Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is brandishing his chisel, with NFL teams needing to get under the 2021 salary cap by the March 17 start of the league year. The exact figure for the 2021 cap isn’t known, but it will be no lower than $180 million, the league has said, and could be closer to $185 million. Either sum will represent a historic drop from last year’s pre-pandemic $198.2 million.
The Eagles, about $43 million over the cap, are reported to be in talks about restructuring the contracts of a handful of higher-salaried vets.
Sources close to the situation have confirmed that cornerback Darius Slay and Jason Kelce are in the fold at lower cap numbers now. With Slay, the team added two voidable years to the deal, lowering this year’s cap charge from $15.75 million to $6.61 million. The exact cap savings on the Kelce deal aren’t yet known, but Kelce will get a $9 million guarantee this season and could make up to $12 million. A source said the deal was “essentially a one-year setup,” so there might be voidable years involved there as well.
Former NBC Sports reporter Derrick Gunn has reported that the team is negotiating restructurings with defensive end Brandon Graham ($17.928 million cap charge in 2021, according to overthecap.com) and right tackle Lane Johnson ($17,848,498 cap charge this year). Typically, restructuring pushes cap money into future years. The Eagles are projected to be well under the 2022 cap, which could rise dramatically if new network TV deals are completed, and if pandemic restrictions ease and large numbers of fans are allowed at games this season.
The Eagles will shoulder a league-record $33.8 million dead cap charge this year from the contract of traded quarterback Carson Wentz. When Roseman negotiated the Wentz contract and the other deals now being restructured, he was counting on a continually rising cap, as usual. Pre-pandemic, the new network deals were said to be in the works for 2020; Roseman factored this in, as well. So the Eagles entered this offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the NFL, despite being able to roll over $24,498,775 of 2020 room, according to the NFL Network. Only four teams rolled over more cap space than the Eagles.
Free agency also begins March 17, but unless Roseman really works some magic, the rebuilding Eagles will be bargain-basement shoppers. Their most notable pending unrestricted free agent is corner/safety Jalen Mills. The Eagles did not tender restricted free agent punter Cam Johnston, but that might be because they hope to sign him to a lower figure than the tender would have required.
Slay, who turned 30 in January, signed a three-year, $50.5 million contract extension after arriving in a trade from Detroit last year. He was the Eagles’ best corner but didn’t completely live up to expectations.
Kelce, who is 33, arrived as a sixth-round draft choice in 2011 and is one of the franchise’s all-time greats. He signed the new deal the day after he and his wife, Kylie, welcomed their second child -- a girl named Elliotte Ray Kelce. Kelce posted on Instagram that he “couldn’t be more excited” to anchor the Eagles’ line for another season.