The NFL, perhaps more than any other professional sports league, is dictated by those teams who can manage their roster around the salary cap. Though contracts are much more manageable in big picture terms (less guaranteed money, smaller penalties for releasing players), it is a never-ending challenge for teams to try to pack as much talent into their 53-man roster while remaining under the salary cap. The teams that are most consistently in contention for the Super Bowl are also often those who are able to maintain a certain level of talent without getting strapped down by huge cap numbers dispersed through a small number of players.
For the better part of the 21st century, the Eagles have been one of the teams deserving of praise for their ability to stay underneath the cap. Whether it was Joe Banner in the past or Howie Roseman currently, there have been few instances where the Eagles found themselves in a salary cap position that created any sort of urgency. They haven’t been able to capture the elusive Super Bowl that has continued to evade the franchise, but the Eagles have done a good job at staying in contention year in and year out.
ESPN put together an interesting feature on their Insider content. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik was asked to put together his ultimate 53-man roster while remaining under the 2014 salary cap. With the number at $133 million, Dominik could not construct a team made purely of All-Pro talent. The challenge was to pick and choose his spots where he splurged vs. saved.
Three members of the Philadelphia Eagles made the cut for Dominik’s squad. First, none other than running back LeSean McCoy.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles ($9,700,000): Some say you can save money at RB — and I agree — but in order to get McCoy, I decided to spend some money at this position. My starter has to have all of the tools to be a threat in both the running and passing games, and no one does that better than McCoy. Look, I love Peterson and other top backs, but their cap numbers are so high.
Shady really is a worthy expenditure, even at a relatively high number. He is an every down dynamic threat and, at 26, still is in his prime. Tough to argue with Dominik in this instance.
His second selection was on the defensive side, as Dominik tabbed linebacker Mychal Kendricks to fill one his 53 slots.
Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia Eagles ($1,212,121): Kendricks is another linebacker you love to have on your team because he can stay on the field all three downs, displaying good toughness and great speed. Plus, he’s a good competitor and will be able to help this team on special teams as well.
Kendricks is entering a season with a lot of expectations. Entering year number three, he can no longer rely on his promise and occasional big play to validate some of the hype he receives. Kendricks has everything required of a dynamic, every-down linebacker from a physical standpoint. In 2014, one would hope he can translate that into consistent success.
The final member of the Eagles pegged by Dominik to make up his ultimate team is another member of the Eagles defense. Brandon Boykin garners far more appreciation within Philadelphia circles compared to the national scene, or so it would appear. Apparently, the former Bucs GM has seen enough of the Eagles slot corner and heaps appropriate praise upon picking him on his team.
Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles ($671,367): Boykin is a top athlete at his position who can run and jump, and he has top ball skills. He is an ideal fit to move inside as a nickel/dime cornerback. He was one of the top interceptors in 2013 and not only possesses elite ball awareness but also ball skills. As the Eagles continue to improve on defense, fans will find out how good he is. Plus, given his rookie contract, he’s a bargain.
Overall, a pretty good showing for the Birds on this list. Tough to think of any notable omissions, and it’s always a pleasure when some less prolific players like Kendricks and Boykin garner recognition.