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Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of offensive line options

How will this situation play out?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As is the case with the NFL offseason, there’s a lot of talk about the Eagles’ biggest remaining needs. How’s Philadelphia going to find answers at cornerback? Which running back with the Eagles draft? And so on.

But today let’s examine a position where the Eagles have almost too many bodies instead of not enough. I’m talking about the offensive line logjam, of course.

Now, let me start off by saying that having offensive line depth is never a bad thing. The Eagles have been forced to used a lot of different starting offensive line combinations in the past few seasons. It feels like forever ago since the Eagles had an offensive line that started all 16 games (the 2013 season).

Still, it’s not exactly clear how all these linemen fit in. Let’s take a closer look.

The starters

The Eagles entered the 2016 with the following setup.

Left tackle - Jason Peters
Left guard - Allen Barbre
Center - Jason Kelce
Right guard - Brandon Brooks
Right tackle - Lane Johnson

As we know, that lineup didn’t last through the season. Johnson missed 10 games due to suspension. Barbre battled through injuries and missed one quarter of the season. Brooks missed a few games on short notice due to anxiety.

Heading into 2017, the starting picture isn’t totally clear. If the season started today, here’s what I’d project the line to look like.

Left tackle - Jason Peters
Left guard - Isaac Seumalo
Center - Stefen Wisnieski
Right guard - Brandon Brooks
Right tackle - Lane Johnson

I bolded the LT, RG, and RT spots because those players are locked in. The big mystery is what’s going to happen at LG and C.

Is Jason Kelce the odd man out?

It would seem the Eagles might bring Kelce bring in 2017. The team reportedly won’t cut him, and Eagles have said they want him back. But I’m just not buying that he’ll be around for this season. The Eagles have reportedly shopped him so it seems like they’re holding out hope for a trade. Parting with Kelce, who turns 30 in November, would save the cap-strapped Eagles a total of $3.8 million in cap room.

There’s no question cutting Kelce would be hard from an emotional perspective, but the reality is he’s paid like a top 10 center and he just hasn’t played that well for the past two seasons.

In addition, the Eagles already have in-house replacements for Kelce. The surprising re-signing of Stefen Wisniewski gives the impression the Eagles view him as a starter. Philadelphia gave him a three-year contract worth a max value of $14 million. There’s talk the Eagles view the 28-year-old Wiz as their starting center moving forward. Wiz made six starts at guard last year. Pro Football Focus graded him 39th out of 72 guards, for what it’s worth.

If Kelce is gone and Wiz starts at center, it’s possible the Eagles could just have Barbre start at left guard again this season. Or the team could opt to go young and name 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo as the new starter with Barbre moving to the bench. Seumalo showed starting potential as a rookie. It’s possible the Eagles could look to use him to replace Kelce with Wiz playing left guard.

It just seems hard to believe the Eagles will keep Kelce given how they seemingly feel about Seumalo and how Wiz just got re-signed to a significant contract. Again, offensive line depth is great, but I don’t think the Birds need three potential starting centers.

Backups pushing for playing time

The Eagles gave Barbre permission to seek a trade but that didn’t work out so now they’re reportedly keeping him. I’d imagine the Eagles wouldn’t mind moving him if a team offers anything, but it’s hard to count on that. So instead let’s pencil in Barbre, who turns 33 in June, to be the Eagles’ swing tackle. He figures to be the top backup to both Peters and Johnson and could play guard if necessary.

If Kelce is gone, I’m figuring both Wiz and Seumalo will start. (Unless Barbre keeps his starting job.) If Kelce is back, then either Wiz or Seumalo figure in as the top backup depending which of them isn’t starting.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai could be stuck behind Barbre. As of right now I’m guessing he wouldn’t play unless both tackles were unable to play. That could change if Big V has a good summer while Barbre struggles and/or gets moved.

Chance Warmack is kind of a forgotten man here. The former No. 10 overall pick joined a crowded offensive line picture by signing with the Eagles in frere agency. Warmack didn’t sign to a very big deal (only $500K guaranteed) so he’s not being promised anything. But he’s only 25 and he’s now being reconnected with his former offensive line, Jeff Stoutland. I’d currently project Warmack to be like last year’s version of Wiz. But he could theoretically play his way into the starting conversation at left guard if he has a really good offseason.

Players fighting to make the team

A look at the Eagles’ less heralded Eagles offensive linemen.

Josh Andrews - Surprisingly made the Eagles’ 53-man roster last year but only played a single offensive snap. Deep backup at guard and the third string center behind Wiz/Seumalo?

Aaron Neary - The Eagles signed him to their practice squad after the rookie spent the 2016 offseason with the Broncos. Depth center/guard.

Dillon Gordon - Interesting name to watch this offseason. The Eagles kept Gordon on the 53 last year after converting him from tight end to tackle to guard. He also got some looks as a situational fullback last summer. Could push for a roster spot again if he shows progress this offseason.

Josh LeRibeus - 12 starts in 28 career NFL games played. Another guy in the center/guard mix.

Dallas Thomas - No. 77 overall pick (third round) in the 2013 NFL Draft. 26 starts in 37 games played. NFL insider Adam Caplan seemed to hint the Eagles still like Thomas’ potential despite flaming out with the Dolphins (and despite being named Dallas).

Matt Tobin - After making 21 starts in 42 games with the Eagles, this could be the year Tobin doesn’t make the roster.

Taylor Hart - Wait, isn’t Taylor Hart a defensive tackle? Not anymore. The team’s going to give him a shot as an offensive tackle. The 26-year-old Hart is athletic and has good size so it’s worth a shot, but it probably won’t amount to anything.

Who will the Eagles keep?

A little early here for 53-man roster projection since the 2017 NFL Draft hasn’t even happened yet, but here’s my guess at who the Eagles will keep. Remember that the Eagles kept 11 offensive linemen on their roster last year so they’re not afraid to go heavy at the position.

Starters: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Stefen Wisniewski, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Depth: Allen Barbre, Chance Warmack, Halapoulivaati Vaitai

That’s only eight players but you have to consider the Eagles could add a rookie at some point. A returning player or two (Gordon? Andrews? Thomas?) might also make the roster based on how they perform this summer.

However it plays out, I think the Eagles figure to have a pretty solid offensive line heading into the 2017 season. And good depth behind the starters as well.

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