— Expiring contracts and performance dilemmas abound for the Philadelphia Eagles, who will have more than their share of difficult decisions to make once this season ends, regardless of how many more wins the team gets.
• Is Nate Allen worth re-signing after establishing himself as the top safety on the roster?
• Is wide receiver Jason Avant worth keeping around for his final year, in which he's due a total of $4 million in salary and bonuses?
• Does the team want to continue paying Brandon Graham the rest of his rookie contract if he can't get on the field as a starting outside linebacker in their new 3-4?
• Does defensive end Vinny Curry even have a future in this system, even though he's been extremely productive as a pass rusher this season?
• Will they keep tight end Brent Celek, who's due nearly $14 million between 2014 and 2016, but with none guaranteed?
• Will safety Patrick Chung stay after losing his starting job?
• Are wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin worth re-signing?
• Are there any major changes planned for the offensive line?
• Will they discover flaws in their revised approach to free agency, which most recently landed them the likes of Chung, Isaac Sopoaga, Bradley Fletcher, and Kenny Phillips?
• How will they attack the draft, in which it is a lock that they will address their pass-rush and defensive line depth?
As usual, the Eagles will be well-positioned heading into this next offseason, particularly if they decide that Nick Foles is not their quarterback of the future. Because some other team will think differently and a blockbuster trade would likely ensue in which the Eagles would wind up in much better position to draft the quarterback they might want and help themselves in other areas as well.
No matter what coach Chip Kelly has said, Foles is no lock. He should be, but he isn't.
NFL rosters in general are the most fluid in sports, given their size and the league's hard salary cap in which very little money is guaranteed. This is especially the case with the Eagles heading into Kelly's second year as coach (assuming he's not gone himself after being pursued by all the major college powers with openings and even some without).
It's a good bet that the look of this team, especially on defense, will be drastically different in 2014.
Here's an early projection of what the status of this year's players will be next year:
• Locks to return: Center Jason Kelce, guard Evan Mathis, tackles Lane Johnson, Dennis Kelly and Allen Barbre; wide receiver DeSean Jackson; tight end Zach Ertz; running backs LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk and Bryce Brown; quarterback Matt Barkley; defensive ends Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox; defensive tackle Bennie Logan; linebackers Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans; cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin; safety Earl Wolff; punter Donnie Jones; long snapper Jon Dorenbos.
• On the bubble: wide receivers Riley Cooper, Arrelious Benn and Brad Smith; tackles Matt Tobin and Jason Peters; guard Todd Herremans; center Julian Vandervelde; tight end Brent Celek; quarterback Nick Foles; defensive ends Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Joe Kruger; defensive tackle Damion Square; linebackers Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Jake Knott, Casey Matthews, Najee Goode and Jason Phillips; safeties Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson; kicker Alex Henery.
• Outta here: wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl; tight end James Casey; running back Matthew Tucker; quarterback Michael Vick; linebacker Phillip Hunt; cornerbacks Curtis Marsh and Roc Carmichael; safeties Patrick Chung and Keelan Johnson.
Cole, who definitely will be gone by 2015, when his base salary spikes to $10 million, could be gone at the end of this season. They will have to take a relatively large cap hit to make it happen, but they'll be so far under the cap anyway that it won't matter.
Damaris Johnson might be the biggest mystery. Good player capable of doing some great things. But clearly not a favorite of Kelly's.
The Eagles will have to eat $1 million to get rid of Chung next year, but considering how this one has gone, it will be worth it.
As is the case with so many who aren't locks to return, money plays a huge role. The dealbreaker could be whether some under contract agree to pay cuts if the team asks.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that No. 3 quarterback Barkley has a better chance of returning than either of the two ahead of him on the depth chart, although the sense here is that Foles will be the long-term starter for Kelly.
Still, Foles could be looking at an almost all new receiving corps and at least one new tight end.
Win or lose today or next Sunday, in the playoffs or not, the Eagles are heading for another offseason of huge changes in which perhaps half their roster will be made over.
That's the view from here.
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