The parameters are set. The guidelines are in place. The Eagles know exactly what they're dealing with as the NFL's offseason ramps up – the legal "negotiating period" begins on Monday ahead of Wednesday's 4 PM start of the 2021 business year.
• The NFL has made it official with the 2021 salary cap: the limit is $182.5 million, a decrease from last season's limit of $198.2 million. That 8 percent decrease is significant and, apparently, temporary. The cap had increased every year since 2011, but the loss of in-stadium attendance and revenue caused the decrease for 2021.
The cap is expected to rise – and perhaps skyrocket – in the years to come as the league finalizes negotiations on its television deals, so teams are planning with that in mind. In the case of the Eagles, they've released veterans (wide receiver DeSean Jackson, safety Blake Countess, defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, to date) and they've reportedly restructured some contracts, pushing cap hits into the future. The impact of the reported trade of quarterback Carson Wentz wouldn't help the Eagles this season, but it would in the years to come. So, the point is that the Eagles are working hard to get to the $182.5 million limit prior to the start of the business year on Wednesday, and there is more work to do. At least the Eagles have a hard number with which to work.
• The NFL awarded the Eagles two sixth-round draft picks as part of the compensatory selections announced on Wednesday, so now the Eagles have 10 draft picks (once the reported Wentz trade becomes official) to use starting on April 29. That number can change – up or down – as the Eagles explore their options prior to the NFL Draft. It is a critical draft, as we know. The Eagles have some wealth of draft picks, including a coveted pick at No. 6 overall, and they know they have to nail the draft.
This is a roster that features some very good players who are older, and a handful (tight end Dallas Goedert, running back Miles Sanders, quarterback Jalen Hurts) who have obvious talent and who have had some success in the course of their short NFL careers, so it's really important to add young talent to the mix, develop that talent, and retain the players to make another sustained run at success.
We aren't hearing much from the Eagles now as they are behind closed doors finalizing their targets and strategy in free agency as well as gearing up for the Pro Days as the NFL Draft evaluation period enters its last turn. The roster needs more at just about every position (offensive line might be the only exception, but who ever passes up on a lineman they like?) and the Eagles are pushing forward to upgrade the roster to challenge again in the NFC East and the NFC after the down season of 2020.
• We've had an ongoing exclusive series as we Meet The Coaches on the Eagles Insider Podcast, starting with Head Coach Nick Sirianni and extending through the coordinators. I've also had the chance to speak with some of the position coaches, including Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson, a former star at the University of Utah who has been outstanding in 10 seasons at the college level. He has a longstanding relationship with Hurts, as Johnson explains.
"I've had the pleasure to know Jalen for a really long time," Johnson said. "His father (Averion) was actually one of my high school coaches. I played for his father in high school, so Jalen was probably 4 or 5 at the time and his dad would bring him around during the summertime at the facility along with his older brother. I knew who he was throughout the course of my high school career. Once I got into coaching, I went out recruiting and that (Texas) was my recruiting area so I would go out and Jalen would be there. Once I got to Mississippi State, Jalen was in 10th or 11th grade and we started recruiting him really, really hard at Mississippi State and I thought we were gonna get him. He ended up going to Alabama, but he's someone I've known for a really, really long time along with his family. It's funny how everything works out and I get to coach him on the professional level now.
"He wants to be coached extremely hard and he has been coached extremely hard throughout his career, starting with his dad. I know the kind of person he is – he's extremely hardworking, he's extremely dedicated, he's extremely focused, goal-oriented, and he has an unbelievable makeup in terms of his intangibles and the standard that he sets for himself on a daily basis."
• Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was just terrific in the most recent Eagles Insider Podcast, and among the things he talked about was the relationship he wants to have with his Eagles players. Good stuff here …
"A 'serve' mentality. I want our players to know, and I've talked to most of them, that's why we're here – the staff, myself, the head coach, all the defensive coaches – we're here to make these guys the best player they can be and really the reason behind that is it's good for the team, it's good for our defense, and it's good for them. I don't know what a 'player's coach' is but I hope that we'll connect with them and they understand that everything we do will serve them and get them to hit their ceiling as a player. That's really why we're here and every decision that we make will have that in mind."
With that, bring on free agency! I can't wait to see what the Eagles' plan is as the roster-building phase of the offseason begins in earnest on Monday and then kicks into high gear on Wednesday, with an NFL Draft another six weeks away.