Mailbag: What is the Eagles plan with Alshon Jeffery?

Eliot Shorr-Parks
March 24, 2020 - 8:18 am
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Thanks to everyone for the mailbag questions!

Question: Eagles next priority has to be dumpling Alshon Floyd (@Floyd86983863)

This is a question I’ve gotten so many times, I decided to dedicate an entire mailbag to it. 

My answer? 

Maybe it is time to take what Howie Roseman said at the end of the season about Alshon Jeffery seriously. 

“We had a conversation with Alshon before the season, and he took a pay cut in exchange for guaranteeing (his 2020 salary). For us, we were trying to create as much flexibility going forward with our roster to create cap space to improve the football team,” Roseman said. “I think we forget some of the contributions to our team that Alshon has had: during our Super Bowl year, the injury he played with not missing a game and the contributions in that Super Bowl game, and last year [2018] he had 11 catches during the playoffs, and even this year in his last game he had nine catches for over 130 yards in the Miami game. Alshon is a talented player and he loves being an Eagle and he loves this city.”

At the time the quote seemed to be just talk and the Eagles moving on from Jeffery seemed inevitable. They wanted to get younger, they needed to get faster and there was plenty of smoke to the idea that Jeffery was taking anonymous shots at quarterback Carson Wentz through the media. It seemed to be a matter of when, not if, Jeffery was let go. 

Now, with the bulk of free agency in the books and Jeffery still on the roster, it reads differently. 

Roseman going into detail about how Jeffery took a paycut in 2019 to stay in 2020 is interesting since Roseman doesn’t normally talk about contracts. Roseman wanted the fans to know Jeffery took a paycut to stay. It is clear both the Eagles and Jeffery felt they made an agreement — Jeffery agreed to take less in 2019 and the Eagles agreed he would be back in 2020.

If the Eagles were going to break that agreement, they likely would have done it already. 

They had their first chance to move on from Jeffery after the passing of the new CBA just over one week ago. The new CBA gave the Eagles the option of releasing Jeffery and splitting his dead-cap hits over the next two seasons. According to Over The Cap, cutting Jeffery with a post-June 1st designation would cost the Eagles around $1 million in salary cap space in 2020. That isn’t much help overall, but if that was their plan, you have to think they would have done it before entering free agency. 

They also likely would have cut Jeffery outright already if they were going to do that. Cutting Jeffery would cost them around $11 million in salary cap space, which is a huge chunk to lose. The chances are very small that they would have handed out two big contracts (Darius Slay and Javon Hargrave) to free agents if they planned on losing $11 million in salary cap space. 

The last reason the Eagles likely would have released Jeffery already if they already planned on doing so is perhaps the most important. Usually teams will release players they know they aren’t keeping prior to the start of free agency, a goodwill gesture that gives that player a head start on other players who can’t sign until the start of the new league year. 

After Jeffery agreed to take a paycut in 2019, and the Eagles agreed to bring him back, you have to think they would have done that for Jeffery if they already knew they would be releasing him. Plus, if Jeffery was such a distraction and had such a bad relationship with the team — something head coach Doug Pederson strongly disputed at the NFL Combine — you have to think they would have released him already as well, simply to make a statement. 

Instead, the Eagles have held onto Jeffery. Perhaps their plan is to try to trade Jeffery. That plan could work, but it could also result in Jeffery being on the roster next season. 

Financially, trading Jeffery would have almost no impact on the Eagles’ remaining cap space, outside of saving them from having to take the cap hit of releasing him. It would leave dead money, but that money will be on the books regardless. The Eagles have almost certainly checked around on the interest for Jeffery, and no trade taking place means they didn’t like what they heard. Considering he is dealing with a serious foot injury and could miss the start of next season is likely why. Free agency and the NFL Draft still needing to take place also likely impacted Jeffery’s trade market. 

Perhaps the Eagles are expecting to be able to trade Jeffery once free agency is over, the draft is done, Jeffery is healthy and a receiver-needy team gets desperate. It is possible, but if that happens, it might not happen for at least another month or perhaps sometime during training camp. 

Holding onto Jeffery increases the chances the Eagles will just keep him. Maybe the draft doesn’t break their way. Maybe the issues between Wentz and Jeffery really were overblown. Maybe in training camp Jeffery is much further along than expected, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is struggling and the Eagles end up needing Jeffery. 

The longer into the offseason Jeffery is on the roster, the more likely that outcome gets. 

What will happen remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that the season has been over for almost three months, fee agency is over a week old and the Eagles have made a bunch of roster moves. 

Jeffery is still here. 

That might not be changing anytime soon. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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