Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2018

Eagles' cap-friendly backfield is key to repeating in 2018

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The Philadelphia Eagles‘ front office doesn’t have a whole lot more time to celebrate the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Coming off an upset victory over the New England Patriots, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman will soon be faced with some difficult decisions in order to get the league’s most cap-strung team compliant with 2018’s salary limit.

The Eagles are currently more than $9 million above the base salary cap with 56 players signed, while no other team is projected above the $178-million threshold. Releasing wide receiver Torrey Smith and his $5-million base salary with zero dead cap penalty is the most obvious way to alleviate some of the financial issues, but more moves will still need to be made.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and right tackle Lane Johnson are locked in with the team’s highest cap figures and are worth every penny. Left tackle Jason Peters has the fifth-highest cap hit and will be coming off an injury-shortened 2017 campaign, but he made the Pro Bowl in each of his previous nine active seasons.

A trade of Super Bowl MVP – but backup quarterback – Nick Foles and his $7.6-million cap number would solve some problems, but an agreeable deal could be hard to find.

Meanwhile, the one position that won’t cause Roseman any financial distress is at running back. The group was one of the biggest keys to Philadelphia’s 2017 success, and presents the team with options moving forward.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount, who led the Eagles in rushing yardage in 2017, is due to hit free agency on March 14. While he again proved to be productive – Blount also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns a year ago while a member of the Patriots – his 31 years of age are almost sure to prevent teams from offering him the lucrative multi-year deal he’d otherwise seem to deserve.

Thirty-four-year-old Darren Sproles, who’s coming off an injury that limited his contract year to just three games, will join Blount on the open market. Having earned $4.5 million in 2017, he’s likely to take a significant pay cut if he intends to play a 14th season.

Jay Ajayi, who was brought over in a trade-deadline deal with the Miami Dolphins, presents Roseman with flexibility. The 24-year-old averaged 5.8 yards per carry over 70 regular-season rushing attempts after the trade. He carries a cap hit of just $1.905 million in 2018 but can be cut at no cost. Regardless, the Eagles have little reason to cut him loose due to his productivity and team-friendly contract.

And then there’s the little-known secondary star of Super Bowl LII. Overshadowed by Foles’ unlikely MVP-winning performance, undrafted free agent Corey Clement rushed for just 8 yards on three carries, but caught four of five targets for 100 yards and the seventh touchdown of his rookie season.

Clement played 21 offensive snaps in the Super Bowl, the second-highest total out of the team’s backfield. He was the only Eagles running back to catch a pass.

The performance was a unique feat for an undrafted rookie.

With those options at his disposal, Roseman has full creative license to reshape 2017’s third-leading rushing attack however he sees fit for at least the next month.

And leaning on Clement while pairing him with either Blount or Ajayi at a combined cap hit of little more than $2 million could be his greatest advantage in his attempt to get Philadelphia to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

(Salary cap figures courtesy: Over The Cap)

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