There are multiple scenarios that end in Vinny Curry's departure from the Eagles in 2018, but likely just one where he is retained. The veteran defensive end will need to agree to a pay cut to return, assuming a contract restructuring is offered by the club.
Curry is scheduled to cost the Eagles $11 million under the salary cap next season, a figure most everybody can agree is much too high. Where the two sides go from there is the tricky part.
The Eagles may approach Curry about a pay cut. Then again, they may opt to trade or - more likely - release him outright instead. Even if the Eagles are willing to renegotiate Curry's contract, he may decline the club's offer, again prompting a trade or his release.
Any way you slice it, there are a lot more roads leading out of Philadelphia than back in.
Though he hasn't quite lived up to the $47.5 million contract extension signed in 2016, Curry is coming off of a quality season. His 18 quarterback hits tied for first among Eagles defensive linemen, while his 42 tackles and 10 tackles for loss were second to Brandon Graham. Three sacks is a low number for a 16-game starter, but Curry made a greater impact than that tally suggests.
Now comes the hard part. Will the obviously talented Curry and the cap-strapped Eagles be able to agree on his value? And does such a deal behoove either side?
The Eagles could very well arrive at the difficult decision to move on. The club is over the projected cap for 2018 in the first place, with Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett all under contract.
While Curry's release creates $6 million in dead money against the cap, designating the transaction as a post-June 1 cut splits that cost over the next two seasons. It's not an attractive option but allows the Eagles to save as much as $8 million in 2018, quite a bit of space.
A trade is less likely, simply because not many teams would be willing to inherit Curry's remaining contract - more than $28 million over the next three years. That being said, the Eagles are among the most creative front offices in the NFL, so if they're able to package Curry in any way for draft picks, don't rule that out.
This is business for the Eagles. Of course, it's business to Curry as well, and as much as he might want to stay, there are other teams that would jump at the opportunity to pay for his services.
Let's say the Eagles do request Curry takes a pay cut. Will that amount be more or less than what he might command as a free agent? Put another way, if Curry were a free agent this offseason, would he land a deal for significantly less than the $28 million he's already owed, or his $9 million in base salary for '18? Probably not.
As simple as it is to say the Eagles can try to restructure Curry's contract, in this case, that might not be in the player's best interest. Doesn't mean he'll say no, but it's certainly not something the Eagles should count on.
It's difficult to envision this situation working out for everybody, given how badly the Eagles need the money and how much Curry stands to gain on the open market.
DEFENSIVE ENDS BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018
2018 cap hit: $11M
To put Curry's cap number in perspective, he's currently the 15th-highest paid edge defender in the NFL under contract in '18. Statistics don't do his performance justice, but that's undeniably a level his play on the field hasn't matched. A large portion of Curry's base salary becomes guaranteed in March, so expect a decision soon. The Eagles need not wait to reap the benefits of the so-called June 1 designation.
2018 cap hit: $8M
Meanwhile, Graham is in the final year of his contract, and clamoring for a new deal he definitely earned. The magic number for the top defensive ends in the league right now is around $17 million per year, so this could get complicated. Ultimately, the Eagles would be wise to pay an All-Pro talent, locker room leader and Super Bowl hero - probably something slightly less than that amount - but negotiations probably drag into the summer. Freeing up some of Curry's money would help.
2018 cap hit: $2.92M
The 14th overall pick a year ago, Barnett is poised for a bigger role in 2018. Finished with 6.0 sacks as a rookie, including playoffs, and could push double digits next season with more playing time.
2018 cap hit: $2.35M
Long seems to have landed in the perfect scheme to extend his career, though it will be difficult to match last season's production. At this price, the Eagles have nothing to lose.
2018 cap hit: $905,000
If the Eagles get desperate for coin, Means' salary isn't guaranteed, and he's rarely active on game day. Then again, the team really likes the intensity he brings to practice. Given the chance, maybe Means could be effective on Sundays, too.
Brought back strictly to reprise his role as a specialist, Braman's job is likely done now that the Eagles have won the Super Bowl. Regardless, he's not in the mix at defensive end.