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Eagles draft picks put the future of some veterans into question

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It’s not personal, it’s just business

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

Every player in football knows that at some point, another player is coming for their job. Usually, it’s when they’re drafted, occasionally right when they’re drafted.

Sam Bradford knew it when the Eagles traded up to 2nd overall last year, but he wasn’t the only one who was directly affected that season, Halapoulivaati Vaitai made Dennis Kelly expendable. With another draft, a few players were immediately at risk for losing their job.

The entire 2016 wide receiver room

The signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith immediately bumped everyone on the WR depth chart, and the drafting of Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson make what was once the worst group in the league suddenly a crowded house. Barring injury, the 2017 additions should take up four of an expected five WR roster spots, though a sixth is a possibility. So there is likely just one spot available for all the WRs from 2016. A welcome revamping, but one that is not over. Dorial Green-Beckham is the obvious candidate to go straight to the front of the line for the chopping block, and if the team wouldn’t eat $2.4 million in cap space to release Nelson Agholor he would too, though that shouldn’t stop them from burning a roster spot on one of the worst players in the league. Bryce Treggs is as good as gone, and Paul Turner will be fighting for a practice squad spot. Adding to the bottom of the roster crowd, Byron Marshall has moved to WR, and Greg Ward has potential to steal a spot.

And then there’s Jordan Matthews. The team did not give him a contract extension this season and there is no indication they will this summer. Trading Matthews would save $1 million in cap space and add a draft pick. The Eagles have no 2018 2nd rounder, but do have an additional 4th from the Sam Bradford trade and either a 3rd or a 4th from the Eric Rowe trade. If Agholor isn’t getting cut due to his cap hit, then trading Matthews and getting something for him now might be the route the Eagles take.

Marcus Smith

Heading into the draft Smith was fourth on the DE depth chart in a three man rotation, but worthy of a roster spot based on 2016’s improved play and regular special teams contribution (he was 7th on the team in special teams snaps). The selection of Derek Barnett bumps him to fifth, which puts him on the fringes of a game day roster spot even if he makes the 53 man roster. Smith’s special teams role should keep his foot in the door, but if Nate Gerry can replace him there and/or 2016 7th rounder Alex McAlister can push for a roster spot at DE, Smith could find himself losing out on musical chairs. The Eagles would save $1.4 million in cap space by releasing him.

Mychal Kendricks

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Eagles hold on to Kendricks this offseason, but after drafting Nate Gerry to play linebacker, the heat setting on Kendricks’ seat went up at least a notch. The coaching staff clearly doesn’t rate Kendricks highly, giving him only a quarter of snaps in 2016 and not even using him in garbage time to give Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham a breather, as both played over 95% of snaps. And now Kendricks is the lone backup who wasn’t acquired during Jim Schwartz’s tenure. At some point the team will move on, while the drafting of Gerry doesn’t guarantee it will be in 2017, it certainly increases it. The Eagles would save $1.8 million by trading or releasing him.

Jason Kelce

Like Kendricks, Kelce’s time with the Eagles was looking over entering the 2017 offseason, but the team opted to hold on to him. And like Kendricks, they’ve continued to add players who threaten his job. Isaac Seumalo was already drafted as a potential heir, and then Stefen Wisniewski was re-signed to potentially replace him, and they also signed Josh LeRibeus as a potential backup. That alone was enough to make Kelce’s place unsecure, but the signing of UDFA Tyler Orlosky, seen by many as a 5th or 6th round pick value, gives the team yet another option at center. With additions at guard, there’s now a clear path to replacing Kelce if the team choose to use it: Seumalo or Wisniewski at C, with the other at LG, and having Orlosky, LeRibeus, Allen Barbre, Chance Warmack, Dallas Thomas, Dillon Gordon and Darrell Greene as options to back them up. The Eagles would save $3.8 million by trading or releasing him.