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Eagles should keep Jason Peters very happy for one more year

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No pay cut, no problem.

Philadelphia Eagles v Atlanta Falcons

Last week the Eagles asked Jason Peters to take less money to do his job for what will likely be his last year with the team.

(Imagine being the person to pose that question.)

Peters, who turned 35 years old in late January, has played left tackle for the Eagles since 2009. He’s been voted to the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight years with the team. And next year, between base salary, a signing bonus, and a workout bonus, he’s due $11.2 million.

The only upside to letting Peters go is the saved money, but in this situation, the loss of a Hall of Fame-caliber left tackle probably outweighs the $9 million in savings. Not to mention the Eagles would have to starting the season with Lane Johnson playing left tackle for the first time in his career, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai starting a full season at right tackle for the first time in his career. You’d like to keep your tackles far more stable than that when you’ve got a second-year franchise quarterback to protect.

But almost as important to his level of play, to me, is Peters’ stature in the Eagles’ locker room.

A 13-year veteran who began as an undrafted free agent and worked into the best left tackle in the NFL, Peters commands the most respect of any man on the team’s roster. His value as a leader on the offense, both on and off the field, can’t be overrated.

With the team likely undergoing a fair number of personnel changes this offseason, the Eagles need to retain as many entrenched members with established leadership in the locker room as they can. Peters is an irreplaceable part of that establishment.

Yesterday I wrote about my thoughts on the Eagles adding players who represents risks because of past behaviors. To be clear, I don’t think there are any conceivable circumstances under which the organization should consider adding a player like Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, considering his abhorrent run-ins with the law and his odious handling of the situation since.

However.

If a leadership contingent of players like Peters and Malcolm Jenkins were in place, there could certainly be an argument formed by those who believe Mixon deserves a second chance that, of all the places for him to land, a locker room featuring such stand-up veterans would be ideal.

It still rattles me to think about Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, and Doug Pederson deciding Mixon, or any player with an equally disappointing past, deserves a spot on their roster. But if they reach the conclusion that he, or another player, is too good to pass up, they’d sure better keep Peters happy. He’ll be working overtime.

Because while Carson Wentz is decidedly the future of the Eagles’ locker room, and sooner rather than later the burden of team leadership and tone-setting will rest on his shoulders, the franchise quarterback shouldn’t be asked to take that on at the start of his second year. He will be adjusting, very likely, to a revamped wide receiving corps, a change of the guard at running back, and possibly even a new center.

Asking Wentz to improve as a player and a person in his second year is to be expected, and he should certainly be near the top of the locker room’s leadership hierarchy. But this is still very much a work in progress, and having Peters as Wentz’s guiding light in building his leadership skills is very worth the money he’ll cost next season.

I understand the Eagles approaching Peters about a pay cut. Business is business, and the Eagles are trying to build a contender here.

I would also find any response from Peters to be an apt one. If he accepts less money to do his job out of respect for his employer of the past near-decade, it would be just another feather in his illustriously-decorated cap. If he declines, it will be because he, who has played through countless injuries and played at a level almost inconceivable when they signed him in 2009, owes the Eagles nothing.

Either way, the Eagles would do well to keep Peters happy in 2017. His value on the field is obvious, but his value in the locker room is still extremely valuable as the team continues to gear up for what it hopes will be a prosperous next handful of years.

It always pays to have a beloved leader stick around, no matter how much it costs.