Duane Burleson/Associated Press
Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters must feel a little snakebitten this season. The 12th-year veteran has missed two games due to injuries and was unable to finish several others as a result.
That’s not the only problem. Even when Peters has been healthy, he’s not the same player he used to be. That was true of 2014 as well, despite receiving his seventh invitation to the Pro Bowl, but this season has been even worse.
Peters turns 34 in January, and it’s beginning to show on the field. The question the Eagles will have to ask themselves this offseason is whether or not to bring him back.
The Eagles signed Peters to a contract extension in 2014, but after this season, it essentially allows the team to decide on his future from year to year. According to Spotrac, the organization can move on for a manageable cap hit of $3 million, which isn’t bad at all when you consider the $6.3 million in savings.
But this isn’t really about money. Would the Eagles honestly be better off without Peters?
It’s difficult to answer yes. Even a declining Jason Peters is probably still better than most NFL offensive tackles. As we’ve seen this season, he’s a better solution than anything the Eagles have on the roster at the moment.
Lane Johnson has been flipping from right to left to mixed results when Peters is out. The hope is the fourth-overall draft pick from 2013 can be groomed to one day take over for the future Hall of Famer permanently, but Johnson has struggled to adapt on the fly.
That doesn’t mean Johnson couldn’t become a solid left tackle with a full offseason and training camp to prepare, but it’s not a given based on what we’ve seen thus far.
Perhaps the larger issue is who takes over for Johnson. That’s been Dennis Kelly, a 2012 fifth-round selection and career reserve. Kelly has acquitted himself well at times, and at times not. The idea the Eagles would roll into next season with him as a projected starter is scary.
Depth is already a major issue for the Eagles across the entire unit as well. The club has not taken a single offensive lineman in the draft since Johnson. That’s 20 straight rounds without one, and the talent pool on the roster is suffering as a result.
Take Peters away from this equation, and what do you have left?
The obvious solution for the Eagles is to invest money and draft picks in the position like crazy, but that’s easier said than done.
First of all, not many quality offensive linemen are available via free agency in any given year. Being that it’s one of the most important positions on the field, teams tend to pony up and re-sign their good linemen whenever possible.
And as far as the draft is concerned, the Eagles can and will find linemen, but there’s no guarantee they’re ready to play in 2016, or at all. Plus, the level of talent has dropped off so dramatically over the past few seasons, this likely isn’t a one-year fix—almost certainly not by adding one or two rookies.
Peters may be in decline, but the decision about what to do with him this coming offseason may have less to do with his ability and more to do with the lack of other options. If the Eagles are trying to compete next season, they’re going to need two quality tackles to do it, and they’ll be banking on Peters still being one of them.