Are the Eagles planning a 2016 Superbowl run?
I know it seems far fetched, but hear me out.
Having sat down to look at the teams 2016 salary cap after the numerous reports from NFL insiders, that the Eagles will be “aggressive” in the 2016 Free Agency period, several things jumped off the page.
The obvious one is that Howie Roseman and company have been working diligently to lock down key members of the franchise without sacrificing the 2016 salary cap. Most of the contracts so far this off-season aim to keep core positions intact through the next three to five years. This is good news for Eagles fans because it gives stability and shows there is plan for the future in Philadelphia.
The second thing that jumped out and may be even more telling. As ventured further into the depth of player contracts I noticed there is a lot of cap room that could be cleared in 2017.
Next year there are a couple of players that will make great candidates for release if this team doesn’t produce this season. First on the list and has been mentioned even this year is starting left tackle Jason Peters. Peters has saw a drop in performance due to an injury plagued 2015 season, the cold hard truth is the man is going to be 34 in 2017. Paired with his age Peters has a cap hit of $12,000,000 next year. Eagles would save $7,200,000 for cutting the future Hall of Famer if he records another season that shows decline.
Next on the list is Connor Barwin who was a great outside linebacker in an ever exhausting Eagles defense. While Barwin had a solid year in 2015 recording 7 sacks, 7 deflected passes and a forced fumble, there were many who second guessed his fit in new defensive scheme under coordinator Jim Schwartz. In 2017 Barwin will turn 30 and carry a $8,350,000 cap hit, a release would free up $7,150,000.
Also on this list is newly signed quarterback Sam Bradford. Heading into 2017 Sam would be inline for a cap hit of $23,500,000, crazy right? Now a couple things could happen in this situation. He has a killer year, stays up right, and make playoffs, in which case the Eagles could extend him for a longer contract and ease this cap number. For the sake of this article lets say this does not happen and the Eagles falter this year. Cutting him would save the $4,500,000, still having $9,500,000 in dead money on the books, but they would be able to walk away.
Two smaller pieces that could see a release next year are Ryan Matthews, who would save the Eagles $3,000,000 and Brandon Graham, saving $3,500,000. Now both of these players have low cap hit regardless but barring a bad season it is not out of the question to see heading out.
Now to save everyone from having to perform any math, the release of these 5 players would save $25,350,000 in 2017 alone. This paired with possibility of not retaining players who are set to be Free Agents, the two big money savers being Mark Sanchez ($4,500,000) and Darren Sproles ($3,500,000) there is plenty of cap to be freed up.
So what does next years off-season moves have to do with this years team?
Well it all circles back to my original reason for looking in the salary cap, this years’ free agency. The Eagles have placed themselves in a position to very aggressive this year. With viable options to keep the cap in check in 2017, the Eagles have the freedom to go after higher caliber free agents, that would fill immediate needs at starting positions.
With this idea in mind you get a sense that the Eagles will follow suit to the rumors of NFL insiders and hit the free agency market hard in attempt to “Win now.” If they fail, they will begin cycling out older players and build for the future.
There is a lot to be seen still this season, but when you step back and look at the moves made, it’s not too crazy to think the Eagles are in a “Superbowl or Bust” mentality.