Once their season ends, the Philadelphia Eagles will have a significant amount of decisions to make regarding roster changes. In fact, you can guarantee that their front office is thinking about the offseason right now, even with a home playoff game looming against the New Orleans Saints.
The Philadelphia Eagles have 12 players scheduled to hit free agency this offseason: quarterback Mike Vick, wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Arrelious Benn and Brad Smith, defensive ends Cedric Thornton and Clifton Geathers, outside linebacker Phillip Hunt, safeties Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson, and punter Donnie Jones.
According to Spotrac, the Eagles have $69.315 million committed to the offense and $46.476 million committed to the defense, giving them a total of $118.875 million in player payroll heading into the 2014 season.
With each team able to spend approximately $126.3 million in 2014, a slight increase from 2013, the Eagles have $7.42 million to spend. That's not a lot of money, but it ranks the Eagles in the middle of the pack at 14th in the league.
Among their impending free agents, Maclin and Cooper should be the top priorities to re-sign. Maclin missed the entire season with a torn ACL, which gave Cooper a chance to turn in a career year and establish himself as a legitimate deep threat. If Maclin is healed, the Eagles can likely re-sign him at a lower price than many expect because he, a) missed the entire season with an injury, and b) has been a slight disappointment during his five seasons in the NFL. That would allow Cooper to fill in as the Eagles' No. 3 receiver.
Thornton is a restricted free agent, but it's a necessity for the team to bring him back, preferably on a long-term deal. Thornton was on the Eagles practice squad two years ago and now he's emerged as a dominant force in stuffing the run game, as one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the league.
Veteran Donnie Jones has had a tremendous season, setting a franchise record for punts inside the 20-yard line. The Eagles must bring him back, preferably on a multi-year deal.
Three possibilities to return are safety Nate Allen, safety/special teams star Colt Anderson and defensive end Clifton Geathers. Allen hasn't lived up to expectations since he was drafted in the second round in 2010, but he has turned in his best year since he was a rookie. Anderson is too good on special teams to let go and Geathers has been a solid depth player.
A big question mark is veteran quarterback Michael Vick, who has stated that he would be willing to return to the Eagles if he cannot get a starting job somewhere else. Vick is an 11-year veteran and would be one of the better backups in the league if he returned, preferably for another one-year deal. Don't forget about his knowledge of the team's offense and his tremendous presence in the locker room.
Now that the free-agent players on the Eagles have been taken care of, it's time to look at their potential salary cap cuts for next season. Every team has veteran players each year who will either have to take a pay cut or risk getting cut.
Safety Patrick Chung, scheduled to make $3.25 million in 2014, is as good as gone. He might be the worst player on the team.
Other possibilities to either take a pay cut or get released are veteran wide receiver Jason Avant ($3.96 million in 2014), tight end James Casey ($3.985 million) and right guard Todd Herremans ($4.2 million). It probably makes sense to keep Avant, although he'll likely be the fourth receiver. But Casey has made virtually no offensive contribution this season and Herremans has regressed for the second straight year.
Around the league, the Eagles will obviously look to add some free agents. The team went crazy in free agency in 2011, adding Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith, and everybody remembers how poorly that worked out.
But general manager Howie Roseman made a number of intelligent free-agent signings last year, including outside linebacker Connor Barwin, cornerback Cary Williams and punter Donnie Jones.
He doesn't need to make a big splash this year, a la Jairus Byrd or Eric Decker, but adding a safety or a couple of depth players would make a lot of sense.
In general, the Eagles' front office has done a tremendous job of building the team. They're stacked with young talent and quarterback Nick Foles is one of the best deals in the entire NFL, in terms of his salary, as he's scheduled to make just $750,880 in 2014.
Over the last few years, the Eagles have done a pretty impressive job of locking up their best players before they're scheduled to hit free agency. There's no player this offseason who absolutely has to be re-signed, and if there was, the Eagles would have the money to do so.
Financially speaking, the Eagles are in a good situation for the next few years. Roseman is an intelligent guy and he knows what he's doing when it comes to spending money.
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