The franchise tag window has passed, Kirk Cousins is officially set to become a free agent and the quarterback market is about to get nuts. The Philadelphia Eagles will be paying close attention, knowing it will soon be their turn to pay up.
Insiders predict Cousins could be looking at the richest deal in NFL history, with a potential average salary hovering around the $30 million mark -- a contract that will likely be topped in short order with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers making progress on an extension.
It won't be long before the Eagles back up the Brinks truck for Carson Wentz, who is entering the third year of his rookie deal and is eligible for an extension at the end of the 2018 campaign, assuming he rounds back into his MVP-caliber form following surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL. As the team puts together its blueprint for this offseason, it does so with Wentz's upcoming megacontract in mind.
"From our perspective, you look at teams who have young quarterbacks, and they kind of have two phases of that, where the guy is in on a rookie contract and then what they have to do when they pay that guy," executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said at the combine last week. "Our task is to kind of study the successful teams who are paying quarterbacks and to look at the resource allocation."
The Eagles' roster is chock-full of veterans making good bank, including seven players who have salary cap hits of more than $10 million in 2018. The investment has been worth it, as this group delivered the organization's first Super Bowl title this past season, but things are tight financially as a result. The Eagles are currently about $9 million over the salary cap and will need to make some difficult decisions to open up wiggle room for the upcoming free-agency period and position themselves for the not-so-distant future when Wentz will be eating up a large chunk of the pie.
"Going forward, we have to make sure we have the resources in place where we have more draft picks, more guys who are making rookie-level salaries to balance the higher salaries, because we have a lot of -- it's a good problem -- we have a lot of guys on our roster who are making real money, and we want to keep those guys," Roseman said. "The best way to do that is to try and balance that with some young salaries."
The issue there is the deal with the Cleveland Browns to acquire Wentz and others has left the Eagles light in the draft-pick department. They only have six picks in this April's draft at the moment and are missing a second- and third-rounder. Logic suggests Roseman will be actively looking for trades to acquire picks when the league year opens on March 14.
The Eagles have some options, whether it's moving back in the draft, dealing one of their defensive backs, looking into the markets for the likes of defensive end Vinny Curry and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, or even moving on from Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
It also means that they'll have to let some pending free agents walk.
"We're not just going to be an empty vault for any of our players right now," Roseman said. "We just don't have that flexibility."
The window of opportunity when a stud QB is on a rookie deal is a precious one. The Seattle Seahawks, like the Eagles, were able to cash in by winning a Super Bowl (and making a pair of title appearances) prior to Russell Wilson's pay day. Whether by coincidence or otherwise, they haven't made it out of the divisional round since he inked a sizable extension in 2015.
It's a different beast when a team's franchise quarterback starts making serious money. The Eagles are preparing for that reality and will try to strike the balance between gearing up for another title run and protecting their long-term interests with their moves this offseason.