The Philadelphia Eagles’ already scary defensive line got even more intimidating Wednesday when the team acquired three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
Bennett, 32, recorded 39 sacks in his five seasons with the Seahawks and joins a Philadelphia defensive line that has Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. But the problem with the trade is that it adds another contract to a team that is well over the salary cap for the 2018 season.
The Seahawks were due to take a nearly $8.4 million hit for Bennett in 2018, but now the Eagles are expected to be on the hook for about $5.5 million against the salary cap for the defensive end. That’s not much for a Pro Bowl-level talent, but it’s a significant chunk for the Eagles.
At the time of the trade — which won’t be official until the league year begins on March 14 — Philadelphia was more than $10 million over the $177.2 million salary cap. Now it’ll be around $16 million over. That puts the team in a precarious spot with some tough decisions to make.
Nick Foles isn’t a luxury the Eagles can afford
It’s not often that a team parts ways with a Super Bowl MVP, but Nick Foles is far from a usual case. When Carson Wentz returns in 2018, he’ll be the starter once again and Foles would be the backup. That is, if Foles is still on the roster when the next season begins.
With trade interest reportedly brewing, the Eagles haven’t been quick to pull the trigger. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Philadelphia has rebuffed any team not willing to part with a first-round pick “at the very least.”
Foles is clearly a player the Eagles don’t want to give away for nothing, but keeping his $7.6 million cap hit doesn’t look like a realistic option either. The team probably has no option but to cash in its chips and trade Foles.
The Eagles’ 2017 season was a perfect example of how valuable a backup quarterback can be, but ideally, they didn’t want Foles to see the field at all in 2018 anyway. For a much cheaper price, the Eagles can find another backup quarterback to play behind Wentz and receive some valuable draft capital to boot.
There are a few other options to save space
With Bennett on board, the Eagles will probably waste little time working on Vinny Curry’s $11 million cap hit. By releasing him, Philadelphia can save $5 million of his salary.
That’s not enough to fix the team’s problems, but it’s a lot of savings for a player who has just 22 sacks in six seasons with the Eagles. Restructuring his deal could be another way to find savings without parting with Curry.
Other avenues to find space include releasing wide receiver Torrey Smith to recoup $5 million and offensive tackle Jason Peters for $4.33 million.
But even making those three moves would put the Eagles close to the cap limit. That won’t be good enough when it comes time to sign draft picks added in April.
Having too many good players and not enough money to go around is a much better problem than having more than $100 million in cap space after an 0-16 season like the Cleveland Browns. Philadelphia is in good shape, but has tough decisions to make. That didn’t get any easier with a trade Wednesday.
The Eagles defense is better with Bennett, but it probably means Foles will be elsewhere soon.