INDIANAPOLIS -- Don't look for the Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles to be a big player in free agency this year. With the start of the free agency signing period less than two weeks away, the Eagles are one of three teams that are currently over the projected $178 million salary cap for 2018.
According to the NFL Players Association website, they have $187,918,815 in player contracts.
Punter Donnie Jones' retirement earlier this week will slice $1.5 million off the Eagles' cap number once his retirement is official. But that still leaves them about $8.4 million over the projected cap.
The Eagles have 13 unrestricted free agents, and there's a very real possibility they could end up re-signing exactly none of them, including one of their key defensive players, linebacker Nigel Bradham, and backup tight end and core special-teamer Trey Burton.
Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was already talking Wednesday about all of the compensatory draft picks the Eagles are going to get next year for the free agents they aren't going to re-sign this year.
With the number of free agents they could potentially lose, "I think it would be impossible for us not to have a bunch of compensatory picks" in 2019, Roseman said. "All of that is part of our plan going forward."
That plan is to accumulate as many draft picks as possible the next few years so that they will be able to counter-balance the monster contracts they are already paying many of their top veterans and the Godzilla deal they are going to be giving their young quarterback Carson Wentz in either 2019 or 2020.
"Our task is to study the successful teams that are paying quarterbacks and look at the resource allocation," Roseman said. "The flip side of that is, from a draft-pick perspective, because of the original trade (to move up and draft Wentz) and some of the other moves we've made, we haven't had a lot of draft picks.
"So, going forward, we have to make sure we have the resources in place where we have more draft picks. More guys who are making rookie-level salaries to balance the higher salaries.
"It's a good problem. But we have a lot of guys on our roster who are making real money. We want to keep those guys. The best way to do that is to try to balance that with some young salaries."
The one free agent that the Eagles would seem to need back, particularly given the fact that Jordan Hicks is coming off a ruptured Achilles, is Bradham.
Bradham had the best season of his career last year. He took over the defensive play-calling chores when Hicks went down. He was coordinator Jim Schwartz's defensive enforcer and spearheaded the league's No. 1-ranked run defense.
But Roseman made it clear Wednesday that, while they would like to have Bradham back, "we're not going to empty the vault for any of our players right now," he said. "We just don't have that flexibility."
No they don't. The Eagles have nine players with 2018 cap numbers of $8 million or more. Topping the list: defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at $17.9 million, right tackle Lane Johnson at $12.5 million, right guard Brandon Brooks at $11.1 million, defensive end Vinny Curry at $11 million and left tackle Jason Peters at $10.7 million.
Several veterans are expected to be asked to restructure their deals, including Curry, who isn't an $11 million-a-year edge rusher, and Peters.
Roseman seemed fairly optimistic Wednesday that the Eagles will be able to navigate their way through these rough salary-cap waters. Most of the free agents they signed last year, like cornerback Patrick Robinson, running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long, were inexpensive additions whose valuable contributions to the Super Bowl cause far exceeded their cap number. Maybe they can find some more of those this year.
What they're not going to do, Roseman insisted, is hold a veteran fire sale.
"We're not on short-sale right now," he said. "We're very comfortable with our roster and our flexibility to make moves we have to make. That doesn't mean we're in as good a (cap) situation as a lot of these teams in the league. I mean, there are teams with a ton of cap room.
"But we are not going to make decisions, we are not going to get rid of good players, because of our cap situation. That responsibility starts with me and making sure that we're able to keep guys and sign good players, and not just do things because of our cap situation."
--The Eagles are keeping their options open as far as the possibility of trading Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. The 29-year-old quarterback has one year left on his contract. His cap number jumps from $1.6 million last year to $7.6 million this year. While hanging on to Foles would seem to be the smart play given that Carson Wentz is coming back from a torn ACL, the Eagles are looking to add draft picks, and Foles could get them some. "We're trying to keep as many good players as possible," executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. "You're talking about the Super Bowl MVP. He's been unbelievably successful for us. He's got great character, great leadership."
--Defensive end Brandon Graham is looking to get a new contract from the Eagles. Graham, who will turn 30 in April, led the Eagles in sacks (9.5) and tackles for losses (16). He has one year left on his current deal. His 2018 cap number is $8 million. Given the Eagles' current cap problems, they could actually lower Graham's 2018 cap number by giving him an extension.
"Brandon is an unbelievable player, an unbelievable person," Roseman said. "Everyone wants more money. That's the nature of the business. He certainly deserves the opportunity to get more. We love having him here. We hope he finishes his career as an Eagle. We have a great relationship with him."