The following is a position-by-position breakdown of how the Philadelphia Eagles are spending their money at each position on defense in 2014 and where that ranks compared to the rest of the NFL. We did the same breakdown last week with the offense, and you can view that here (link). All dollar amounts and rankings come via the good folks over at Overthecap.com.
The Eagles are spending a total of $59,202,949 this season on the defensive side of the ball. This ranks 21st in the NFL in terms of money spent on defensive players. For comparison, the Buffalo Bills are spending $72,950,005 on defense, which is tops in the league.
Money Spent: $13,222,629
Overthecap.com includes Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as defensive ends, so the money they make is included in the total amount. They do not include Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton as defensive ends, even though they technically are in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme. Therefore, the money they make is not included in this group.
Cole’s 2014 cap number ($6.6 million) consumes just about half of the Eagles’ money that is being spent on defensive end. Cole, who turns 32 this year, is a likely cap casualty after this season as his cap number almost doubles to a whopping $11.62 million in 2015.
Outside of Cole, the Eagles are filled with youth at the position, including a number of players that are still on their rookie contracts (Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham). However, there is a good possibility they will both be let go because they aren’t ideal scheme fits. This means the Eagles will not have a whole lot of money invested at the position, which will allow them to lock up many of their young guys from the 2012 draft class next off-season.
Money Spent: $4,584,979
NFL Rank: 27th
The Eagles have an extraordinary amount of youth along the defensive line in general. Outside of backup DE Brandon Bair, there isn’t a single player over the age of 25. Philadelphia is in great shape in terms of team building, and will have many experienced players in their scheme moving forward.
Cox takes up about half of the money at defensive tackle (~$2.7 million), and the Eagles will most likely want to lock him up next off-season before his rookie contract expires.
The defensive tackle position is another great example of the Eagles’ truly maximizing their production in terms of money spent. There isn’t even a question that their defensive tackles are better than the 27th best in the league.
Money Spent: $18,487,337
NFL Rank: 11th
The Eagles have a number of solid players at linebacker, which is why they are just outside of the top 10 in terms of money spent at the position. It’s also important to remember that this number includes inside and outside linebackers. Connor Barwin and DeMeco Ryans eat up over half of the money ($6.9 and $4.9 million respectively). The rest of the ~$7 million is taken up by a total of 10 players, most of which are depth players and then young guys on their rookie contracts (Mychal Kendricks & Marcus Smith).
That’s another clear example of managing money well. Philadelphia has a number of solid contributors, and has done a nice job at building depth around those guys. They are a little thin at inside linebacker in terms of experience, which is why it will be important to address the position in the 2015 draft, especially as Ryans gets older (he turns 30 in July).
Money Spent: $14,847,290
NFL Rank: 10th
Cornerback is a position to keep an eye on moving forward. Although both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are both serviceable, they can certainly be upgraded. Williams is the 5th highest player paid on the team in 2014 at $6.4 million, and it’s definitely questionable as to whether or not he is the 5th most productive player. Fletcher comes at a much cheaper price at $3.6 million. However, cornerbacks are a premium in the NFL, and the Eagles have themselves 2 relatively consistent players.
Even so, it would be hard to argue that Fletcher and Williams makeup a top 10 cornerback unit in the NFL.
That brings us to slot corner Brandon Boykin.
It will be very interesting to see how the coaching staff values Boykin moving forward. Chip Kelly and Billy Davis are both on record saying that they consider Boykin a 12th starter because the Eagles are in their nickel package so often, but at the same time he was only on the field last season for half of the team’s defensive snaps.
Slot corners do not get remotely close to the amount of money that the guys command on the outside. Do the Eagles move Boykin outside in 2015? Kelly has been adamant about size requirements for playing on the outside and Boykin does not fit that mold. If they do not move him outside, how much do they pay him? He very well could become the highest paid slot player in the league in 2015.
The guess here is the Eagles lock up Boykin next offseason and then draft a starting caliber corner in the 2015 draft that will ultimately take the place of Fletcher or Williams. Either way, cornerback is one of the more interesting positions moving forward.
Money Spent: $8,060,714
NFL Rank: 16th
Ah, the position that has driven Eagles fans crazy for years following the departure of Brian Dawkins in 2008. Philadelphia checks in right around the middle of the pack in terms of money spent. For comparison, the Seattle Seahawks spend double the amount the Eagles do on their safeties at $16.4 million.
Nate Allen is the highest paid safety in 2014 at $3 million, followed by free agent acquisition Malcolm Jenkins ($2.6 million). The safety position is similar to the cornerback situation in that the players are serviceable, but certainly upgradable.
The Eagles have invested a pair of mid-round picks at safety in the last two years of the draft (Earl Wolff and Ed Reynolds, respectively), so they haven’t quite put a premium on the position as many hoped.
At the same time, the Eagles have solidified depth at the position, while leaving themselves open to invest in a playmaking safety when one comes around.