Salary cap space
As of March 17, 2021, the Eagles are projected to be $17,263,129 over the 2021 cap.
The Eagles rolled over $22.8 million in 2020 cap space.
March 10 update: The salary cap has been set at $182.5 million.
Less than two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles completed an unremarkable 4-11-1 season, the team has undergone a considerable transformation. Earlier this week, the Eagles officially fired Doug Pederson, the head coach who delivered the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl victory just three seasons earlier. With a head-coaching search already underway, Philadelphia will change even more in the weeks and months to come.
Whomever the Eagles ultimately hire as Pederson’s replacement will have to guide the franchise through some difficult financial waters. At present, the team has one of the worst salary-cap situations in the NFL and has to decide whether to hand the reins to 2020 rookie signal-caller Jalen Hurts or reverse course and give one-time MVP candidate Carson Wentz another shot with a new coaching staff.
The NFL powered through its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums with limited crowds in the remaining venues. The decrease in gate revenue will most likely result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This, in turn, means the salary cap will almost certainly fall for the first time in years. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a salary-cap floor of $175 million per team. The latest report has the number landing between $180 and $181 million, which is a good bit lower than the $198.2 million of this past season. This will result in some tough choices for many teams.
All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.
Wentz’s contract hangs over the entire organization. The deal, which includes a $34.7 million cap charge for the 2021 season, provides no easy out to the Eagles. A standard release would result in a net loss of more than $24.5 million in cap space for next season while a post-June 1 cut would keep Wentz’s contract on the books until that date, limiting flexibility during free agency and the draft. A trade would give Philadelphia minor cap relief, but it remains wholly unclear whether any other team would willingly absorb the massive deal which extends through the 2024 season.
Given that the Eagles likely made the coaching change in order to give Wentz a fresh start, the team will more likely look to dig out of cap hell through other means. Releasing tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and defensive end Derek Barnett would result in a combined savings of roughly $17.8 million dollars of cap space. Philly might feel reticent about cutting ties with Barnett, a first-round pick in 2017, so perhaps the front office will instead extend him in a manner that reduces his 2021 cap number.
The Eagles will also have to look into trading or redoing deals for some of their other expensive veterans. Star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will count for nearly $24 million against the cap in 2021. The team can turn a portion of his $15 million base salary into signing bonus to spread the hit across the final four years of his deal, effectively delaying the bill until the salary cap recovers from its expected dip in the upcoming season. Philadelphia could use the same approach for defensive end Brandon Graham (17.9 million cap number), offensive tackle Lane Johnson ($17.8 million), guard Brandon Brooks ($14.6 million), and a few other veterans. Wentz could also receive the restructure treatment, though that would take a tremendous leap of faith from the organization.
Given the dire straits in which the Eagles find themselves, few of any of their unrestricted free agents will return next season. Some, such as veteran offensive lineman Jason Peters, could opt to retire. Others like longtime starting safety Jalen Mills, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, and defensive end Vinny Curry will most likely sign elsewhere. The team has a few restricted and exclusive-rights free agents such as primarily linebacker Alex Singleton who shouldn’t cost much.