As it stands right now, the Eagles are only an estimated $521,022 under the projected salary cap for 2017, according to Over The Cap, seemingly leaving the front office precious little room to maneuver in free agency this coming offseason.
With the Eagles' season beginning to wind down, it's only natural to look ahead to the challenges facing the team this offseason. Aside from whatever concerns there are with the coaching staff and/or general manager, we know the roster has grave defects at the cornerback and wide receiver positions, and could use upgrades at several others.
We also know the Eagles are not in possession of an inordinate number of draft picks in 2017. They recouped a first-rounder they once lacked from the Vikings in the Sam Bradford trade and have an extra fifth incoming from the Browns as part of the Carson Wentz deal. Otherwise, standard fare.
That means unless the Eagles absolutely ace the draft — and given their track record, that's unlikely — their best means for immediate improvement would be through free agency. And while the club can create some additional space by dumping some existing players, and the cap might increase more than expected, there still won't be enough money leftover to make a huge splash.
Granted, building through free agency isn't necessarily a good idea. The idea that the Eagles don't have the freedom to make the moves they want isn't comforting, either.
It's important to note that the figure from Over The Cap is only a projection, but for the sake of this discussion let's assume it's accurate. $500k isn't even enough money to sign all of their draft picks.
As is always the case, there will be casualties. Connor Barwin looks like a prime candidate for the chopping block. He's 30, either underperforming or better suited for a 3-4 defense, and his departure would free up nearly $8 million in cap space.
Barwin is one of the only obvious choices though, and also the only likely cut that would free up such a significant portion of the cap. Other than Jason Peters, who rebounded nicely in 2016 and is a strong candidate to stick around beyond this season, most anybody else is only saving the Eagles a few million here, a few million there.
Even if we assume the Eagles can save upwards of $20 million with releases, until the rookie draft class is accounted for, a conservative estimate puts the organization around $10-15 million in spending power on the open market. That's roughly the equivalent of one top-tier free agent, or two mid-tier talents.
Obviously, this is all theoretical. We've seen vice president of football operations Howie Roseman pull off stunning moves before, so there might be more cap space at his fingertips than it appears at first glance.
Then again, Roseman's rash of re-signings last offseason means there are a number of players who ar essentially untouchable, too. For example, moving on from the likes of Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz and Rodney McLeod would actually cost the Eagles more money. There isn't a lot of flexibility here.
Nor does any of this so far takes into account if the Eagles choose to extend any of their own players or impending free agents. There aren't many, but Bennie Logan is heading to the market and could be very difficult to keep, particularly if the club has designs on improving another area of the roster.
There doesn't seem to be any way to approach the looming offseason without the term "cap-strapped" coming into play. That doesn't mean the Eagles won't be able to do anything, but if you're hoping for a bunch of quick fixes, that simply isn't in their future.