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Somehow the Eagles are still below the salary cap for 2017

This is just a shorty to turn the page—just got back from the East Coast’s version of the Land Down Under, Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

This is today’s amazing Eagles stat of the day:

Current Salary-cap space: $1,294,518 (source: Overthecap.com).

I’ll be back in a few hours to add some content to this stat and maybe even figure out just how Howie pulled it off.
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I reckon the real salary-cap maneuvering skill of Eagles GM Howie Roseman can be spotlighted as an example in this deal he did three weeks ago:

Safety Rodney McLeod, who signed a five-year $35 million contract last year, had more than $3 million of his salary converted into bonus money in the last week of May. It wasn’t a big deal in the media, but the move gave Philadelphia approximately $2.4 million in additional cap space, peeling themselves off the absolute bottom of the salary cap floor.

Howie has done a lot of salary conversions into bonus money—bonus money which counts less against the cap because it can be pro-rated over the life of a contract. Okay, maybe it’s not brain surgery, but it’s a pretty shrewd move when used as deftly as Howie has done the last few years.

They say it’s more important for an NFL GM to be a better talent evaluator than he is a salary cap master. Today you kinda need a good balance of both skills. That’s because if you do make a mistake in talent evaluation, you don’t want to put yourself in a position like the Eagles were two years ago, when they got stuck devoting a total of $16.5 million in cap space to the running back position (ah, the DeMarco Murray experiment! Thanks, Chip…)

The Eagles are still recovering from the free-agent spendthrift years of Chip Kelly, who crippled the cap numbers with the signing of guys like Murray and Byron Maxwell, to name a few. Kelly also got rid of guys like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole and Evan Mathis without getting anything in return.

Whether you agree or not, Howie took a different value approach when he got sole control of the show in 2016. He cleared up some significant cap space by extending Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Zach Ertz, Vinny Curry, and Brent Celek, among others including the most recent extension of Jason Peters.

Anyway, by extending the contracts of talented veterans who are worth keeping, Howie has whittled away the huge salary cap deficit created by the Chip Kelly years. At the beginning of May 2017, when the Eagles signed a bunch of free agents like Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to some very team-friendly contracts, the Eagles were still $10 million OVER the cap. But since then Howie has worked some contract extensions with bonus money and deferred money against the cap to actually put the Eagles $1.29 million UNDER the cap.

For instance, the Eagles got $5 million in cap relief alone this year by extending Jason Peters’ contract out to 2019, and converting a big part of his previous salary expectation into prorated signing bonus. Peters was due $15 million this year under his old contract, but none of that money was guaranteed. That would have been a $15 million cap hit in 2017 if Peters stayed with the team under the old contract, as opposed to getting released or traded.

Now Peters will end up getting $15.5 million guaranteed along with an $8 million signing bonus— so Peters now has a total three-years-and-$32.5 million remaining on his contract, which will keep him until his age-37 season.

Peters will still make $11.7 million in 2017 and receive a slight pay cut to $11.25 million in 2018. He will still make $22.95 million over the next two seasons, similar to his initial deal. With the one-year extension in place, Peters will make $9.55 million in the 2019 season.

That was cap management gold by Howie there.

Then there are the guys Howie probably will not extend:

Once Ryan Mathews passes a physical exam, he can be released by the Eagles with a net cap savings of $4 million. Other potential cap savings targets could include Marcus Smith, who would save $1.5 million, or Dorial Green-Beckham. He would save the team $944,000.

The one thing that’s fair about Howie—if he thinks a player can still play well and if his coaches agree on it, he will try hard to extend or renegotiate your contract in exchange for some cap savings. But even if he feels you are NOT playing well but he is already stuck with a bad contract made by the previous GM of the Eagles (the player’s name Nelson Agholor comes to mind), he’s not going to release you just for the sake of convenience, because your cap number this year and next year would still count against the Eagles. He’s going to try and trade you to a fresh start with another team. And if that doesn’t happen, he’s going to ask his coaching staff to get everything good they can get out of you during the remaining contract in which he is stuck with your cap number. Howie simply refuses to waste cap space.

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