If you could handle your home budget the way the NFL handles their salary cap, life would be sweet. You could simply say "I'm going to move this bill to next year," and the creditors would say "okay." Man, that would be great.
It's just that sort of plan that GM Tom Heckert says could allow the Eagles to re-sign both Donte Stallworth and Jeff Garcia. Basically what the Eagles would do would be to take some of the 2007 roster bonuses that are part of other players' contracts and convert them to signing bonuses. Those signing bonuses could then be amortized - spread out - and free up some money for the 2007 Eagles. The down side is that spreading out that money puts some of the load onto future years, so eventually it catches up with the team. It's not a plan that Heckert generally endorses, but it could come in handy if he needs to use it. "That's a philosophy we aren't really keen on here," explained Heckert. "You hate to do that very often, but we can do it." Heckert explained that the team builds their salary projections out three years, so some numbers for the future would have to be reforecast to allow for the amortized amounts of the signing bonuses.
One consideration would be to put the franchise tag on Stallworth, setting his salary at just over $7.5 million for next season. The Eagles would like to get Stallworth signed for something slightly under that, allowing even more room for re-signing Garcia, but it's an option. The Birds won't franchise Garcia, since they would then have to pay him over $12.5 million, way over even what Donovan McNabb is set to make next season.
In Garcia's case, the Eagles will likely have to wait and see what offers he gets from other teams and hope that his love for playing in Philadelphia might make up any financial shortcomings that the Eagles would face in matching an offer from another club.
The Eagles could also use the new found cap room to re-sign some of their other unrestricted free agents. Correll Buckhalter, Quintin Mikell and Juqua Thomas are at the top of the Eagles list to re-sign, but all three could get bigger offers elsewhere if they hit the free agent market. The Eagles also have some interest in re-signing William James and Shawn Barber, but it's likely that the others - Rod Hood, Koy Detmer, Michael Lewis and Reno Mahe - may be allowed to seek other jobs, especially if the Eagles do re-sign some of their higher priority free agents.
As for signing other teams free agents, Heckert isn't optimistic. "You're going to see a lot of guys get overpaid," said Heckert regarding free agency and he's not willing to buy into that approach to improving the team. "Free agency's never a great tool to rebuild your team, just because of the money and the guesswork involved. I think it's going to get worse this year, just because everybody's got so much money," said Heckert, noting that some teams could find as much as $30 million of cap room to work with.
The Eagles will push agents for their players at the Combine this week, trying to get deals done before free agency hits on March 2. Heckert will be there and is looking forward to pushing up the pace on getting some players re-signed to avoid the escalating numbers that filing for free agency will likely bring.