October 4, 2023

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (23) waves during game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With NFL free agency starting one week from today, it’s officially time to move on from the Super Bowl and look forward to next season.

The Eagles are going to have some tough decisions to make as they have many key players up for free agency. If they want to defend their NFC crown, they have a lot of work to do.

Franchise Tag

The NFL’s deadline to place the franchise tag on a player was yesterday March 7th at 4 pm est. There was much speculation about whether or not the Eagles would use their franchise tag on Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The Eagles ultimately decided to not place the tag on any player that is set to hit free agency. The Eagles historically have only used the franchise tag once, and have never had a player play under the tag.

The NFL’s franchise tag is mostly seen as a negative for both the players and the teams. When a player is placed on the franchise tag the player receives a one-year deal from their previous team. Teams and the player can negotiate a long-term contract under the tag, but at a minimum, the teams get one year more of that player. Many players do not like this because it restricts them from hitting free agency, and getting a long-term deal. Teams do not like to use the tag because it is a lot of money for one year. The player gets the average of the top 5 contracts at his position over the last 5 years, or a 120% salary increase, whichever is higher.

Across the NFL multiple players received the franchise tag including Lamar Jackson, Saquan Barkley, Tony Pollard, Evan Ingram, Josh Jacobs, and Daron Payne. It’s unclear if any of these players will receive long-term contracts with their respective teams, but at least for next year, they will be returning to their previous squads.

Jalen Hurts Contract

After a player’s third season in the NFL, they are allowed to start contract extension talks with their current team. While Hurts has only been the starter for two seasons, he was a member of the 2020 draft class and is eligible for an extension. Hurts will undoubtedly get a contract extension this offseason, after MVP and Super Bowl runner-up seasons, but it will play a huge part in the Eagles’ future.

While Hurts’ contract will not kick in until after the 2024 season, it will affect how the Eagles operate this offseason. Hurts cap hit for this next season is $4,789,486 according to spotrac.com. While this low cap hit will help the Eagles add talent on one-year deals, without the details of his next contract it will be hard to sign players long-term. According to spotrac.com, his projected extension is 6 years and $265 million. There have been other rumors of 5 years for $250 million, or even a shorter-term extension at 3 years for $150 million. While it is unlikely he will take a shorter-term deal, it could turn out more lucrative for Hurts in the long term. While we await his signing it’s clear that he will be getting a contract with an AAV of $40+ million per year.

While that number seems scary, there are ways around it. Howie Roseman is famous for being a “cap wizard” and will be able to use loopholes in the system to make the cap number smaller. While he might be able to get the cap number down a little, the Eagles will still be on the books for a huge number. Luckily for the Eagles, the NFL’s cap number keeps going up, and most of their offense is locked up for the future, but they will have to say goodbye to some good players if they want Hurts to get the money he deserves.

Key Eagles Headed to Free Agency

The Eagles will have some tough decisions to make when it comes to who they decide to bring back in free agency. Some of the Eagles’ free agents include Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, T.J. Edwards, Miles Sanders, and many more. In total, they have 10 out of 22 starters not signed for next year. Adam Schefter said on 97.5 the fanatic this morning that the Eagles will probably lose Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and James Bradberry. C.J. also posted a video on his social media with the caption “All Love Philly”. Multiple Eagles players commented including A.J. Brown commenting “Take care of your family bruh. You deserve it”. This seems to be a goodbye from Gardner-Johnson, and his teammates seem to support him.

Losing these players will be tough. Fans grew to love some of the new additions of CJGJ and Bradberry and rightfully so. They both embodied the spirit of Philadelphia perfectly, while also backing it up on the field. However, these are the type of tough decisions that a front office has to make when they decide to pay a Quarterback top money.

Howard Eskin reported on 94.1 WIP yesterday that the Eagles are working towards bringing Brandon Graham back. Graham has said he has wanted to remain an Eagle but is open to other options because he still wants to play. There have been rumors about him joining Jim Schwartz’s defense in Cleveland. The Eagles have also been rumored to want to bring Jason Kelce back if he so chooses. Kelce has been mulling over retirement over the last few years, but if the All-Pro Center wants to keep playing the Eagles surely will offer him a contract. They do have last year’s second-round pick Cam Jurgens waiting in the wings, but with Isaac Seumalo to hit free agency, Jurgens could slide into the open spot at Guard.

The Eagles also do have two first-round picks in this year’s upcoming draft. They own the 10th overall pick from the New Orleans Saints and their pick at 30th overall. The expectation is that with the 10th overall pick, the Eagles will try and fill a hole created by one of the players that leave in free agency. Normally you do not want to pigeonhole yourself into a position with such a high pick, but with so many holes on defense, the Eagles will probably be able to take the best player available. Many people are hoping that the Eagles take a cornerback with their first selection, but there are a lot of good options at number 10. The Eagles need to find an impact player with that selection. The last time they had a pick that high they drafted Devonta Smith, who has turned out to be one of the best young receivers in the game and has already broken many franchise records. It is not often, or ever, that a team that was in the Super Bowl has a top-10 pick. The Eagles must take advantage.

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