By Dave Spadaro
One after another, Howie Roseman had the magic touch for the Eagles in their Super Bowl LII season. He hit in free agency with players like cornerback Patrick Robinson, defensive end Chris Long, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and, yes, quarterback Nick Foles.
There were trades for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and running back Jay Ajayi. The NFL draft netted immediate impact from defensive end Derek Barnett.
It was a championship performance from Roseman and the Eagles’ personnel department, virtual perfection that helped push the Eagles to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Now the page is turned. The 2018 season is in full view. The Eagles are in Indianapolis, site of the NFL Scouting Combine, and free agency begins on March 14. There is some heavy-duty lifting to be done to get the salary cap house in order, to prepare a plan of attack for free agency and for a way to maximize a draft in which the Eagles have, at the moment, only six draft picks.
Can Roseman put together back-to-back virtuoso performances in building this Eagles roster?
It’s going to be really tricky this time around. The Eagles are in the neighborhood of $10 million over the salary cap, which is projected to be around $184 million, an increase from the $167 million in 2017. And while there is some relief for the Eagles with the added numbers, it doesn’t lessen the burden all that much.
Fact is, the Eagles are going to have to make some very tough decisions. Some of the unrestricted free agents to be — tight end Trey Burton, linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerback Robinson and defensive tackle Beau Allen — are going to be very difficult to retain. Those players are in line for much larger contracts, and the Eagles just don’t have room under the salary cap.
Unless, that is, they lop off some high-dollar contracts. Defensive end Vinny Curry holds a cap hit of $11 million. Offensive tackle Jason Peters has a cap hit of $10.6 million. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod combine to eat up $18 million of cap space. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks has a $7.6 million hit in the books, and wide receiver Torrey Smith has a cap charge of $5 million for 2018.
So, yeah, it’s going to take some work to get this roster right. And understand this, Eagles fans, that you’re not going to love every decision. The Eagles that won the Super Bowl won’t be the Eagles of 2018. The roster is going to change. We’re going to say goodbye to some of the players we loved in the course of the championship run.
The 2018 Eagles should compete for the title in the NFC East and in the NFC. They’ve got a lot of great pieces in place — they are loaded at quarterback, the running back picture is promising, the lines of scrimmage are very strong — but they also have the task of replacing some pieces that were key in winning Super Bowl LII.
This is the nature of the business. Teams change from one year to the next. The faces of the Philadelphia Eagles are about to change, so prepare yourself for the reality of doing business in the NFL.