Amid Salary Cutting, Eagles To Return Best Player

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

On Friday afternoon, Eagles fans got about as good of news as can be expected this offseason being able to retain a guy who is one of the teams top three players for the 2021 season.

Jason Kelce has an argument as the top player on the roster, but it is indisputable that he is top three, and the veteran center announced he would return on Instagram.

Many thought that Kelce would retire given he has thought about it over the previous few seasons, but instead he will sign a deal worth a reported $9 million guaranteed.

The Eagles were set to have Kelce back with a cap hit over $8 million and a hit over $10 million if released.

That said, Kelce had no guaranteed salary in 2021, so the Eagles increased that, likely in exchange for a lower 2021 cap hit and moving that money to a season where the salary cap isn’t going down for the first time in history.

The future of the position remains uncertain, however, as Kelce will continue to mull over retirement.

Kelce wrote on the website that he, “want[s] to leave the Eagles knowing that I left it in good hands”.

With that in mind, the Eagles drafting a center like Quinn Meinerz or Michael Menet is likely something that Kelce expects in this year’s draft; grabbing someone who may not cost a top pick due to their need to develop, but who has the potential to develop with Jeff Stoutland behind Kelce.

The move to return Kelce is in stark contrast to the recent cost-cutting move of not extending punter Cameron Johnston a restricted free agent contract, a move that makes one of the teams most consistent players a free agent and will likely save the team a few million to switch to an unproven (and likely not as talented) punter or stick with Jake Elliott as a kicker and punter as he did late in the 2020 season. They did sign rookie Arryn Siposs to a futures deal last month.

Other moves that cut cost are expected with the release of Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson.

Derrick Gunn reports that veteran DE Brandon Graham and OT Lane Johnson are in talks to restructure their own deals and move their cap hits into future seasons, as well.

Graham, who will be in the final year of his deal after what may be his most productive season outside 2017, may wind up with an extension, but a simple restructure could clear $9 million. Johnson’s restructure could free up $8 million.

Another veteran to restructure was corner Darius Slay, who NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport reports has already agreed to the restructure to free up $9 million.

Those three restructures could free up $26 million in addition to the about $25 million that releasing the two Jacksons and Jeffery could free up for the team.

Other key players to watch in regards to the cap are Zach Ertz (a likely trade candidate), Derek Barnett (trade or extension) and Avonte Maddox.

If the team looks for other restructures, defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave would be the other likely candidates.

Additionally, the team is coming up on some players they may want to look to extend to gain some control at a lower cost in players like Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata and Josh Sweat.

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