Assuming there will be a season in 2011, there will be a salary cap. This figure, judging by the average annual raise in the hard cap, figures to be between $145 and $150 million. The Eagle payroll is now only sitting around $61 million for 2011. How can that be? The Eagles have recently saved a ton of money by cutting ties with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, and Stacy and Shawn Andrews, who would have totaled around $30 million in 2011. Also, Kevin Kolb received about 90% of his extension in guaranteed money in 2010 and he will only be paid around $1.3 million this coming season. Michael Vick is a free agent, and young superstars LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are still playing on their rookie, second round contracts. Asante Samuel and Jason Peters are the only two Eagles scheduled to make more than $5 million in 2011, and only seven more players will make in excess of $2 million.
So, the Eagles can more than afford to extend Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson to contracts that would combine for at least $20 million per season for the forseeable future. After the Eagles resign a few role players scheduled to hit free agency such as perhaps Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell, or Jerome Harrison, the Eagles should have close to $60 million in cap space heading into free agency without suffering any key losses to the roster. This is how I believe the roster should look prior to free agency:
QB: Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, Mike Kafka
RB: LeSean McCoy, Jerome Harrison, Leonard Weaver, Owen Schmitt
WR: Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall, Sinorice Moss, Jeremy Williams
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor, Cornelius Ingram
OT: Jason Peters, Winston Justice, King Dunlap, Austin Howard
OG: Todd Herremans, Max Jean-Gilles, Fenuki Tupou, Dallas Reynolds
C: Jamaal Jackson, Mike McGlynn
DE: Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Ricky Sapp, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim
DT: Antonio Dixon, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Jeff Owens, Trevor Laws
OLB: Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley, Keenan Clayton
MLB: Jamar Chaney, Omar Gaither
CB: Asante Samuel, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley, Brandon Hughes
S: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Quintin Mikell, Marlin Jackson, Colt Anderson
ST: David Akers, Sav Rocca, Jon Dorenbos
The weaknesses are obvious. The secondary needs help, especially at corner. The Eagles are counting on an awful lot of young players in this area, and though guys like Kurt Coleman have performed better than expected, they shouldn’t have too much pressure placed on them. With so much youth already developing, a veteran free agent acquisition should be the solution here. All roads lead to Nnamdi Asomugha, but Carolina’s Richard Marshall or Baltimore’s Josh Wilson could be good additions. Maybe former Eagles Lito Sheppard, Al Harris, or Roderick Hood will garner some consideration. Next up is the right side of the offensive line. Right tackle, center, and right guard are all big positions of need for the Eagles. I like USC’s Tyron Smith and Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi as potential rookie right tackles to compete with Justice and King Dunlap. Jared Gaither and Jermon Bushrod would also be good options in free agency. On the interior, college prospects Orlando Franklin (Miami), Ben Ijalana (Villanova), and Marcus Cannon (TCU) would be good pickups in round 2 and the star free agent would be New England’s Logan Mankins. Florida’s Mike Pouncey could be a good fit at center or right guard, but would be cost us our first pick without a doubt. The Saints may let starting center Jonathan Goodwin go as well, as they have three starting linemen hitting free agency this year. The final area of need for the Eagles has to be the WILL linebacker spot. Ernie Sims was awful in every area of the game, and I’m not sold on Keenan Clayton. The Eagles should look at drafting LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard or Michigan State’s Greg Jones in round 2 or 3.
The bottom line is that there will be no excuse for the Eagles to not make a serious run at it all next year. With tons of cap space, a better defensive coordinator, no significant losses to the roster, and some big time trade ammo (Kevin Kolb), the Eagles have everything at their disposal to place the finishing touches on a very young and talented roster and appear poised for their best season…ever?