For the fifth straight year, the NFL Salary cap will increase by more than ten million dollars.

The final number is a little lower than expected, but the cap is going from $167 million to $177.2 million, according to pretty much everybody:

Some projections had the cap going up to 178 or 179 million, but this is what the Birds will be working with as they try to balance the books. The reason it held at 177.2 is because the NFL and the player’s association decided to have extra money diverted to the Player Performance Pool.

Mike Florio explained the PPP over at Pro Football Talk:

“The Player Performance Pool provides supplemental pay to players based on total snaps and standard compensation, via a formula that looks to reward lower-paid players who end up carrying a heavy workload. The good news, then, is that these overworked-and-underpaid men will get a little more extra than they otherwise would have.”

Right, so all of this places the Birds around $11.2 million over the cap.

The offseason retirement of Donnie Jones was an early helper in that regard, helping the Eagles get that number down to around $9.6 million.

I wrote about some of the options they had in free agency and in other areas last week, but let’s revisit some of those with the new number.

Free Agents

Nigel Bradham, Trey Burton, Beau Allen, Patrick Robinson, LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Najee Goode, Corey Graham, Kenjon Barner, Bryan Braman, Dannell Ellerbe, Caleb Sturgis, William Beatty

I think we’ve established that Trey Burton is gone and Patrick Robinson will probably get paid in free agency. Nigel Bradham is the main priority here, and I’d prefer to give him a new contract and put the more expensive Mychal Kendricks back on the block or release him.

Some of the guys that are on the back-end of the list could/would be cheap signings where you probably wait until the draft to see how the pieces fall into place (Blount, Graham).

Who on that list is a must-have for this coming season? I think you’re going to create enough space to bring back one of the first four.

Cap Casualties?

They get under the cap by releasing a few players.

Torrey Smith

Smith saves you five million in salary and doesn’t create any dead money. One of the easiest moves is to simply release Smith and let Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, and Marcus Johnson slug it out in camp.

Vinny Curry

The Eagles are gonna do something with him.

You save five million by moving on, but accrue six million in dead money. Derek Barnett steps into a starting role and you rock and roll into September.

The issue here is that Brandon Graham probably deserves more than he’s currently earning, so the defensive tackle situation is really two moves instead of one.

Jason Peters

He saves you around four million but leaves you six million in dead money.

Think he’d take a pay cut? No idea, but I’m higher on Big V than everybody else seems to be.

Mychal Kendricks

If you re-sign Bradham, you’ve got him earning 5-7 million (ballpark, I think) alongside Kendricks, who is already earning around seven million. Kendricks had a really nice year. This isn’t last summer, when you put him on the trade block and make him an expendable piece. He saves you around $4.4m if released but hits at a $3m dead money number.

Otherwise, if Bradham walks, you can do much worse than a Kendricks/Jordan Hicks pairing, assuming the latter can stay healthy.

Brent Celek

With Burton going, you’ve only got Celek behind Zach Ertz.

You save $4m by releasing him with a $1m dead money hit, but a retirement here really could have helped the Eagles.

If you’re cutting salary to get under the cap, those are the five guys who make the most sense. Smith and Celek really should be no-brainers, and that gets you $9 million right off the bat with minimal dead money damage. Releasing or trading one more of the above players gets you in the 13-15 range and gives you some wiggle room to bring back Bradham. It would be a shame for Celek to go out like this, but it is what it is.

Beyond all of that, trading Nick Foles frees up $5.2 million and leaves you with about $2m in dead money. That would certainly help, but I’m not jumping on that unless you get a can’t-refuse offer.

You could also try to restructure Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, or Lane Johnson to rejigger this season’s cap hit. Maybe they go down that road. Keep in mind, you’ve got a bunch of guys with bigger cap hits coming in 2019, like Ertz/Cox/Jeffery/Jernigan, so you can front the first year of a deal with a lower cap hit, but that rolls back around to bite you in the butt rather quickly. You’re also going to have to pay Carson Wentz at some point, so that’s someting to think about.

It’s tricky but not daunting. Howie Roseman will get the job done and I think Eagles fans are in good hands there.

The easiest starting point is to cut ties with Torrey Smith and Brent Celek, make a decision on Curry, start talks with Nigel Bradham, and then approach the Mychal Kendricks and Jason Peters situations from there. It starts on March 12th, when the legal tampering period begins. Free agent contracts can be officially announced on March 14th.

Time’s yours.