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October 09, 2018

What does the Eagles' restructuring of Fletcher Cox's contract mean?

Eagles NFL
100918HowieRoseman Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

What are you up to, Howie?

It means that Howie Roseman wants to add a player (or players) via trade to a roster that can use additional fire power. Is that good? Can I call it day? No? Alright, fine, I'll write more.

On Monday, it was revealed by Adam Schefter of ESPN that the Eagles restructured the contract of star DT Fletcher Cox, freeing up an additional $6.5 million of cap space in 2018, and $11.7 million in 2019.

The Eagles were about $4 million under the cap prior to that move. After the restructure, they'll be about $10.5 million under the cap. Schefter later authored an article about the restructurealong with Chris Mortensen, with the following paragraph being the most notable takeaway:

"The Eagles created this cap space to be better positioned to re-sign their own players in each of the next two seasons. But it also gives them added flexibility in the event they decide to pursue a trade for another player."

While the first sentence is no doubt true (next offseason, anyway), it's the second sentence that is being perhaps a little undersold.

The timing of Cox's restructure is what matters here. All a restructure typically is with a star player is a conversion of salary into a signing bonus that the team can spread out over the remainder of the player's deal. From Cox's perspective, it's money that wasn't previously guaranteed that is now going to be in his pockets immediately. 

A restructure like that is something that the team can do at any time, and it's something that a player would almost never turn down. With that in mind, are there Eagles players who will be free agents in 2019 who would make sense for a contract extension for which the Eagles would need to free up an extra $6.5 million? The short answer is no, but we'll take a look anyway:

DE Brandon Graham: Graham counts for $8 million on the cap this season. In the event the Eagles got a contract extension done with him mid-season, his 2018 cap number would almost certainly go down, not up. There'd be no need to free up extra money for him in 2018.

CB Ronald Darby: Would you give Darby a big, lucrative extension right now with the way he has played so far this season? I certainly wouldn't.

LB Jordan Hicks: Hicks is on the cap for about $2 million presently. For a player who has been as injury prone as Hicks, I can't imagine the Eagles would be in a hurry to give him a lucrative deal before seeing him finish out a full season in good health.

The rest of the Eagles' 2019 free agents can be found here, but I'll save you the click and just say that nobody on the list would merit an in-season contract extension.

Anyway, we went a long way to point out that the Eagles don't need the money generated by Cox right now for player contract extensions. The only other reason is that Roseman is essentially telling the league in bright neon letters that he's looking for players, and he's ready to wheel and deal for them.

So what might the Eagles be looking for? Here are some positions that make sense:

• Running back: This is fairly obvious, with Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams being the only healthy backs at the moment.

Wide receiver: The Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Otherwise, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins may return from IR at some point, but it's not a given that they will be effective players even if they do.

Defensive tackle: This is a highly underrated need. Outside of Fletcher Cox, the Eagles are getting almost no production whatsoever from their DTs. Destiny Vaeao, for example, has played on 130 snaps this season, and he has one measly tackle. Meanwhile, it's nearly impossible to get a straight answer out of the coaching staff on the eventual availability of Timmy Jernigan, and Jernigan himself makes sure he's never in the locker room whenever the media is.

Safety: I mean, they're starting a fourth-round rookie corner who has never played safety in his life. 

To be determined if a deal is struck, but there's little question that Roseman and the Eagles are looking for help, and the act of freeing up an extra $6.5 million removes one roadblock in the event they find a trade partner.


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