There are some important nameswith question marks next to them as the Eagles begin making 2015 offseason decisions.
The Eagles have as much salary cap room as any team in the NFL, and should be able to, more or less, reassemble the 2014 team if they want to.
But if the world champion Patriots showed anything, it’s that you don’t need big names to win a Super Bowl. Aside from Tom Brady, a surprisingly high percentageof the Pats’roster was comprised of well-scouted late round picks orundrafted players. And Brady even took a pay cut to allow New England to spend its money to give him a better supporting cast.
With Chip Kelly calling the shots almost entirely by himself this winter and spring, it should be interesting to see what approach he takes with his high-powered offense and lackluster defense from last season.
Here’s a look at the six most important Eagles to keep an eye on during the ensuing offseason:
1. LeSean McCoy
Eagles fans are a bit confused by recent contradictory comments made by the Birds’ all-time leading rusher.
Back in December, McCoy made a clear statement that he was willing to restructure his contract to keep the team together. But during a visit to Super Bowl radio row, he backtracked a little.
“I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don’t want to take less money,” McCoy said. “I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we’re all together.”
McCoy will command the highest salary of any Eagle next year, due $9.5 million with $12 million counting toward the cap. Clearly, he is the key to the Philadelphia offense, and the cash he is due makes him the second-highest paid running back (behind Adrian Peterson, who may be cut this offseason) heading into 2015.
Will he restructure? Will the Eagles attempt to trade or cut him? Or will the parties involved maintain the status quo?
2. Jeremy Maclin
Maclin gambled on himself as a free agent last season, inking a one-year pact following ankle surgery. It was the right bet, as Maclin posted a career year and is in contract negotiations with the Eagles as you read this.
“Yeah, this is a great place to be,” Maclin said after the season ended. “I’ve always spoken the best about this organization.”
Maclin earned $5.5 million on his one-year deal and will likely make more than that with the long-term deal he hopes to strike in Philly.
3. Nick Foles
Foles is set to make $660,000 next season, the fourth year of his rookie contract. If the Birds intend to make Foles the quarterback of the future, the time is right to offer him an extension. His value has dropped considerably since his record-setting 2013 campaign. He played well, but not at a super star level before his mid-season collarbone injury and could probably be extended at a reasonable rate.
But rumors of Kelly’s desire to trade up for Marcus Mariota in the NFL draft have led to Folestrade rumors, putting the even-keeled quarterback’s future in Philly up in the air.
The Eagles’ biggest area of need is its secondary. With safety Nate Allen and cornerback Bradley Fletcher free agents this offseason, the Birds will likely look to upgrade in each spot. But cornerback Williams, in the last year of his contract, is a complicated issue.
Competent at times but also a liability, Williams has built a reputation as an outspokenrebel in the locker room. He is due$8,166,667 next season, but if he is cut the Eagles save $6.5 million against the cap. Spotrac.com, a site specializing in NFL contracts, lists Williams as a likely salary cap casualty.
5. Brandon Graham
The former first-round pick is an unrestricted free agent, and after a solid season with the Birds’ dynamic pass-rush unit, Graham may try and get paid before next season.
Though the Eagles have depth at defensive end and linebacker, they will still likely try and strike a deal with Graham. Also expect a new contract for Graham’s linemate Cedric Thornton, a free agent in 2015.
6. Mark Sanchez
There are a great many possible scenarios for Mark Sanchez this offseason. He is a free agent, and the Eagles could choose simply to let him walk and draft/resign a new backup. They could also trade Foles, and be forced to come to a deal with Sanchez to come back as a veteran presence in 2015.
The first-round pick with the Jets had a solid season in 2014 for the Eagles, setting several career best marks in accuracy. But he could also be snatched up by the Bills with new head coach Rex Ryan looking to reunite with his favorite quarterback.