The Eagles have one of the better safety duos in the NFL, although a lot of good that did the secondary in 2017. Without credible cornerbacks, it seems a bit of a waste having all of that money invested in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Nonetheless, that's the state of the roster as things currently stand.
Fortunately, Jenkins and McLeod aren't exactly breaking the bank, at least not yet. In fact, according to Over The Cap, there are six NFL teams currently slated to spend as much or more cap space than the Eagles on their top two safeties in '17 at $13.1 million, and three more that come within $1 million. In other words, the budget is hardly out of the ordinary.
Those salaries begin to rise dramatically in 2018, but that's not a concern right now. Regardless, the Eagles are saddled with both players for this season - not that many people are clamoring for change, anyway.
The only way the Eagles could create savings under the cap for this year is through trades, since part of the safeties' guaranteed money is tied up in the base salary. Yet even then, dealing Jenkins would only free up $1.5 million, while a McLeod swap would still result in $800k in dead money on the books for '17.
Again, there's no call to move Jenkins, and while there might be some frustration with McLeod regarding questions of effort, it's not like he's being run out of town. That being said, with the Eagles' cap situation expected to be tight, the front office has to explore every possibility.
Still, by all appearances, the Eagles' safeties are, well, safe, for lack of a better word. The next step is putting the talent in front of Jenkins and McLeod that will allow them to flourish, particularly at the corner position.
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SAFETIES UNDER CONTRACT
Cap Number: $7,500,000
Considering Jenkins doubled as the primary nickel cornerback for much of the past two seasons, the Eagles are getting an absolute steal. That won't be the case for much longer, as the eight-year veteran's cap hit jumps to $10 million in 2018, so enjoy the discount while it lasts. Since Jenkins signed with the club in 2014, he's recorded 261 tackles, 1.0 sack, four forced fumbles, 34 pass breakups, eight interceptions and four returns for touchdowns. Also, he's still at a nice age, and because he's such a cerebral player, even as his physical abilities decline, Jenkins could remain an excellent safety. Maybe not $10 million per season excellent, but the Eagles will cross that bridge when they get there.
Cap Number: $5,600,000
McLeod set career highs for tackles (83), sacks (1.0) and interceptions (3), plus matched in his personal best with seven pass breakups in his first season with the Eagles. An otherwise fine campaign was marred somewhat by the unfortunate incident in Cincinnati where he seemingly shied away from contact during a goal-line stand, although the criticism was probably a little unfair. Regardless, the defense is got nice production from their centerfielder, albeit McLeod was quiet at times. His cap hit climbs steadily toward $10 million over the next few seasons as well, so the Eagles might want to see a bit more in terms of big plays in the future. Then again, the numbers are a symptom of the way McLeod is used, as he starts many plays deep in the secondary, so that line isn't too shabby for what's being asked.
Cap Number: $1,500,000
Maragos signed a contract extension in December, ensuring the special teams ace will be around for a few more years, at least. The seven-year veteran led all Eagles with 10 solo tackles in the third phase, and that was tied with seven players for 10th in the NFL. Not bad. Maragos isn't incredibly athletic and doesn't provide much value as a safety, yet won't embarrass himself if pressed into action on defense, either. The Eagles could cut his cap number in half with a trade, as much of his guarantees were applied to his base salary, but obviously they're happy with what they're getting for the price.
Cap Number: $705,000
A third-round pick by the Ravens in 2014, Brooks was released out of training camp and quickly scooped up by the Eagles in September. He wound up appearing in 11 games, making five tackles and forcing two fumbles on special teams, and coming up with an interception to seal a Week 16 victory over the Giants. While he's never started a game in the NFL and might look like a bust, he's still very young and showed a nose for the football in '16. He has a shot to be back next season.
2016 Cap Number: $600,000
Because Jenkins is forced to play so much cornerback, Watkins actually sees the field quite a bit, playing 38 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps in 2016. He hasn't done a bad job, either, coming a long way from a year-and-a-half ago when he seemed to think matador was a position in the NFL. With his tackling woes improved, Watkins is a serviceable defensive back. Fortunately for the Eagles, he's a restricted free agent, too, which means they'll have the right of first refusal for a relatively modest price. The numbers for '17 haven't been set, but last offseason, a minimum one-year tender of $1.67 million was required. That's reasonable for an experienced, backup safety, provided another team doesn't swoop in with a more lucrative, longer-term offer. With so much tied up in the position already, the Eagles likely couldn't afford to match, nor should they feel the need.
* Ages as of 12/31/17