Three more key cogs in the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship season of three seasons ago could be playing their final game on Sunday night when the Washington Football Team pays a visit to Lincoln Financial Field to try to win the NFC East.
Two of them are certain to be done with the Eagles: tight end Zach Ertz and receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The third could go either way: center Jason Kelce.
Each offseason Kelce takes a long, hard look at retirement.
Last year, maybe not so much. He said it was an easy decision to return for 2020. This year, he may implement a more thorough inspection of the idea.
He will make his 104th straight start Sunday night, which is the longest active streak among centers, and he was just named to his fourth Pro Bowl. So, he would be going out on top if chooses.
A four-win season is never easy on any player, not after all the hard work and commitment most put into getting themselves ready to play a season, both mentally and physically.
The possibility of a rebuild, brought on by the release of some high-salaried veteran players in order to become salary-cap compliant, may also be something the 33-year-old Kelce would not be willing to endure.
On Dec. 15, Kelce was asked how he has handled a season that won well on its way to coming off the tracks.
“I don’t know that I handled it any different, I guess,” he said. “The biggest thing is I’m an older guy so it’s really on me to try to keep everything going in the right direction, to keep everybody focused on the task at hand. But it’s part of football.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs, you’re going to have seasons where you feel like you’re unstoppable, and you’re going to have other seasons where you don’t know what’s going on, why we’re doing this and we’re struggling.”
The Eagles never could figure out what they were doing and became the first team eliminated from the chance at winning a division that is the worst in football and maybe the worst at any point in the history of the NFL.
“There’s not a lot of worse feelings in this business when you’re losing a lot of games in a row,” said Kelce. “So, what do you do? Are you a guy that uplifts others, that tries to impart belief into your teammates, into people around you, who looks at yourself in the mirror to try to get better and try to be accountable to everyone?
“These are the things I enjoy about losing seasons is finding out about guys, who guys are, what they stand for.
“...What are we going to do to fix it? What are we going to do to right the ship and get this thing going in the right direction? That’s all part of being part of a team, whether you’re in your 10th year or your first year.”
What the Eagles do to fix this broken season in 2021 may be the ultimate determination in what Kelce opts to do.
As for Ertz, he will likely be traded, with him and the front office at an impasse on contract negotiations. The tight end has always had big games against the WFT in his career, so maybe he makes his final game a memorable one.
Ertz has 555 career receptions in Philadelphia, but the franchise record for most receptions, believed to be his when the season began, will remain intact, and that is the 589 catches made by Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael.
Unless Jeffery is willing to restructure his contract, the Eagles will look to trade him or likely release him after June 1 when they would save $13 million under the salary cap with $5.4M in dead money. A pre-June 1 release and the Eagles only save $7.9M under the cap and eat $10.5M in dead money.
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