The quest for the Eagles to repeat as Super Bowl champs has already begun.
With two months of vacation time for the players continuing through April, the front office will be hard at work looking to craft a roster good enough to be world champions again. This will require a delicate dance between drafting well, trading creatively and making flawless contract decisions. Howie Roseman has shown he can walk that line and will be hard at work to do it again.
Who to cut
Brent Celek, Torrey Smith, Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles stand over the salary cap threshhold heading into next season. They need to open up some room. Letting Celek (who may retire), Smith and Kendricks walk, while all big decisions, will open up more than $13 million in cap space. Celek is aging, got his Super Bowl ring and has seen less playing time as Zach Ertz has become a super star. Smith was a strong voice in the locker room but Mack Hollins will easily step up in his absense next season. And Kendricks played very well in the wake of the injured Jordan Hicks, but retaining Nigel Bradham is more important (more on that later). Keep in mind, these are all trade candidates as well — but if push comes to shove the Birds will have to make some cuts.
Who to restructure
Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry
The three aformentioned players are immensely important with regard to the Eagles current run of success. Kelce can be cut for just a $1 million cap hit, but the Eagles won’t do that. What they will likely try and do, is sign him to a back-loaded contract that opens up some space this season, playing up the need to keep the band together. Peters, who is 36, will face a similar request from the Eagles. Lowering his cap hit from a current rate of $11.66 million to a more reasonable number, in the $8 million range will provide savings. Curry was given a huge contract a few years ago but just three sacks later (and after the emergence of Derek Barnett) his $11 million hit is too high. He can be restructured to save around $5 million (or cut for the same savings). As for Graham, with one year left in his current contract, an extension is due. The moves made previously will allow the Eagles to extend the outside rusher.
Making these seven moves gets the Eagles from $9 million over the cap to more than $13 million under it.
Who to re-sign
Trey Burton, Nigel Bradham, Corey Graham
The Eagles will have a handful of free agents to re-sign and those decisions will be among the toughest. If the Eagles finally part ways with Kendricks, Bradham’s return will be key. He just finished a two-year $7 million deal and something in that range would be perfect. Burton could cash in as a free agent elsewhere, but if the Eagles can sign him as the No. 2 tight end on a team-friendly contract that would also be a smart move. LeGarrette Blount will walk, as the Eagles have enough at running back in Corey Clement and Jay Ajayi. Patrick Robinson will walk too, his value has never been higher, but Sidney Jones will fill in for him next season. Re-upping veteran safety Corey Graham would be a smart move with aging veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod returning next season. Beau Allen and Darren Sproles are two other potential re-signs.
Who to trade
Carson Wentz’ recover will be key. The Eagles are in a good situation where they shouldn’t feel forced to move Foles before the draft — though doing so could get them back on the clock in the second day (they have no second or third round picks). They’ll want to make sure Wentz is on target to return for Week 1. If so, they can move him this offseason. If not, they will be smart to keep him on the roster to potentially start Week 1, and be a trade deadline move mid-season.
Who to sign
A strong back up QB
If the Eagles trade Foles, they’ll need a new back up. If the Eagles keep Foles — who has one year left on his current contract worth $7.5 million — they will still need a strong back up quarterback as they’ll need to start the year with three QB on the 53-man roster (they will definitely not put Wentz on the IR). Candidates could include Josh McCown or even Sam Bradford.
Who to draft
Offensive line, linebacker, defensive back
The list of needs is shorter than ever, but there is still a list. Jason Peters’ future at left tackle is up in the air and the team had to do some shuffling at guard this past season. Getting a young offensive lineman who can be a starter in the next year or two will be a smart move with the Eagles’ first round pick. They also have a lack of depth at linebacker and will need to add some up-and-coming talent to help Hicks. And as always, the Eagles are an injury to Ronald Darby away from being burned on a deep pass — adding depth at defensive back should be the third priority.