In a 36-hour span between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon, three starting left tackles were released by their respective teams, as the Eagles and Jason Peters are presumably still embroiled in a conversation about the veteran left tackle’s future with the team.
News of the Jets’ decision not to pick up Ryan Clady’s option, and the Jaguars’ decision not to pick up Kelvin Beachum’s option, came rapid-fire on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, the Dolphins reportedly considered releasing two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, before reneging on their intentions because of a possible trade with the Jaguars.
Last week, the Eagles reportedly asked their starting left tackle, Peters, about taking a pay cut or restructuring his deal to create more cap space for free agency moves. The resolution of that conversation has yet to be realized.
While I wrote just yesterday that the Eagles should just pay Jason Peters for one more year and keep him happy, and still feel that way, this recent spate of moves by other teams certainly gives the Eagles more options and flexibility in negotiations.
Before this week, Peters had almost all the leverage. He is still an elite left tackle when healthy, and while the cap savings would help the team, releasing him would do more harm than good in the short term. And when you’re developing a young quarterback, the short term is equal parts of the big picture.
With the market filling up with younger, decidedly cheaper options for the Eagles, the team can point to the alternative solution of signing a guy like Beachum, who is 28, in their discussions with Peters.
In reality, it’s unlikely either side will budge in any drastic direction.
The Eagles don’t want to get rid of Peters, they just want him to be more affordable.
Peters, 34, doesn’t want to go anywhere. He just wants to be paid what he was promised to be paid.
But the Eagles shouldn’t rush into any decisions, and should consider all their options, before Peters responds, and especially before free agency begins.
The left tackle position is one of the most crucial in the game of football. It protects the quarterback’s blind left side, particularly on the roll-out throws the Eagles like to run with Carson Wentz.
To make a mistake in finding a solution at left tackle would be to short-circuit Wentz’s development, and the team’s march back to perennial contender status.
Just look at the way stability at the left tackle position has worked out for the best team in the league since 2000.
Tom Brady has effectively had two left tackles in the last decade and a half. In 2001, when Brady took over and ultimately supplanted an injured Drew Bledsoe, the team found its left tackle of the next decade in Matt Light.
Light made three Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons with the Patriots before he retired after the 2011 campaign with three Super Bowl rings in tow. Then Nate Solder took over at left tackle, where he’s remained for five years and two more Patriots Super Bowl victories.
That’s not to say left tackle stability is the only reason Tom Brady is the best quarterback in history. But it sure as hell doesn’t hurt that the Patriots hit on solid contributors twice.
The Eagles did a very similar thing when they signed Jon Runyan in 2000, the first full season of the Donovan McNabb era. Runyan played nine seasons for the Eagles, and came within spitting distance of the Eagles’ first Super Bowl win ever, turned away only by Matt Light and the Patriots.
It seems Jason Peters is the answer at left tackle this season, and Lane Johnson is the long-term answer. Johnson played like a Pro Bowl-level tackle last year, when he wasn’t suspended, but he has yet to start a full season at left tackle in the NFL.
Should the Eagles make an unexpected move at left tackle? I don’t think so. Their plan seems sound, and diverting now would bring up more questions than answers.
But it’s worth double-checking everything at such an important position in the game. When you pick your next left tackle, you want him to be around for quite a while.