[Note by JasonB, 03/30/12 5:35 PM EDT ] An option if the Eagles decide to go the draft route
The news of the likely season-ending injury to one of the best left tackles in the game, Jason Peters, is simply stunning. Peters and left guard Evan Mathis contributed to a very solid left side of the offensive line which contributed to LeSean McCoy's incredible season.
However, the Eagles are fortunate in that this injury came not only before training camp, but also before the NFL draft. Had this occurred in week 8 of the regular season things could have gotten ugly.
The best decision for the Eagles would be to turn to the draft. The team can explore the free agent market, but there are not many impressive left tackles available. Demetrius Bell is available, but he is not a dominant pass blocker nor an impressive run blocker. He also may not be 100%, as he is coming off an injury.
The Eagles are still in possession of the 15th overall pick. With the DeMeco Ryans trade and the re-signing of DeSean Jackson negating the need to select Luke Kuechly or Kendall Wright, the team may have the opportunity to select either Jonathan Martin or Iowa OT Riley Reiff.
Reiff would be the safer pick of the two, and would be worth it even if it means trading up for him.
To obtain Reiff, the Eagles will likely need to give up their 15th overall pick and a 2nd round pick. But if this lands them as high as the 10th overall pick, it may be well worth it. Reiff is an impressive athlete, as he was a former tight end converted to a linemen. He has very quick feet and a wide frame. Reiff is also an excellent pass blocker.
The main knock on Reiff is his short arms, but he makes up for this with his quick feet and agility. An athlete such as Reiff is exactly the kind of tackle Howard Mudd needs on the o-line to protect Michael Vick.
Martin is less impressive. Despite having a reputation for athleticism, Martin showed a lack of speed and strength at his pro day. While protecting Andrew Luck's blindside for many years is no small feat, and many teams will remain interested in Martin for this reason, many are concerned that his athleticism may not be as good as previously believed.
Reiff however,excelled during blocking drills and showed good technique. He also recorded a 29 1/2 inch vertical jump and 26 strength reps. If Reiff can be obtained, the Eagles would be wise to trade up for him, as he possesses all the skills to be a good NFL left tackle.
The Eagles, possessing five picks in the top four rounds, can afford to use a top draft pick on a tackle or to trade to a higher pick to ensure they obtain a quality one. It will be difficult to replicate the dominance Peters shows in run-blocking so McCoy can be expected to have a less impressive season. But as the left side is not Vick's blindside, the Eagles passing offense can still dominate so long as a suitable left tackle is obtained. And with a first round draft pick, the Eagles can certainly get a tackle who can be expected to be at least an average NFL pass blocker.
A full training camp with Howard Mudd would also get the young rookie up to speed as quickly as possible. Losing Peters was a terrible blow to the Eagles o-line, but obtaining Reiff (of Martin if Reiff were selected early) would be the best way to reduce the damage.