Earlier this offseason, PhillyVoice’s Jimmy Kempski reported the Eagles are considering moving on from starting center Jason Kelce. Kempski also noted veteran left guard Allen Barbre isn’t a lock to return to Philadelphia for the 2017 season.
In a recent interview with 97.5 The Fanatic, however, NFL insider Adam Caplan made it sound like Kelce will be back with the Eagles next season. Caplan brought up Kelce’s status in response to being asked about potential Eagles cap casualties.
Jason Kelce is another guy that people speculated about. I think he’ll be on the team. The issue is whether he takes a pay cut or not. I fully expect Jason Kelce to be on the team, and the simple reason is this: there are no centers ready to step in out there. The only thing is: when will Isaac Seumalo be ready to move to center if they decide to move in that direction? We’ll have to see what happens.
Later in the interview, Caplan was specifically asked about Kelce.
The sense I get is … most likely, Kelce will be back as the starting center. I don’t know if they’re happy or not with his cap number. His base salary is $5 million. For a guy of his tenure, [that’s] not bad at all. It’s just a matter of, do they think, long-term, because he’s signed through 2020, could he be the guy? He’s clearly not the same player he once was but he’s still solid. He’s one of the top 10 centers in the league. But they just have to decide: when will Isaac Seumalo be ready to be the center? I think more likely he’ll compete against Allen Barbre for that left guard job. That makes more sense to me at this point.
Caplan’s interview doesn’t necessarily qualify as a hard report, but he’s pretty plugged-in when it comes to the Eagles. So it’s interesting to hear him say Kelce will “most likely” be back. Kempski also has a strong track record when it comes to reporting so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Kelce’s situation.
The thinking here is that the Eagles would be OK with having Kelce back if the 29-year-old is willing to take a pay cut. Kelce currently has the eighth highest cap figure of any NFL center in 2017. He just hasn’t played like a top 10 center over the past two seasons. Kelce has been a nice player for the Eagles and he still has his moments, no doubt, but he’s clearly past his prime at this point.
Philadelphia can save $3.8 million in cap space (compared to $2.8 million in dead money) by either cutting or trading Kelce this offseason. Considering the Eagles are tight on cap space, that’s significant money the team could be looking to free up.
In addition to the cap savings the Eagles would reap from cutting Kelce, the team would also free up the starting spot for Seumalo to take over. The 2016 third-round pick showed promise as a rookie at guard (and even one game at tackle). The Eagles could either keep him at that spot, as Caplan suggests, or have him return to the center position he mostly played at Oregon State.
It won’t be long before we hear more on Kelce’s status. The Eagles will meet with his agent this week at the NFL Combine. The team will have to make a decision on him before NFL free agency begins on March 9.
UPDATE: Les Bowen of the Daily News also expects the Eagles to keep Kelce.