, the other side has leverage. The owners are the ones who are pushing for this.

"Why are we even talking about 10-year CBA? What other league has a 10-year CBA? NBA players had an out midway through, so the NFL players should have an out 4-5 years through, particularly if the landscape is going to change, with how gambling is going to be coming into this, and how it’s probably going to become more accepted, and revenue is going to grow.

"Players don’t want to lock themselves into a 10-year contract, on an individual contract. Why would you want a 10-year CBA? In my opinion, you’re not going to get enough for a 17th game that you’ll ultimately give up.

"The league has some urgency from the standpoint that if Eric Winston isn’t the NFLPA president (his term ends in March), if you get one of the militant guys (Corry noted Russell Okung and Richard Sherman here), then if I’m the league, the fear with that would make me give more concessions.

"But ultimately I think the players are going to cave and this thing gets done."

Word? When do you think that will happen?

"Before the league year starts..."

"So Philadelphia may be able to cut Alshon after all."

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