Alshon Jeffery’s injury a long-term problem

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Eagles head coach Doug Pederson would not announce on Tuesday that receiver Alshon Jeffery would miss the remainder of the season, but his body language made it clear that would be the case. 

Now, with NFL Network reporting Jeffery will indeed be out for the rest of the season, the Eagles have to find a way to replace Jeffery over the next few weeks. The reality is that, with as poorly as Jeffery has been playing this season, replacing him won’t be very hard. The Eagles’ comeback in the fourth quarter, fueled by young players, is proof of that. 

The bigger issue with Jeffery’s season-ending foot injury is long-term, and it is fueled by a crucial mistake by general manager Howie Roseman this past offseason. 

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Roseman guaranteed Jeffery’s 2020 salary. The move created salary cap space for the Eagles at the time, and perhaps was done with a bigger move in mind that never came to be. Regardless of why it was done, the result is that Jeffery is on the books in 2020 for a $9.9 million salary and a $15.4 million cap hit

In an ideal world, prior to his deal being re-done, the Eagles would have bee able to cut Jeffery this offseason. Jeffery already looked a step slower this season and was a detriment to the offense. Even if Jeffery was on the books for almost no money the Eagles would have likely moved on from him. The cap hit would have been minimal and the decision would have been an easy one. 

Now, cutting Jeffery would result in a $27 million cap hit in dead money — an obscene amount to keep on the salary cap and a number that makes an easy decision a nearly impossible one. 

Prior to the injury, it was possible that the Eagles could have traded Jeffery. It wouldn’t have been easy, but it likely could have been done for a conditional late-round pick or fringe roster player. A trade, as opposed to releasing Jeffery, would have minimized the dead money left by as much as $10 million. (per Over the Cap).

Coming off of a serious foot injury, however, it is hard to imagine any team will have interest in bringing in Jeffery. It is hard to imagine Jeffery will improve next season, when he is a year older and coming off of a major injury to his foot.

One wild card in this situation is the potential for a new CBA coming next year. The CBA is currently set to run out at the end of the 2020 season, which has cap ramifications on the upcoming season. Normally, teams could designate a player a post-June 1st cut or trade, but because there is no new agreement on a CBA yet, they won't be able to do that. The differences in Jeffery's cap hits in a post-June 1st hit are staggering:

Here is a breakdown of all the potential outcomes, per OTC: 

Cut, pre-June 1st: $26.1 million in dead money, costs $10.6 million to cut
Cut, post-June 1st: $15.4 million in dead money, costs $0 to cut
Trade, pre-June 1st: $16.1 million in dead money, costs $750K to cut
Trade, post-June 1st: $5.5 million in dead money, $9.9 million in cap savings

So if a new deal is indeed put in place, things could change dramatically for the Eagles when it comes to their options with Jeffery.  

As of now, however, the Eagles might have no choice but to cut Jeffery and leave the $27 million in dead money on their books. The good news is that the Eagles are currently projected to have $40 million in cap space, and that is before they make any moves to open up even more space, something Roseman does each offseason. 

As painful as that would be for a team as cap-conscious as the Eagles, it won’t be an easy pill to swallow. 

What they can’t do, almost under any circumstance, is bring back Jeffery next season — no matter the cost or what it takes. 

Which is why his foot injury on Monday night made an already bad situation even worse, and creates a major long-term issue for the Eagles. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!