Let's get to today's question:
The NFLPA released its latest salary cap report and it has the Philadelphia Eagles with about $8.5 million in space, the fourth-lowest amount in the NFL. For perspective, half the teams in the league have north of $30 million in cap space, led by the Cleveland Browns at more than $104 million.
The Eagles are expected to shed salary in the coming days and weeks to gain some more financial flexibility. Defensive end Connor Barwin, offensive lineman Allen Barbre, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and backup quarterback Chase Daniel are among the players who reportedly could be impacted. The fact that executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has hung onto these players this long suggests he is holding out hope he can find trade partners for them. In some cases, there is a little more sense of urgency (over $4 million of Kendricks' 2017 salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 11, for example), but generally speaking it makes sense for Roseman to keep his assets until it is clear that the trade market is dry.
Releasing running back Ryan Mathews would provide an additional $4 million in cap savings. Mathews is still recovering from neck surgery, however, and the rules stipulate that a team cannot release an injured player. One league source suggested Mathews is scheduled to have his neck re-checked by an orthopedic surgeon in June. If that timeline holds up, it could be a while before the Eagles make a move on that front.
Meanwhile, they have to figure out a way to be cap compliant, and the Eagles have one of the best staffs in the business when it comes to structuring deals. In theory, they could sign a top-tier free agent to big money while making sure that the 2017 figure is within their means. So, yes, they could ink Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye to a deal that averages $12 million or more a year if they want. NJ. com and the Houston Chronicle reported that the Eagles have inquired about Bouye, with the Chronicle adding that the Eagles are not expected to emerge as a serious contender for his services. That goes back to the projected price tag. The Eagles could lose both of their starting corners this year -- Leodis McKelvin was cut and Nolan Carroll is a free agent -- and Bouye would cure a lot of what ailed the secondary in 2016. When you add need and talent, it can often lead to a match. The Eagles' front office wants to stay disciplined, though. Motivated by the promise of Carson Wentz, they are trying to construct this roster in solid fashion. They want to build through the draft and take a more measured approach in free agency. Resisting the urge to make a splash or two has been difficult for the Eagles' brass in the past, but given that it's so early in the Wentz era, and considering the quality of cornerbacks that await them in the draft, the conservative approach seems like the play here.
Roseman has acknowledged that this is a bit of a unique situation for the team. Since the days of Joe Banner, they've routinely been among the best-positioned teams in terms of cap space. But things are a bit tight right now following last offseason's spending spree.
Both fundamentally and financially, the Eagles would prefer to avoid sinking big dollars into free-agent players. There will be moves in the near future that will clear up space, but the philosophy should remain the same.