What was Once a Bright Spot, Right Side of Eagles OL Now a Concern

It looked like a good move to lock up Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks last November, but injuries have wreaked havoc with both of them
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Last November, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman locked down the right side of his offensive line.

It looked like a wise move at the time, with guard Brandon Brooks putting the finishing touches on a third straight Pro Bowl berth and tackle Lane Johnson doing the same, with an All-Pro award mixed in from the 2017 season.

Brooks signed a new deal on Nov. 11 then three weeks later Johnson followed suit. Both players signed four-year deals with new money totaling nearly $140 million combined.

A year later, neither Brooks nor Johnson will play on Monday night when the Seattle Seahawks visit in an important game for both teams.

The game will be played on the one-year anniversary in which Johnson became the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL with a deal that brought in $72M in new money for him, $55.8M of which was guaranteed in case of injury.

There has been plenty of injury for Johnson since signing the deal. He played in two games after signing the contract, hurting his knee early in that second game on Dec. 12 and missing the remainder of the season.

Now, he is done for 2020 with an ankle injury that has plagued him all season, limiting him to just seven games, four of which he was unable to finish due to the injury.

“You get paid a contract to play like one of the best tackles in the league and you go out there and you can’t finish games, you’re not out there,” said Johnson on Friday. “As far as being a setback that’s what it is. People deal with injuries, it’s just a matter of recovering from this then coming back fully healthy, play a season, don’t worry about it, and get back to functioning normally. That’s the goal.

“It’s part of the game, people deal with injuries all the time. You see it week in, week out, it’s part of the game. Moving forward I just want to put this behind me.”

Brooks, of course, hasn’t played all year with a torn Achilles. He played seven games after signing his contract on Nov. 11 last year, which brought him $56.3M in new money. He played the final seven games of 2019, but in the regular-season finale, he injured his right shoulder and missed the playoff game against the Seahawks.

Hindsight is always 20/20 with contracts, but this sure feels like buzzard’s luck for Roseman and the Eagles. At the time the deals looked solid. Not so much now.

Perhaps the only thing that could be questioned was their age, but even that didn’t feel like a big deal, since Johnson was 29 at the time and Brooks 30. Now a year older, the Eagles are about to find out if they can recover from their injuries.

For Brooks, it is his second Achilles tear. Johnson has had some nagging injuries now, and the fear is that the decline will continue after having twice been caught using PEDs that led to his suspension and have been known to contribute to injury.

“My goal is to put this behind to where it’s nothing I have to think about,” said Johnson. “I don’t want to be thinking about for games or during the week if I can practice, how I’m feeling. I’ve seen guys come back from far worse.

“You’ve seen Brooks come back from tearing an Achilles. He was the best guard in the league the next year. So, if I need any inspiration or guys to look to around here to people who have gone through things in the past and recover, there are guys here in the locker room to look up to.”

Roseman and the Eagles can only hope those contracts live up to the belief they had in the two linemen, especially since Johnson will have a salary cap hit of $17.8M in 2021 with Brooks not far behind at $14.5M.

‘I don't think we would have done anything differently with Lane Johnson managing his injury this season), quite honestly,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “This guy, he's battled through a lot of different things this season. He's a tough kid. This is just a situation that sort of the wear and tear on his body, honestly, that has led us to this point.

“I'm hoping Brandon Brooks is the same person, too, when he comes back. I'm optimistic. These guys work hard. Our training staff does a great job, our medical team, doctors, strength and conditioning staff, to get these guys back healthy. Lane will be one of those guys.”

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