The Best and Perhaps Last No. 71: Jason Peters

John McMullen

If it takes you more than a few seconds of thought to come up with the best No. 71 in Eagles history, you’ve buzzed in too late.

Jason Peters, one of the top left tackles of his generation and an almost certain future Hall of Famer, is not only the best 71 in franchise lore, but he could also be the last person to wear the number in Philadelphia.

A nine-time Pro Bowl selection and six-time first- or second-team All-Pro, Peters is a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team and remains one of the best trade pickups in franchise history.

Once a college tight end at Arkansas the transition is a little overblown because Peters had far more pancake blocks for the Razorbacks than receptions so the O-Line was always his future but at 6-foot-4 and growing into a frame that reached far beyond any listed weight, Peters was able to keep a stunning amount of his athleticism to go along with a country strength that few could match

According to Pro Football Reference’s Hall-of-Fame metric tool, only 14 OTs have had better careers than Peters and all of them are in the HOF with the exception of two and one of those (Joe Thomas) is not eligible yet and will be a slam-dunk selection.

At 38, the Eagles planned on waving goodbye to Peters after the 2019 season in favor of heir apparent Andre Dillard but the COVID-19-affected offseason may change those plans.

Peters wants to continue playing and prefers it to be in Philadelphia while NBCSports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn has reported that the Eagles have an interest in bringing the big man back.

Regarded as the Godfather of the Eagles’ locker room, one final year of Peters could still be on the table.

From now until the Eagles begin the season at Washington on Sept. 13, SI.com EagleMaven will do a jersey countdown, listing the current Eagles player to wear the corresponding number to the days left before the season opener. As a bonus, we will list the top three players in team history to have that number.

Current number 71:

Not Assigned. Peters remains unsigned and the Eagles aren’t about to entertain giving up his number. In fact, even if the veteran does sign a deal elsewhere it’s very unlikely No. 71 is going to be recycled anytime soon.

The top 3 in team history to wear number 71:

3. Jermane Mayberry. A former first-round pick in the 1996 draft Mayberry bounced around a bit from position to position before finding a home at right guard with the high-water mark being a 2002 Pro Bowl berth.

Mayberry was a starter at left tackle by his sophomore season in Philadelphia and was at least a part-time starter between 1998 and 1999 at left guard and right tackle before finding his groove inside on the right side for five seasons. He finished up his NFL career with one season in New Orleans but 112 of Mayberry’s 123 career NFL games were with the Eagles.

2. Ken Clarke . A former undrafted free agent out of Syracuse, Clarke ended up playing 14 seasons in the NFL, a decade of that with the Eagles as a solid interior pass rusher.

Early in his career Clarke was a big part of the 1980 defensive line rotation for a 12-4 Super Bowl team and was a full-time starter with the versatility to play on the nose or as a three-technique from 1982 to 1987.

Over his 10 seasons in Philadelphia, Clarke was also an iron man, missing just four games while recording 32.5 of his 43.5 career sacks.

Clarke was productive right up until the end of his career as a starter for the Minnesota Vikings in 1990 and 1991.

1. Jason Peters. Peters was unhappy with his contract with Buffalo when the Eagles came knocking with a first-round pick and a fourth-rounder in the 2009 draft and a conditional sixth-rounder the next year to get Peters out of Western New York.

The rest, as they say, is history with Peters earning seven of his nine Pro Bowl berths with the Eagles and four of his six All-Pro nods. The Bills ended up getting one solid player out of the trade, center Eric Wood.

Runner-up:

Dick Hart. Hart was a four-year starter at left guard for the Eagles (1967-70) who played and started in every game he was with the organization, 56 of 56.

Others:

Cecil Sturgeon, Frank Hrabetin, Eberle Schultz, Ed Fiben, George Fritts, Otis Douglas, Tom Higgins, Jim Ricca, Don King, John Wilcox, Joe Lewis, William Wynn, Cecil Gray, Mike Chalenski, and Scott Young.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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