How will Eagles use $16 million (in cap room)?
The Eagles have too much money. OK, not really, but it seems that way.
DeSean is signed. LeSean is signed. Evan Mathis is signed. Jason Peters’ replacement is signed. Cullen Jenkins is extended. All the rookies are under contract and due in camp Sunday. And still the Eagles have nearly $16 million available under their 2012 salary cap.
As of the start of business on Thursday, with training camp just days away, NFL records show the Eagles with $15,741,394 of cap space, fifth-most among all NFL teams.
Only the Jaguars ($26,058,385), Titans ($19,970,080), Chiefs ($16,548,048) and Bengals ($16,309,693) have more money available under their adjusted cap. The Eagles’ 2012 adjusted cap figure is $139,896,748.
As usual, the Eagles have more cap space than most teams. Their 2012 adjusted cap figure is sixth-highest in the league, behind only the Jaguars ($148,541,125), Broncos ($147,235,894), Chiefs ($146,483,437), Buccaneers ($146,087,953) and Seahawks ($142,958,063).
In terms of pure salary, the Eagles as of now are obligated to pay their players (assuming they keep the 53 highest-paid guys currently on the roster) $165,812,605, more than any other NFL team.
General manager Howie Roseman has everybody signed, everybody under contract, everybody happy. When the Eagles report to Lehigh, there’ll be nobody holding out, nobody complaining about their contract, nobody creating a distraction.
How much stability will the Eagles have over the next few years?
Think about this: They have Peters, Jenkins, Jason Avant and Jaiquawn Jarrett signed through 2014; Nnamdi Asomugha, DeMeco Ryans, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry signed through 2015; Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Demetress Bell, Todd Herremans, Mathis, Brent Celek and Mike Patterson signed through 2016; and Trent Cole and LeSean McCoy signed through 2017.
That’s 20 key guys – or potentially key guys – all signed for at least the next three seasons, and in the case of Vick, Jackson, Herremans, Celek, Cole and McCoy, for the next five years.
So what’s next? How will Roseman spend that $15.7 million?
The first priority is Jeremy Maclin. The former first-round pick is going into the fourth year of a five-year contract, and although he hasn’t yet had that huge bust-out season we’re all expecting, he’s been very good in three NFL seasons and seems to be a perfect yin to Jackson’s yang.
Maclin is only 23 and one of only nine receivers in NFL history with more than 2,500 receiving yards before his 24th birthday. He’s never had a 1,000-yard season, but he’s one of only 11 players in history with at least 55 catches and 750 yards in his first three seasons.
Even last year, coming off an off-season that he spent battling a mystery disease feared to be cancer, Maclin still found a way to catch 63 passes for 859 yards and five touchdowns despite a sluggish start and an uncharacteristic number of drops.
Maclin is due $993,250 this year and $2.853 million next year on the final two years of a five-year, $14.03228 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2009.
What is Maclin worth? Just based on production, Maclin is anywhere from 20th to 25th in the NFL among wide receivers. A good starting point might be the deal the Saints gave Marques Colston in March – five years, $36.3 million.
Jackson’s deal from March is worth $9.7 million per year, so Maclin’s should average out to somewhere between $7 million and $8 million per year.
Even with a signing bonus of, say, $8 million, and a first-year base salary of a couple million, Maclin’s deal would count only $3 1/2 million or so against the cap, so there’s still plenty of room for more deals.
The next guy to look at would be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. With Asante Samuel gone, the Eagles are hoping DRC can re-establish himself this year as the Pro Bowl corner he was when he played outside corner in Arizona.
Rodgers-Cromartie, forced to play out of position in the slot in 2011, is on the final year of a five-year deal he signed back in Arizona and due to earn $1.96375 million this year. He’s the only projected starter whose deal is up after this year.
The issue with DRC is that the Eagles remain unsure whether he’s a viable option moving forward. So this is a true audition year for Rodgers-Cromartie, who was such a playmaker with Arizona. If he performs at a high level the first 10 or 12 games, look for the Eagles to try and lock him up with a long-term deal, something along the lines of what the Buccaneers gave Eric Wright in March – five years, $37.5 million.
Beyond Maclin and Rodgers-Cromartie?
Long snapper Jon Dorenbos, a Pro Bowl performer, is up after this year, and as long as he maintains his level of play, he’ll likely be re-signed at some point.
Normally, the Eagles might consider re-doing a deal for someone like Jason Kelce, who went from an unknown rookie sixth-round pick making minimum wage into a starting center that many experts believe played at a near-Pro Bowl level last year.
Kelce is scheduled to make just $2,137,432 on his rookie four-year deal running through 2014 – a modest $534,358 per year – and he’s an obvious choice for a huge raise.
But one component of the new CBA signed last year is that players cannot get a new contract until after their third season in the league. So Kelce won’t be eligible until after the 2013 season.
That rule also would apply to everybody from Brian Rolle to Danny Watkins to Alex Henery or any other young player who has contributed that the Eagles might want to extend.
The only other guys whose deals are up after 2012 are defensive end Darryl Tapp, defensive tackles Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri, offensive tackle King Dunlap, safety O.J. Atogwe, corner Joselio Hanson, linebacker Akeem Jordan and receiver/back Chad Hall.
Of that group, you could see the Eagles re-upping Dixon if he proves healthy after missing all of last year and Atogwe if he winds up unseating one of the incumbent safeties and proving to be a capable starter.
Beyond that, look for the Eagles to keep at least $3 million or $4 million handy so if they do suffer a major injury they can move nimbly to replace that guy with more than a minimum-wage player, as they did with Bell after Jason Peters’ injury.
And if they don’t need to use it? That remaining money carries over to 2013, when once again, presumably, the Eagles will have more money available under their cap than just about every other team.E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com