PHILADELPHIA -- With Sam Bradford’s deal done, the Philadelphia Eagles can turn their attention to free agency with a firm handle on their 2016 salary cap situation.
Bradford’s deal actually has a lower 2016 cap number than his 2015 contract. Bradford will count $12.5 million against this year’s cap, $400,000 less than last season. That’s the 22nd highest QB cap number in the NFL, according to Spotrac.com.
The signing leaves the Eagles with $18.6 million in salary cap space. Factoring in their 2016 rookie salary pool, the Eagles should have between $12 million and $13 million to use in free agency.
That can get eaten up pretty quickly. Last year, the Eagles signed cornerback Byron Maxwell to a big-ticket free-agent deal. Maxwell’s 2015 cap hit was $8.7 million, while DeMarco Murray’s hit was $5 million. Two similar contracts would pretty much eat up the Eagles’ available cap space for 2016.
One other variable: The Eagles are interested in doing a contract extension for defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. That will be a bit more challenging given their current cap situation, but a new deal would free up Cox’s current 2016 cap number of $7.8 million. If the deal is structured right, Cox could receive a large signing bonus without significantly raising his cap number in 2016.
It is unlikely the Eagles will try to remake their roster with trades and signings the way Chip Kelly did last year. Re-signing Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz shows where their emphasis is. Still, there are a few key areas they could look to address before getting to the draft.
Here are three free agents the Eagles could target:
Wide receiver Marvin Jones may wind up out of the Eagles’ price range, but they should kick the tires on him. The 25-year-old Jones probably is the most attractive free agent wide receiver on the market, now that Chicago has tagged Alshon Jeffery.
Jones caught 69 passes for 848 yards for the Cincinnati Bengals last season. The Eagles would be paying him based on his ability and a projection of how he would fit in Doug Pederson’s offense.
They also would be paying him based on the mediocre production they got from their wide receivers in 2015. Jordan Matthews was fine, but the since-released Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff did not give Bradford much to work with.
Perhaps the recently drafted players will blossom into stars. Until they do, Bradford will need someone reliable to throw to. Jones is the best of a lackluster market.
Safety George Iloka would be an excellent partner for Pro Bowler Malcolm Jenkins. The Cincinnati Bengals safety is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He can play strong safety if Jim Schwartz prefers to deploy his safeties that way.
Iloka is good in coverage and against the run. He also is just about to turn 26, so he will just be entering his peak seasons.
Jenkins has endorsed the return of Walter Thurmond, but Thurmond also could be back as a nickel cornerback. That would strengthen two spots on the Eagles’ defense.
Offensive guard Brandon Brooks has played on both sides of center during his four seasons with the Houston Texans. He has played more at right guard, which would allow him to play alongside a rookie right tackle if the Eagles draft one.
The 6-foot-5, 343-pound Brooks was drafted in the third round in 2012 with a pick that originally belonged to the Eagles. The Texans sent their third-round pick and DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles for their third- and fourth-round picks. The Eagles selected Nick Foles with the pick they received from the Texans.