Eagles free agents: Who should stay and who should go (Bennie Logan, Nolan Carroll)
The cash-strapped Eagles will be under a lot of pressure to make the right decisions on their impending free agents.
The Eagles sent a strong signal last offseason that they believed the core of a winning football team was already in place in Philadelphia, handing out big contracts to home grown talent Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek.
Opinions span the spectrum of how rosy that core looks after a 7-9 season where five wins bookended a 2-9 middle. What is clear is that the Eagles enter the 2017 offseason more cash-strapped than they did a year earlier.
According to spotrac.com, before re-signing any of their own players, the Eagles have $12.5 million in cap space to work with. One positive: The dead money brought on by the purge of Chip Kelly’s roster moves will be down from $23.5 million (fifth highest in the NFL) in 2016 to $7 million.Here are the biggest contributors whose contracts are up:
Unrestricted free agents
The biggest, in name and stature, is Logan. The Eagles' third round pick in 2013earned $4 million over his first four seasons. He’ll be due for a big raise after starting 43 games the past three.
The Eagles already have one fifth of their 2017 salary cap space dedicated to Cox, Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Pending a restructuring or release of any of those players, adding a large deal for Logan to that would just increase the already stunning proportion of resources allocated to the defensive line.
Logan is an outstanding run stuffer, and wants to be back. If the Eagles can massage the cap, he’d be an important cog to maintain when it looks like the road to the division title in the coming decade will involve fighting Dallas’ tremendous offensive line in the trenches.
If the Eagles can’t keep Logan, Beau Allen has shown he can stop the run, and comparable free agents should hit the market, though fans would surely rather see that money spent on a wide receiver.
Carroll joined the Eagles in 2014 and became a starter entering the 2015 season. He started 11 games and surprised many with his play before suffering an injury against the Lions.
He signed a one-year deal worth $2.3 million last offseason and recovered to start 16 games in 2016, but his quality of play didn’t reach the same heights it did during the 2015 campaign. Carroll was regularly beaten, particularly in the second half of the season, and led the NFL with seven pass interference penalties.
Each week, either Carroll, Leodis McKelvin or Jalen Mills was miscast as a number one corner on a team in clear need of help covering wide receivers. If Carroll is willing to return on a cap-friendly deal, he would be a quality depth corner and a welcome veteran among the many young players sure to populate the position. But his days starting for the Eagles should be over.
Wisniewski had a veteran’s minimum salary of $760,000 on the one-year deal he signed with the Eagles last offseason, but bonuses brought that cap number up to $2.76 million before the season was over.
Wisniewski had started all 77 games he’d played in in his career before joining the Eagles. Expected to push Jason Kelce at center and Allen Barbre at guard, he saw time across the interior of the line while the Eagles dealt with injuries and played in all 16 games, starting six.
How the Eagles feel about Kelce may determine how hard they work for a Wisniewski return.
Bryan Braman, Najee Goode and Stephen Tulloch
Braman is one of the more important special teams players to populate the Eagles sideline in recent years. He should return, and be worth the investment more than another body. Goode has spent the last four seasons as a backup linebacker for the Eagles, and with the team being woefully thin at linebacker, it makes sense to bring him back to the fold.
Tulloch, on the other hand, earned $2.5 million in 2016, and with 11 years of service in the league would be owed a minimum of $1 million in 2017. It’s a lot of money for a linebacker who made seven tackles in 2016.
Restricted free agents
Burton became an offensive contributor in his third season for the Eagles, catching 37 passes for 327 yards. While ostensibly the third tight end on the Birds’ roster, Burton finished fourth on the team in receptions, more than doubling Brent Celek’s total.
The Eagles already have a lot of money tied into tight ends, but they should be adding weapons to Carson Wentz’ arsenal, not subtracting them. Burton was an undrafted free agent, and if the Eagles offer the lowest tender they would receive no compensation for losing him. If another team wants to pay to make Burton a larger part of their offense, they should have to toss the Eagles a high draft pick to do so.
The Eagles third safety, Watkins actually finished 10th on the team in tackles this season. Originally a fourth round-pick by the Eagles, he has played both corner and safety for them and was cut and resigned during his second season. It wouldn’t kill to keep him around.
Barner was the Eagles fifth-leading rusher in 2016, with 129 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He led the Eagles with 4.8 yards per carry, but his opportunities declined as the season went on and he ended the season on injured reserve. With the coaching staff appearing to favor giving touches to Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall, it is doubtful Barner will be retained.