Johnathan Cyrien: Why the Eagles should use cap space to sign a safety

It’s no secret the Eagles’ strongest position this season has been safety. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod have combined to create a powerful safety presence the Birds haven’t had since Brian Dawkins. But after another disappointing season, the Eagles’ general manager — Howie Roseman — should look to bolster a weak secondary by adding yet another veteran safety.

What can the Eagles spend?

Let’s put the Eagles’ offseason mentality in perspective. The Eagles will enter the offseason with roughly $160 million committed towards the 2017 cap — per figures calculated by OverTheCap.com — leaving them about $6 million in wiggle room under a hypothetical cap of $166 million.

Potentially, they could clear $7.75 million off the cap by releasing Connor Barwin, and another $4 million by releasing Ryan Matthews. Whereas both moves would clear up potentially vital cap space, the guy Eagles management really need to get rid of is Leodis McKelvin. Signed to a two-year deal over the summer, if the Eagles decide to release McKelvin this offseason, they would clear $3.2 million off the cap, and only have to keep $250,000 of his ‘dead money’ on the books for 2017.

The reality of the Eagles’ situation is that even if they do decide to cut all three guys, management with still only have approximately $14 million to use in free agency.

While most Eagles’ fans might think that with Bennie Logan’s free agency looming, they’ll need to delve out a considerable portion of their cap space to retain much needed defensive line depth. But the optimistic outlook is that most — if not all — of the rest of the Eagles’ pending free agents look very replaceable:

With players like Stephen Tulloch, and Najee Goode likely gone no matter what, the Eagles’ front office will need to re-sign at least three or four of the pending free agents. For example, Trey Burton — the young tight end/wide receiver out of Florida — will likely be retained after showing glimpses of production in his third season, as well as, Stefen Wisniewski — the former second round pick out of Penn State — who filled in at guard and tackle throughout the season.

At the end of the day — when everything is settled, and they’ve retained their last free agent — the Eagles will have around $5.5–6 million to spend on new guys:

Nah, not a cornerback.

The Eagles have the opportunity to retain Nolan Carroll in the offseason. It’s an easy decision. The 29 year old is in his worst season to date, no question. He is currently the 89th ranked corner by Pro Football Focus — coming in at a remarkably low rating of 59.

To reconstruct this secondary, the Eagles need to use the draft. This year’s cornerback class — while tremendously talented and athletic — isn’t deep, so they’ll need to either use their first or second round pick on one.

The case for reconstructing the secondary through the draft, instead of free agency is simple. Guys like Teez Tabor, Desmond King, Adoree’ Jackson, Tre’Davious White; these guys change your team.

Think about this, there’s a scenario were if the Eagles win this Sunday, and the Vikings lose, the Eagles’ first round pick could move all the way up to number nine. Why not roll the dice on a young stud — much like the Jaguars did in Jalen Ramsey — and make him your number one guy?

I know some fans want the Eagles to spend money on a cornerback in free agency. But in reality, all the unrestricted free agents are either out of their price range, or flat out incompetent.

Trumaine Johnson (Current APY — $13.952M):

After recording a career high seven interceptions last season, Johnson -€” the former third round pick out of Montana -€” has been tremendously average. Ranked 31st at his position by Pro Football Focus, Johnson has under performed, only recording one interception and eleven pass deflections this season.

It all comes down to how much Johnson will be asking for. His former Rams teammate -€” Janoris Jenkins signed a 5-year, $63 million ($28.8 million guaranteed) contract with the Giants in the offseason. That’s a cap hit of $12.5 million. If Johnson’s number is anywhere near Jenkins’, the Eagles won’t be able to handle his demands without unloading a sufficient amount of cap.

Stephon Gilmore (Current APY — $3.02M):

Gilmore seems to be the guy most Eagles fans hope to see in green next season. This year, the former 10th overall pick is second in the League in interceptions — having recorded a career high five interceptions with one game remaining.

Probably the most coveted cornerback in free agency, Gilmore — the 26-year old — will be looking for as much money as possible this offseason.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Bills will have a ton of upcoming cap space, and with only one essential player to re-sign in Gilmore, their management is more than likely to throw a contract at him that the Eagles won’t be able to match.

A.J. Bouye (Current APY — $1.67M):

This one’s intriguing. Bouye was buried behind players like Kareem Jackson, and Johnathan Joseph on the Texans’ depth charts to start the season. But after start, the former sixth round pick out of Central Florida has proven his worth to Houston’s coaching staff. The 25-year old -€” who began the season as their fifth corner -€” is now trusted with the opposition’s number one receiver on a weekly basis.

Ranked 4th at the cornerback position by Pro Football Focus, Bouye recorded five interceptions in his first two seasons -€ a pretty good number. Even though his interception numbers are lacking this year, Bouye has recorded a team-high fifteen pass deflections on the season.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Texans have $18 million in cap space to spend, with almost no free agents to re-sign, making it very likely that Houston will attempt to lock down Joseph, Jackson, and Bouye for one more full season.

Johnathan Cyprien: Why he solves two problems

The 26-year old out of Florida International has been an elite tackler at the strong safety position since entering the League in 2013. Cyprien -€” the pending unrestricted free agent -€” has dominated as of late, recording 31 total tackles in the Jaguars’ last two games. Thus far this season, he leads all pending free agents in solo tackles with 92 on the season -€” a career high. This season will also mark Cyprien’s fourth consecutive season with 100-plus total tackles -€” an astonishing mark.

If you sort defensive backs -€”- since 1994 -€”- by their solo tackles through their first four seasons, Cyprien ranks number one with 335 solo tackles — €” topping guys like Roman Harper, Kerry Rhodes, and Eric Weddle:

When examining Cyprien’s niche inside the Jaguars’ defense, you can’t help but notice how far down in the box he plays on a regular basis. At 6-foot 217 pounds, Cyprien plays much like an undersized linebacker. Perusing the box versus most double tight end sets, the former second round pick has slowly developed his ability to cover tight ends, as well as larger ‘possession’ receivers -€” an area he’ll need to improve further.

For the Eagles, their focus should be on the draft. With the possibility of a top ten pick, there’s no scenario were the Eagles should look for anything other than a cornerback. If the Eagles can draft two defensive backs early in the draft, Cyprien’s veteran presence -€” along with Jenkins -€” could help mold the Eagles’ young secondary unit into something great. Though Cyprien doesn’t had immediate coverage help, a player like Cordrea Tankersley -€” out of Clemson -€” could be a lockdown corner presence for years to come.

With the Eagles potentially losing safety Jaylen Walkins to free agency, the addition of Cyprien could add valuable tackling the Birds’ run defense needs. Currently, the Eagles’ linebacking corps of Hicks, Bradham, and Kendricks lack a dominating tackle presence -€” seeing as none of them have recorded more than 80 solo tackles on the season. Cyprien is that guy. McLeod and Jenkins already account for the majority of the team’s tackles, but add Cyprien, and their defensive containment becomes explosive.

Cyprien’s veteran physicality, along with his elite tackling ability could come at a discounted price as well. Fortunately for the Eagles, Cyprien’s name is relatively unknown.

Partially in consequence of Jacksonville’s small market, Cyprien might receive limited free agent attention. With the additional help from the Jaguars’ lack of cap space -€” as well as -€” last year’s insane offseason splurge, Cyprien might slip right past Jacksonville and right into the arms of a team like the Eagles.

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