Twenty one. That’s how many consecutive draft picks the Eagles went after taking Lane Johnson 4th overall in 2013 without drafting another offensive lineman. In 2016 the Eagles began to make up for it by taking two, but the ramifications of addressing the position with only journeyman free agents and undrafted free agents is going to continue to be felt. Entering the 2017 Draft, a tackle and another guard/center were mid-to-low priority draft needs.
They’re going to be a higher priority than we thought.
We likely have seen the last of Jason Kelce, and Allen Barbre might be out too. The former is understandable, the coaches feel Seumalo can be a starting center and he showed in his rookie year that he can play, and they’ll save $3.8 million on the cap this year. Further, there is a very real possibility that if they keep Kelce in 2017 they would enter 2018 with four new starters, with only Brandon Brooks holding his post: Lane Johnson moves to left tackle, Isaac Seumalo to center (with left guard a possibility), a new face at left guard and at right tackle maybe Halapoulivaati Vaitai maybe someone else. With Seumalo as your 2017 starter, that can be cut down to three.
But the latter is questionable. Barbre had a very good season at left guard, he can play at least three positions on the line if he’s a backup (LG, RG, RT), and he’s on a good contract, just the 20th highest paid LG in 2017 (per OverTheCap). The Eagles do need to get younger on the line, and Barbre will be 33 when the season starts. But younger doesn’t always mean better, and there’s value in keeping some experience in the fold when injuries inevitably hit.
On the other hand, the playing time that Semualo and Vaitai got as injury and suspension replacements was extremely valuable, giving playing time to a 33 year old is at odds with being a rebuilding team. And the Eagles don’t have much cap space, a draft pick or even a younger veteran would be cheaper, giving the Eagles a little more breathing room.
The Eagles have pressing holes at WR, CB and RB, and they might need a starting DT if and when Bennie Logan walks. That’s a lot of holes to fill in one offseason with limited cap space, and if both Kelce and Barbre go, they’d need a new left guard, and backup interior OL on top of all the other backups they need. Rome wasn’t built in a day (it burned in six though).
So we’re back to the “choose your own adventure” aspect of the Eagles offseason.
Perhaps, after getting a good result with Brandon Brooks, they will move on from Barbre and turn to free agency to fill left guard. But with only so much cap space, that would close the door on signing a free agent at another position.
Perhaps, after getting good results with Seumalo and Vaitai, they will keep Barbre and draft his replacement, which could happen by the end of the season.
Last week, we looked at the options available to the Eagles at wide receiver, a position they must improve upon. This week, we’ll do the same for offensive line, a position they ended the season in need of more long term options and enter the offseason searching for short term ones as well.