Since hopping on here at Big Blue View, I’ve focused my articles on the New York Giants salary cap and the various decisions the team might have to make and how those decisions might impact the cap.
I thought I would change things up a bit and look at the entire NFC East.
Here is a summary of the projected cap space for Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and the Giants. (All figures used in this article are via Over the Cap.)
NFC East Teams Projected 2018 Salary Cap Space
|Projected 2018 Cap Space
|Current Dead Money
|Projected 2018 Cap Space
|Current Dead Money
The above numbers do not reflect any postseason accounting or rollover from the 2017 league year.
Let’s break this down even further.
New York Giants
Key Free Agents: OL Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, OLB Devon Kennard, CB Ross Cockrell
Toughest Call: New general manager Dave Gettleman has made it very clear that he intends to rebuild the offensive line with some “hog mollies.” The question is whether Justin Pugh, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, will be a part of that group.
Pugh, remember, is coming off a yet another shortened season, this time due to a back ailment for which he did not have surgery. But he’s versatile — he can play every position except center and he’s young enough to where some team is going to roll the dice with giving him a mega deal.
Will that team be the Giants? Given the team has a lot of other pressing needs, they might not be able to shell out a contract in the neighborhood that say, Vikings offensive lineman Riley Reiff got last year, which was a five-year, $58.75 million contract with $26.3 million fully guaranteed (including an $11 million signing bonus).
Pugh will certainly be looking for an equal or greater pay day, which he’s almost sure to get from a team with money to spare.
Final Thoughts: Two other contracts that bear watching are those held by quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Odell Beckham Jr, but for different reasons.
Manning, as noted before, is due to count for $22.2 million this year, a figure that includes a $5 million roster bonus due on the third day of the new league year.
While both Gettleman and Pat Shurmur going on the record as saying Manning will be their starter in 2018, I doubt the team will adjust Manning’s contract unless they absolutely have to. (And if you’re wondering how that might take shape, I outlined such a scenario in this piece.)
As for Beckham, there are already those who have begun beating the drum for the wide receiver to get his pay day this year.
As I outlined in this article, I don’t see where it makes sense to do so this year. Could the Giants find a way to get it done? Yes, but the main reason why it doesn’t make sense is because this team has quite a few holes it needs to address.
And if anyone is worried about a potential holdout by Beckham, I don’t think you have to worry. With a new offense and defense being installed, it would behoove everyone on that roster to be there for the OTAs and for training camp, even if some guys think they can get a better workout in with a personal trainer.
Key Free Agents: QB Kirk Cousins, CB Bashaud Breeland, WR Terrelle Pryor, Sr., C Spencer Long
Toughest Call: After acquiring quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs and extending his contract — moves that will become official on March 14, 2018, the first day of the new league year — Washington is reportedly contemplating placing the franchise tag on Cousins with an eye toward trading him to another team.
Such a move would cost Washington a projected $23.09 million, leaving them with a projected $25.874 million pot to re-sign those pending free agents and target new ones.
If it comes down to them tagging Cousins, look for the quarterback and his agent to tie up that money as long as possible. Why? Once a player is designated as a franchise or transition player, that money automatically comes off the team’s available cap space.
If he’s tagged, Cousins can also quickly sign the tag which would prevent Washington from later removing the tag once the initial free-agency rush is over.
Final Thoughts: In theory, Washington’s plan regarding Cousins makes sense. However, the fly in Washington’s ointment might be the current Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, who almost certainly will be a much sought-after acquisition by quarterback needy teams.
Foles right now has a very reasonable $7.6 million cap figure for 2018, making him even more attractive to potential suitors than Cousins, who is sure to cost a lot more despite not having the postseason credentials Foles now has.
Washington might just be better off letting Cousins walk and taking whatever compensatory pick they’d get in return for him in 2019 (probably a third-rounder).
They already have their quarterback for the foreseeable future in the soon-to-be 34-year-old Smith.
With his window closing fast, Washington might be better off focusing on building around Smith now rather than tying up the money in a player who has no future with the team.
Key Free Agents: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Anthony Hitchens
Toughest Call: After three “meh” seasons, Lawrence finally put it together in 2017, his contract year, recording career highs in sacks (14.5), total tackles (58) and passes defensed (1) in his first full 16-game season as a starter.
Lawrence isn’t just a pass rusher; he’s also shown prowess against the run, with 37 of his 58 total tackles coming against the run. He also edged out teammate Sean Lee for the team lead in tackles for a loss (14) and was the runaway team leader in quarterback hits (26) and sacks.
The big question for Dallas is whether it wants to break open the bank for that one solid season by a 25-year-old player who already has one league-imposed four-game suspension for a substance abuse violation and who had back surgery in January 2017?
Final Thoughts: The Cowboys currently don’t have a lot of cap space with which to work, but again, some moves are likely in the works to open additional space.
Even then, Dallas doesn’t look as though it will be able to be big-money players in free agency, which means that those players they do target (be it from other teams or their own) will have to bring optimized value.
A perfect example is Hitchens, who can play all three linebacker spots. Playing in just 12 games, Hitchens posted a career high this past season in total tackles (84), second on the team behind fellow inside linebacker Sean Lee’s 101 tackles. Hitchens also broke up two passes in coverage.
Key Free Agents: OLB Nigel Bradham, TE Trey Burton
Toughest Call: The Eagles will enter the 2018 league year over the projected cap. But with just a few moves, they can easily remedy this problem.
The most obvious will be to trade quarterback Nick Foles for a $7.6 million savings (more on that in a moment).
The Eagles could also look to move on from linebacker Mychal Kendricks ($7.6 million savings) and extend defensive end Brandon Graham’s contract to lower the $8 million cap figure he’s set to have in 2018, the final year of his deal.
With the Eagles scheduled to draft 32nd, Over the Cap projects they’ll need just $4,590,342 to get their draft class signed (the Eagles do not currently have a second or third-round pick in this year’s draft, something that might change if they’re able to move Foles).
Between moving Foles and releasing/trading Kendricks, that’s a $15.2 million savings that can go toward extending Bradham, a defensive starter. If they can lower Graham’s number via an extension, that will give them enough room to add a second- or third tier free agent for depth.
Their toughest negotiation might be with Bradham, a speedy, physical linebacker who, if he hits the open market, could get a call from the Giants. Besides getting the radio in his helmet during the latter part of the season, Bradham was the Eagles team leader in total tackles (88) and was fifth on the team in passes defensed (8).
Final Thoughts: The Eagles have a good chunk of the team’s core under contact through 2020, including quarterback Carson Wentz; receiver Alshon Jeffrey; tight end Zach Ertz; offensive linemen Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks; defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan and Derek Barnett; and defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.
Thanks to Foles’ cap-friendly 2018 cap figure and his Super Bowl LII MVP performance, the Eagles could very well be in a good position to add to their team core if they can find a quarterback-needy team willing to give up a second and/or third-round pick, which as previously mentioned, the Eagles currently don’t have in 2018.
Say what you want about the Eagles, but their approach to building their team has put them in a position to be competitive for many, many years to come if they can stay healthy.
Because they have such a strong core in place, they can be very judicious in how they spend this offseason.