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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Philadelphia Eagles have a need at wide receiver with the only known entities returning at the position being Alshon Jeffery, who has suffered a torn rotator cuff and broken ribs in his two seasons with the team, and Nelson Agholor, who currently carries a large $9.2 million cap hit.
Agholor could be released or traded if the team fails to reach an agreement with him on an extension. Nelly leaving would mean Mack Hollins would take over as the second receiver on the depth chart and, while he showed flashes during his rookie season, Hollins never played a snap through the entirety of the 2018 season.
Howie Roseman and company will absolutely be adding at the position and, on Sunday night, two ESPN reporters, Jenna Laine of Tampa Bay and Tim McManus of Philadelphia, reported that the Buccaneers are looking to trade Jackson, that the Eagles have expressed interest in his return and that Philadelphia was the preferred destination of Jackson.
Laine also added that DJax carries a $10 million cap hit this year and many teams are getting the feeling that Tampa Bay will simply release the receiver if no deal is struck. The situation is thought to be comparable to the one that the Eagles were in when they attempted to trade Vinny Curry last offseason and the one the Chiefs were in just a few days ago with Justin Houston. In both cases, the player was released as no team would take on the existing contract.
The Eagles cannot take on Jackson’s contract without making more moves. While it is feasible, the move would leave the Birds with only $9.2 million is cap space, $7 million of which would be needed to sign draft picks. $2.2 million is not enough to be major players in free agency as Howie Roseman has previously stated.
* – Indicates number is a projection and not yet official
The Eagles have two ways to get around that cap hit if they plan to bring Jackson back.
The first and most obvious method would be to wait for the Buccaneers to release him and sign him in free agency to a more reasonable deal.
The second method would be to trade for him and restructure his deal. Jackson has an out in his deal, so none of his 2019 money is guaranteed. Offering him guaranteed money could allow for a deal with a lower cap hit.
Another aspect to think about in the strategy here is the Eagles 2020 compensatory pick situation. The Eagles are likely to receive third-fourth rounders for Darby, Tate and Foles as well as a fourth or fifth for Hicks. That would max out the Eagles possible comp picks at four and would give the Eagles room to sign smaller deals if Ngata, Wallace, Ajayi, Warmack and/or Matthews signed elsewhere. The latter five players may sign deals with far lower average annual values, meaning their value would probably be a sixth or seventh-rounders if they qualified at all.
Jacksons deal would likely carry a higher AAV than any of those five, meaning it could cancel out a fourth or fifth-round pick and get the Eagles a sixth-round comp pick instead. The scenarios could play out like this:
Eagles Sign DeSean Jackson:
Eagles Trade for DeSean Jackson:
Obviously moving a sixth-round pick and being awarded a fifth is better than losing a fifth and being awarded another sixth instead, but the Eagles making this kind of move to earn a better comp pick would be a gamble.
First, the team would need to rule out re-signing any of Darby, Tate, Foles or Hicks. Then they would be taking a risk on the four of those players signing deals with high AAV. It is a calculated risk since Darby, Foles and Tate are all the top free agents at their positions, but it is a risk nonetheless.
Howie Roseman has taken an interest in the comp pick formula over the past few seasons, so I am sure that he is already weighing whether taking that risk is a good bet or not. We will just have to wait and see how he proceeds.