The NFL announced last Sunday that the 2022 salary cap is expected to reach the maximum $208.2 million agreed upon by the league and Players Association last spring. This is a big step in the right direction after Covid delivered a crushing blow to teams in 2021 when the cap dropped nearly $16 million to $182.5 million. This hopefully sets up a positive trend for years to come.
The Philadelphia Eagles ended up purging a couple of big contracts and committing to a number of restructures the last offseason to clear up the $30 million overage. With lots of dead money still expected to land on the Eagles in 2022, all increases to the cap are good and necessary for Howie Roseman.
Below is a quick breakdown of what the situation looks like for the Eagles heading into 2022 per Spotrac:
2022 NFL Salary Cap: $208.2 Million
Eagles 2021 Rollover: $18.489 Million
Eagles 2022 Salary Cap: $226.689 Million
Cap Space: $14.644 Million
$14.6 million is not great, it ranked 22nd in the league. Plus that doesn't take into account the rookie picks and how they fit in, it will be negative on the cap. But it's a start.
Currently ranked 2nd in dead money for 2022 sets us back a bit, as we are paying out over $22 million to players, not on the roster.
The good news is, there are plenty of moves Howie can make to turn $14 million into over $50 million in cap space. I picked out four potential moves and listed them from most likely to least. Also, picked out the best moves for the team to the worst for the team based on the future implications it will have on the salary cap.
1. Release G Brandon Brooks
This move is, sadly, the most obvious and necessary. Utilizing the post-June 1 designation release, similar to Alshon Jeffrey and Malik Jackson last season, it'll allow the dead money to spread over the 2022 and 2023 salary cap. Brooks presents the most significant savings of any player using that designation.
Brooks is an incredible player, freak athlete and we appreciate those 3 Pro Bowls and what he has done for the Eagles. However, injuries are catching up to the 32-year-old. The pectoral strain this season, the torn Achilles last season, dislocated shoulder in '19, and the torn Achilles in '18. The Eagles have managed without him.
Jack Driscoll, although injuries may be a story with him as well, is younger and presents a short to potentially long-term answer. Nate Herbig has since stepped in admirably and the offensive line has continued to do quite well.
Brandon Brooks' post-June 1 release would create $5.939 million dead money in '22 and $9.797 million dead in '23. It would clear up $13.5 million of cap room for 2022 and $8.25 million in 2023. Howie could also look for a trade partner, but the salary and dead money are significant and we would likely end up giving compensation to get a team to eat some of the money.
2. Extend DT Javon Hargrave
Javon Hargrave has been a revelation this season on the Eagles' defense. He ranks 4th among DTs in total pressures, 3rd in sacks, and 6th in hurries. He signed a 3 year/$39 million deal in March of 2020. He dealt with a pectoral strain during his first training camp and pre-season. Add on the Covid stricken season and shift from a 3-4 to 4-3 scheme, he failed to live up to early expectations. Concerns of year 1 are damned, Hargrave is here now!
In 2022, he carries the third-highest base salary on the team. Which makes him primed for a Restructure! But has he done enough to warrant a couple more years on his contract via an extension? There is a risk, he is 28, and adding even 2 years, brings him to age 32. He just has so much dead money sitting there in 2022 already when he's a free agent, that an extension helps to have him earning money with the Eagles instead of being dead money and free up cap for next season.
All that said, extend Hargrave for 2 to 3 seasons with void seasons to make it 5 years to spread the bonus across. It gives him more guaranteed money and helps Howie with his cap situation. Take the max $11.715 of his 2022 base salary that can be converted and turn it into a signing bonus pro-rated over 5 years. Give him a minimum $1.035 million base in 2022. All this would create $9.372 million in 2022 cap space.
3. Cut or Trade G Isaac Seumalo
With those first two moves, we are now at over $37 million in the cap. Feeling better? This next move is smaller, but every million dollars can be important. Seumalo owns the 7th highest cap hit on the team next season. He's missed the majority of this season with broken bones in his foot. He's due to be a free agent at the end of next season.
Seumalo has likely lost his starting job to Dickerson at LG. There is a chance here to deal him and get some draft return, similar to that of Matt Pryor earlier this season. Seumalo offers versatility at a reasonable price. We just have cheaper, more effective pieces at our disposal.
A trade frees up between $1.8 million (pre-June 1) or $5.65 million (post-June 1) in 2022. Cutting him would free up the same amount. But the idea of experience, versatility and fairly cheap contract by offensive line standards should have some teams interested.
4. Restructure/Extend CB Darius Slay
On the surface, this one seems obvious, but its ramifications in later years are significant. Slay is set to have a cap hit north of $22 million over the next 2 seasons with significant base salaries. Add in he is owed $4.57 million in dead money upon his contract expiring. Without an extension this offseason, there would be some major dead money piling up. As great as Slay has been this season, we are talking about an extension into his age 33 and beyond the season.
It's these types of decisions that have us staring down astronomical dead money when certain players retire or leave Philadelphia. Look at Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Jason Kelce, who are owed $15 million in dead money at the end of their contracts. You can free up plenty of money without creating that monster with Slays contract. But due to his base salary number of $16 million, you know Howie's ears are peaking at the potential 2022 savings.
He could restructure, but this is one where it's, look at me when you have spent all your money and exhausted all your other salary cap resources. A restructure could involve bringing his base to the minimum $1.12 million, adding another void year, and pro-rating $14.88 million in bonuses over 5 years. It would create $11.904 million in 2022 cap space. He could also restructure and take anywhere up to $14.88 million, but Howie usually goes for it all when opening up cap space. I'd be more apt to wait until next season and if he stays playing at an elite level and injury-free extend and restructure next year.
As you can see $14 million can become over $50 million with just a few moves and this didn't include some of the smaller contracts that could still free up a million or two. However, from experience, Howie should let some contracts run their course. The last bit of good news is though the Eagles as of now are low on cap space, they have 51 players signed to contracts in 2022, so the holes to fill are not as significant.