The Eagles currently have over $20 million in salary cap space, but that cash may soon dwindle. By carrying over over $20 million in cap space from 2012 into this season, the Eagles temporarily raised their cap, creating an illusion of long-term financial stability. Chip Kelly will also identify his own core players and pay them handsomely. These two factors will force the Eagles to make some tough choices on players who the new regime regards as Andy Reid’s guys.
Here are the veterans who could find themselves on the chopping block in the next year or two:
DeMeco Ryans: Getting rid of a respected leader is always tough, but the Texans traded him for chump change just last year. Ryans was the team’s second-best defensive player in 2012 after Brandon Graham, but he has clearly lost a step entering his age-29 campaign. He has historically played better in 4-3 systems than 3-4 schemes and is still playing out a massive 6-year, $48 million deal. He is due $20.2 million over the next three seasons, which is a ton for an aging inside linebacker. The Eagles will keep him around if they can, but if they are up against the cap next year, Ryans could be the first to go.
DeSean Jackson: Roseman back-loaded Jackson’s contract, and the Eagles may not want to deal with the consequences of that. Jackson is due $44 million over the next four seasons, and that’s simply too much for a player who has caught just 150 passes in the last three years. The Eagles’ willingness to pay Jackson hinges on how Kelly uses him. If Kelly funnels the ball to LeSean McCoy and his tight ends, Jackson is gone. If Kelly gets Jackson heavily involved in the screen and return games, the Eagles could keep him around. Kelly also preferred receivers who could block at the collegiate level, and Jackson is not a great fit in that role.
Brent Celek: On the record, Chip Kelly insists that he will get three tight ends involved in the offense. However, that’s something he never did at Oregon and something that almost nobody has ever done. Kelly hand-picked both James Casey and Zach Ertz, leaving Celek as a potential odd man out. While Celek isn’t the athlete that Casey and Ertz are, he remains the toughest and best blocking tight end on the roster. Whether or not the Eagles would pay him over $18 million over the next four years remains to be seen. His days of catching 60 balls per season are over.
Trent Cole: After mustering a mere 3 sacks in 2012, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Cole will ever return to form. His hand injury is a valid excuse, but Cole is now facing new hurdles in his transition to outside linebacker and his age (turning 31 in October). The biggest factor threatening his long-term future with the team, however, is the fact that his salary balloons to a ridiculous $11.6 million in 2015. There’s no chance he’ll see that money as a 32-year-old.
Jason Avant: All signs point to Chip Kelly using athletic tight ends as slot receivers, which could very well signal the end of Jason Avant in Philadelphia. Avant is a west coast receiver who runs crisp routes but offers nothing in terms of run-after-catch ability. It’s doubtful that the Eagles will value him as highly as they did under Andy Reid, which means that they won’t want to be on the hook for the $6.7 million he’s due over the next two years.
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