INDIANAPOLIS - Why is it taking so long to release Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce?
That seems to be a common refrain from some who look at the Eagles' limited salary-cap space and wonder how they'll be active in free agency without shedding significant contracts. But with a week left until the start of the new league year, there is still plenty of time for Howie Roseman to decide whether he wants to keep the veteran Eagles.
More specifically, there's time for the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations to work out a trade. Why cut a player when you can get something in return? And Roseman made it clear by his Monty Hall statements that he's looking to make a deal for Kelce, Barwin, and even Ryan Mathews.
Asked about Kelce's possible return, Roseman pointed out the center's recent trip to the Pro Bowl. Barwin, he said, successfully transitioned into a 4-3 defensive end. And Mathews was "doing great" after neck surgery.
Never mind that both Kelce and Barwin had publicly stated that they weren't pleased with their 2016 seasons, and that Mathews has now missed 28 games to injury over seven seasons. Roseman wasn't asked about Mychal Kendricks, but his answer would have likely focused on the linebacker's age (26) and potential, rather than his inability to get onto the field last year.
Other teams can do the math, but can you blame Roseman for trying? If he was able to peddle Mark Sanchez for a conditional seventh-round draft pick last March, anything's possible. The Eagles didn't ultimately net the pick because Sanchez failed to make the Broncos, but they saved money by trading rather than releasing him.
"You have to figure out is there value for a player, if you've made that decision," Roseman said Wednesday when asked about the timing involved with releasing a player. "You also have to figure out can you replace that player.
"We have this conversation all the time. It sounds great: 'Let's cut this guy, let's cut this guy.' But who are we getting to replace that player?"
Kelce would have the most value of the three. Despite a slow start, he did finish strong last season. Does he have holes in his game? Yes. He will always struggle against bigger interior defensive linemen. But he's still, at 29, one of the most athletic centers in the NFL.
And perhaps most important, he has a tradable contract. Kelce has four years and $24.5 million left on his deal - which makes him about the 10th-highest-paid center in the league on a yearly basis - but none of it is guaranteed. And with free agency thin at center, there would be teams vying for Kelce and hoping to keep him off the market.
But what if Roseman doesn't like the offers? Could Kelce return? Doug Pederson was asked if he expected his starting center to be back.
"He's a player that's under contract and a Pro Bowl player," the Eagles coach said. "And he's been a tremendous asset to the team, so, yeah."
Expects is anything but definitive. And to answer the second part of Roseman's equation on when to part with a player, the Eagles have an obvious replacement in Isaac Seumalo.
"We'd be fine," Pederson said when asked if Seumalo would be able to step into the center position. "He's a very versatile offensive lineman. You saw that last year playing guard, playing tackle, playing both guards. But it's a big step . . . just to come in and play center."
It's one the Eagles are willing to endure, however, as they continue to build around quarterback Carson Wentz. The same theory applies to replacing Barwin.
"There was a lot of questions about his abilities to play in a 4-3, and he did it," Roseman said of the defensive end. "He did a really good job with it. . . . Certainly, when you talk about Connor, he's got all those traits - guys that have done a good job and still have stuff left in the tank."
The 30-year-old Barwin has gas remaining, but it would be better utilized as a 3-4 outside linebacker. There will be suitors, but his contract - Barwin has two years at $17 million left - will be more difficult to move. But it's not obscene or anything near what free agents of his caliber will get starting next Thursday.
Vinny Curry couldn't even supplant Barwin last season, but the Eagles paid him to start - erroneously, it seems - and he is the obvious replacement. Jim Schwartz still needs a viable third option, and maybe if Barwin agreed to a significant pay cut, the Eagles could bring him back. But they need to get younger, too.
Mathews, who will turn 30 in October, shouldn't be hard to replace. Trading him would seem impossible, although he has only one year at $4 million left on his contract. Roseman wasn't specific about whether Mathews' injury would prevent the Eagles from waiving him, but he made it seem as if the running back would make a full recovery.
"Ryan's doing great and we fully expect him to be ready to play," Roseman said. "He's under contract."
The Eagles have approximately $12.5 million in cap space, far less than they typically have, but Roseman said that number wouldn't keep him from adding pieces. But almost half of that money will be allocated to the draft.
Perhaps Roseman has no plans to create additional space. He made it seem as if he would tread lightly into free agency. The Eagles have already decided to bring left tackle Jason Peters back without a contract restructuring.
But there are far too many holes on the roster - most prominently at wide receiver and cornerback and on the defensive line - to imagine that Roseman will stand pat in free agency. Trades are always a possibility considering his track record, but he likely wants some wiggle room.
"There's no deadline on the decision-making," Roseman said. "We don't have a drop dead date."
To all interested parties: You have time to make your best offer.