Philadelphia Eagles debate table: Is there a roster dilemma brewing?

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Trey Burton /

The Philadelphia Eagles are just two wins away from their best record in franchise history. Shockingly, 20 of their 22 starters are under contract for next season, but still, they’re going to have to choose between two key players this off-season.

The Philadelphia Eagles have been nothing short of shocking this season. After going 7-9 just a year ago, they are currently just two wins away from their registering their best record in franchise history, 14-2. Having only lost to the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs in their stadium, the Eagles are nearing what could be their best finish in franchise history

Typically, with teams of their caliber, it’s common to see important players nearing the ends of their contracts. Often it’s veterans who helped the team get to where they are, or it’s the younger guys on the roster who are finally coming into form.

The Eagles are different. 20 out of the 22 starters this season are under contract for next season. LeGarrette Blount and is Nigel Bradham are the guys that will see their contracts expire at season’s end. Then, there’s wide receiver Torrey Smith, who signed a one-year deal but has options for a second and third season.

How big of an issue is this?

In fact, when looking at it, the Eagles only have two players who would be tough to lose. There’s Bradham, and there’s Trey Burton, currently the Eagles’ third-string tight end. Now, Burton isn’t your typical third tight end. He gets enough reps to be considered a legitimate backup, and he’s shown flashes that state he could be a starter.

Let’s examine Burton a little more closely.

Burton would be a great compliment to Zach Ertz for years to come. The Eagles thought highly enough of him to give him a second-round tender. Unfortunately, they waited to long to extend him, and, now, he’s likely going to cash in on the free-agent market.

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So, again, what do the Eagles do now?

Although it would be great to keep both Bradham and Burton, that’s a pipe dream. A salary cap exists in the NFL, and the Eagles don’t have space to keep both of them. Philly’s slated to have a negative $2 million in cap space. With some cuts and trades, they may barely have enough to keep just one of these players.

Even after cutting or trading players like Vinny Curry, Torrey Smith, Brent Celek or Nick Foles (depending on how he finishes out the year), that would clear up only $16.2 million. Ultimately, that would leave the Eagles with just $9 million to spend on free agents, after signing rookies.

Given executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman’s tendency to juggle the cap successfully, it may be a certainty that one of them will return. Which one has yet to be decided, and you can make a legitimate case for both of them.

Let’s do a comparison.

Burton’s production increased tremendously this year. He caught five touchdowns, two of which were in Ertz’s absence. When you add his versatility and athleticism to the thought process, teams will find value in his “swiss army knife” like abilities.

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On the other hand, Bradham plays one position, outside linebacker in the 4-3 scheme. Bradham has had a career year. The stats don’t necessarily show it, but he’s stepped up big time in the absence of Jordan Hicks. No matter what the team has asked him to do, he’s done it flawlessly.

The Eagles have  massive question on their hands. Do they bring back the starting linebacker, a position the Eagles don’t value highly, or do they bring back the explosive tight end, who can help the offense remain explosive and unpredictable.

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Fortunately, or unfortunately, they’ll likely opt for Bradham. He’s been way to valuable to the team. Even though Burton has shown signs of brilliance, the Eagles already have a stud in Zach Ertz.

Burton will likely go to a team a tight-end needy team and thrive. He should excel elsewhere. It’s just that, in Philadelphia, he will always be hindered by shadow of Ertz.

It remains an interesting question for the Eagles, who don’t seem to have a clear-cut answer. The question will be answered in the 2018 offseason.

For now, the Eagles have bigger things on their mind, the playoffs.