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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The COVID-19 opt out deadline for the NFL came and went with only one player for the Eagles choosing to opt out: veteran wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
While it’s unlikely any opt out will be seen as helping the team, in this case, the Eagles may well have benefited from Goodwin’s opting out in the long term.
This season, the Eagles drafted three new receivers to mix in with Greg Ward Jr. and JJAW on the younger end and veterans DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Add in Goodwin and that’s eight receivers competing for roster spots and some surely wouldn’t find one. Instead, the opt out almost garauntees that at least one of John Hightower or Quez Watkins will get a spot with Alshon Jeffery potentially starting on the PUP.
The real reason this will help the team is the 2021 season, however.
The Eagles are in a bind and figure to be around $50 million over the cap next season, assuming it falls to the expected floor. They will need to cut salary drastically and part with big names in the process. Among the names the team is most likely to move on from are DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery.
Jackson will carry a nearly $11 million cap hit in 2021 and the team could save $5 million by cutting him while Jeffery carries an $18.5 million cap hit and the team could save $8 million by releasing him. With post-June 1 designations, those savings could rise to $9 million and $13 million respectively. Of course, trading either player can also clear that cap space.
The end outcome is that, while either could theoretically return by taking huge pay cuts, the reality is that the Eagles will likely be left with Ward, Arcega-Whiteside and their three rookies. The hope is certainly that Ward continues to be effective and at least one of the Arcega-Whiteside, Reagor, Hightower or Watkins group proves to be effective and ready to start year two.
Adding to that group on the open market would be difficult considering the Eagles would have -$40 or -$30 million to spend after moving on from their high-cost receivers. This is where Goodwin opting out of 2020 benefits the Eagles.
The NFL is handling opt outs as a season that was not played, unlike other sports. This means that the contract essentially freezes and carries over to the next season without adding another year. For the Eagles, it means they will have Goodwin under contract in 2021 at a salary of around $1.5 million.
Goodwin can’t be considered a top-tier receiver simply because of his extensive injury history, but he certainly has the skills to succeed and would provide the team with a veteran presence in a room who’s elder statesman would otherwise be Greg Ward Jr. at 26.
In essence, the decision allows the Eagles to keep more of their young receiving corps on the roster in 2020 and gifts them a low-cost veteran who, with health, can be effective in 2021, when they are in cap trouble.
Goodwin could be going from a guy competing for a roster spot as more of a backup behind Jackson and Jeffery to a vital piece of the puzzle who can serve as a starter in 2021.
While other teams may be hurting due to opt outs and how they will affect team’s future roster-building scenarios, it appears the only change that the Eagles saw as a result of opt-outs should only make their job the slightest bit easier over the next two seasons.