EAGLES ROSTER ANALYSIS: Offensive Line
The most pressing question on the Eagles’ offensive line is whether Jason Peters will return for a 17th NFL season or ride off into the sunset in one of the custom cars he works on as owner of Greedy Boy Customs in Shreveport, La.
Peters turned 38 last month.
He played reasonably well enough to warrant the chance to return. It might be in Philly. Even though the team will try to get younger, Peters is a favorite of owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Peters said after the Eagles fell to Seattle in the wildcard playoff round that he wants to keep playing.
“I actually feel good,” said Peters in the aftermath of that 17-9 defeat to the Seahawks. “Coming out of this game I felt fresh. This is the best I felt. I was trying to get to the next game because I was feeling good.”
Peters’ replacement is in place, with Andre Dillard presumably ready to go after being picked in the first round of the draft last spring.
There are other questions, too, and perhaps no less pressing than the return of Peters.
The first is regarding the center position. Jason Kelce, 32, has pondered retirement the past few years, but there doesn’t seem to be any hint that he is going to follow through with that this year.
There are three important dates coming up for Kelce, which should keep him anchored for at least another season:
March 18: He will receive a roster bonus of $2 million.
March 22: His base salary of $2 million for 2020 becomes fully guaranteed.
March 27: The Eagles’ deadline to exercise Kelce’s option year for 2021, which will pay him $5.5 million in base salary.
Nevertheless, the Eagles need to address the center position this offseason.
Maybe they already have, with Nate Herbig concentrating on playing that spot during his “redshirt” season on the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
The second question is who steps in or Halapoulivaati Vaitai should he find a team to pay him starter’s money or offer him a reasonable chance to be a full-time starter and he bolts in free agency.
Vaitai is an important player in that he offers versatility, with ability to play both tackle and guard, though he is still developing as a guard after spending only last season cross-training there.
The Eagles are seemingly set up front, even if Vaitai scoots, with Matt Pryor in the wings. Pryor can play both tackle and guard, though he hasn’t done much of either since entering the league two years ago. He made it into two games at guard this season and seemed to hold up OK.
Sua Opeta is also an interesting option on the interior after earning a practice squad promotion late in the season, though not any game time.
Tackle Jordan Mailata, who has yet to play an NFL down and ended each of his first two seasons on Injured Reserve, is a mountain of a man at 6-8, 350, but nobody knows if he can move mountains in a real game. He needs to make it into a game this season or it may be time to part ways with him.
Other than that, the Eagles are set up front with Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson being three of the best at their positions and Brooks and Johnson signing long-term contract extensions in November.
With that in mind, signing a free agent along the line doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Drafting one or two, however, does. Especially with the Eagles expected to have 10 picks in April’s draft.
Here are some the team could consider drafting:
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin. Love the name, love the game. He’s big (6-3, 320) and athletic (can run a 5.2 40). If the Eagles want him, they can’t wait long. They would likely have to nab him in the second round with their 53 overall pick because he likely won’t be there when their turn comes around in the third round, number 85 overall.
Matt Hennessy, Temple. Did well at the Senior Bowl, both on the field and in interviews. Hennessy, who is 6-4, 295, would likely still be available in the third round should the Eagles bypass Biadasz.
Darryl Williams, Mississippi State. Someone to keep an eye on the third day of the draft if the Eagles haven’t taken a possible Kelce replacement. Williams, who is 6-2, 310, moved to center from left guard for his final season. Eagles new pass game analyst Andrew Breiner spent the past two seasons with Williams as the Bulldogs’ passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach so there could be some first-hand knowledge being handed out here.
There is a slew of possibilities at tackle and/or guard that could be had in rounds four through seven, but the ones to watch are those who have position flexibility. In other words, players who have played both guard and tackle during their college careers.