July 21, 2020   6 MIN READ

The Buzz: Sell Out For Clowney?


Welcome to the “The Buzz,” a creative new way for Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher to give thoughts on hot topics involving the Eagles or NFL using email as a discussion platform. “The Buzz” will be a series of emails back and forth between Mosher and Caplan on a specific topic.

This week’s “The Buzz” debates whether the Eagles should take the financial hit and sign an established pass rusher, such as Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen.

From: Adam Caplan
To: Geoff Mosher

Geoff: One of the situations that still needs to be resolved is veteran pass rush depth on the Eagles roster.

We’ve discussed and detailed with source intel Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, and Vinny Curry on recent Inside the Birds pods.

We’ll take a look at Clowney and Ngakoue a bit deeper later on this thread.

However, something that you’ve said consistently since late last season is for the Eagles to go younger and key positions.

So what about Everson Griffen, who at 32 would fit in well as a situational pass rusher?

With no offseason practices for everyone, that doesn’t benefit young DEs such as Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller.

From: Geoff Mosher
To: Adam Caplan

Adam, we have to factor the Eagles’ cap situation into this conversation, whether we’re talking about Clowney or Griffen.

Clowney, of course, would be an expensive haul – even on a 1-year deal. But Griffen also probably won’t come for the vet minimum.

Free-agent DE Everson Griffen has 74 1/2 career sacks but turns 33 this season.

The Eagles have ample cap space in 2020, but are way over the projected cap in 2021, and the threat of lost revenue from no fans in the stands this season is expected to reduce the projected 2021 cap by several million.

We’ve already detailed why the Eagles can’t hand out another long-term deal but we’re constantly asked why the Eagles just don’t sell out on a 1-year deal for Clowney or Griffen to be better equipped for a Super Bowl run.

Signing either of those pass rushers would mean less rollover cap space for 2021, which is very essential, and as you mentioned, would also stunt the development of their young pass rushers – Sweat, Miller and Genard Avery. Derek Barnett’s also would be impacted in a prove-it season.

Most times, I’m all for upgrading the team whenever possible. But you can only do so much before the cap interferes. Roseman has said the goal is to be a competitive team year after year and most of his actions this offseason were geared toward getting younger. I don’t see how signing Griffen would be consistent with that approach.

From: Adam Caplan
To: Geoff Mosher

Oh, there’s no doubt that they have a salary cap issue for 2021, though some of it can be alleviated with pay reductions, extensions, restructures or releases.

Here’s a look at the highest cap numbers (over $8m) and what they total–

Carson Wentz: $34.64m
Fletcher Cox: $22.45m
Alshon Jeffery: $18.54m
Brandon Graham: $17.93m
Lane Johnson: $16.50m
Darius Slay: $15.75m
Javon Hargrave: $15.20m
Malik Johnson: $13.61m
Brandon Brooks: $10.55m
DeSean Jackson: $10.93m
Zach Ertz: $12.47m
Derek Barnett: $10.05m
Jason Kelce: $8.41m
Total: 13 contracts: $207.03m

Out of those 13 players, 10 of them are at least 29 years old.

Jadeveon Clowney remains unsigned but still wants big money.

That would push them over the cap had they had this year’s number of $198.2m. And with the cap likely not to rise and potentially lowered due to the uncertainty of monetary loss (potentially no fans at games, etc), they’re going to have to make some tough decisions, but it’s not as dire as many think.

As for Clowney, if I’m the Eagles, I want the player, but with some limitations on what I’d pay him.

He’s just 27, way better than his sack numbers would indicate (he does so much more than rush the passer). He impacts the run defense, can run and chase an athletic QB and has such great length (over 6-5, 34.5 inch arms) that he’s going to blow up plays that many defensive ends can’t get to.

I would also add: any team that pursues Clowney has to be able to get out of the deal after one season or if it’s a multi-year deal, get out of it after year two with minimal dead money due to his injury history.

I’d pay him $10-$12m in cash with upside to $15-$17m with per game roster bonuses or playing time incentives.

BTW, once the Eagles sign all of their rookies and with adding the signing of Jason Peters, they’ll be somewhere between $15-$17m under this year’s cap number.

From: Geoff Mosher
To: Adam Caplan

So if the Eagles are $15-17 million under after the Peters signing, and it’ll take between $10-17 million to sign Clowney on a 1-year deal depending on bonuses, that would leave Roseman will little to no roll-over cap space for 2021, which we’ve already said could be extra tight for the Eagles if the cap is either flat or decreases.

That’s a big number, and without that carry-over relief, Roseman might have to say goodbye to a productive veteran or restructure another contract, which comes with other complications.

It’s a very big risk. In the end, Clowney’s a really talented player and potential game-changer. I’d give Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie credit for opening the purse strings to give the Eagles a better chance to win a title.

But the Eagles would seemingly have very little room to maneuver next offseason in free agency or in their ability to bring in a blue-chip talent via trade, like they did with Darius Slay, without that rollover cap relief.

For a team that doesn’t always nail the draft, that’s a dangerous game.

From: Adam Caplan
To: Geoff Mosher

Before we get out of here, I’m fully expecting a lot of contract movement for some of those veterans listed:

–  Wentz: Simple restructure

– D. Jax: Release or pay reduction.

– Jeffery: Release or pay reduction.

– Ertz: Extension to reduce his 2021 cap number

– M. Jackson: pay reduction or release. Can’t imagine they’ll carry $51.26m in cap charges for Cox, Hargrave, and Jackson.

– Barnett: Either extension (if he plays well) or trade. Can’t see him playing with a cap number of over $10m next year unless he plays extremely well.

– Slay: Maybe a restructure.

– Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher are co-hosts of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writers for InsideTheBirds.com.

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