The Bodyguard is back in Philly and his nickname has never been more appropriate given his (unexpected!) position change. Yes, after months of speculation about a possible return, Jason Peters has officially agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are some thoughts on what this news means for the Birds.
1 - Can Jason Peters make a successful transition to right guard?
Can the Eagles really count on Peters, who turns 39 in January, to effectively learn a new position at his age? And during an offseason where practice reps are more limited than ever due to COVID-19?
Peters doesn’t have any kind of extensive experience playing the position. The closest he’s come to playing right guard was lining up at right tackle for 10 games on the Buffalo Bills in 2005. He’s otherwise been anchored at left tackle.
The Eagles seem to be banking on Peters’ talent winning out. There’s reason to believe he’s still an effective player. Pro Football Focus had him graded as their sixth best offensive tackle last year.
Playing between two All Pro talents in Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson could further aide Peters’ transition. One would also imagine Jeff Stoutland, who has a reputation as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, should be able to assist Peters.
It’s hard to envision Peters being a flat out disaster at guard. But just how effective will he be as he fills in for Brandon Brooks? And can he stay on the field? Peters missed 25% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps last year, 20% in 2018, and 63% in 2017.
2 - It’s naive to believe this re-signing has nothing to do with Andre Dillard
The Eagles are clearly trying to put some spin on this move:
Getting some more info on this...— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) July 14, 2020
Jason Peters will play RG, not left guard. Eagles believe he can make the transition.
They also think he can help at swing tackle if something happens to Dillard. Key leader on team.
The move is not at all about Dillard. He's the starting LT.
Don’t fall for it.
The Eagles were interested in bringing Peters back way before Brooks got hurt. And their interest in re-signing JP absolutely coincided with uncertainty about Dillard. Let’s revisit what I wrote about Dillard’s 2020 outlook earlier this week:
Further, there were multiple reports about the Eagles being open to moving Dillard. One went as far to characterize that the team “dangled” him as “trade bait.” These reports don’t conflict with inside information that I heard about Dillard. There are internal concerns about the Washington State product’s mental makeup following multiple outbursts during his rookie season. Not to mention, most importantly, his on-field struggles not only at right tackle but on the left side as well. 2020 will be critical for Dillard as he tries to prove he can not only handle replacing Peters but also be the Eagles’ long-term answer at left tackle.
To be clear, I don’t blame the Eagles for trying to publicly spin the Peters signing has nothing to do with Dillard. They shouldn’t be trying to undermine their 2019 first-round pick’s confidence.
But the reality is that Peters being back in the building opens the possibility for him to take over at left tackle if Dillard really struggles like he did at times as a rookie. There will be calls for JP to replace the second-year blocker if things get bad. It’ll be interesting to see how patient the Eagles are with Dillard.
3 - The Eagles’ offensive line depth is boosted
Bringing back Peters doesn’t just solidify the starting right guard spot. It also clears up questions about the team’s depth.
Someone like Jordan Mailata or Jack Driscoll — both whom have never played an NFL regular season snap — would’ve been the Eagles’ top swing tackle prior to signing Peters. That’s far from an ideal situation. Now the Eagles can use Peters to fill in if Dillard or Lane Johnson get hurt. Matt Pryor can then replace Peters’ spot at guard.
Pryor will also likely be the top interior backup if/when anything happens to Peters or Isaac Seumalo.
4 - This is a good move for the locker room
Peters is well-respected (read: feared?) by pretty much everyone within the NovaCare Complex. The future Hall of Famer is a key leader not only on the offensive line but the team as a whole. Getting him back makes up for some of the leadership void that Malcolm Jenkins’ departure leaves behind.
5 - Peters’ return goes against the youth movement
I’ve listed the positives of the Peters re-signing but it’s only fair to acknowledge the downside as well. I’m all for the Eagles trying to bulk up their offensive line. The unit has been critical to their success.
But one must admit that bringing back a 38-year-old goes against the Eagles’ stated goal to get younger. Peters is probably a better option than Pryor in 2020 ... but we’ll also never know for sure if the latter doesn’t get the chance to grow. The Eagles thrived when being forced into giving opportunities to young players down the stretch in 2019.
It’s not like Peters was signed to a minimum deal, either. His one-year contract is worth up to $6 million with $3 million guaranteed. Those terms hardly qualify for breaking the bank but every penny kind of counts with the Eagles being $50.7 million OVER the cap in 2021. Any additional cap space they use up in 2020 is less they can roll over for next season. And we’ve yet to account for any COVID-19 pandemic related cap repercussions that could further hurt the Eagles’ cap standing.
Hopefully the Eagles bringing Peters back doesn’t end up similarly to their over-reliance on Darren Sproles.
6 - Might Peters be back in 2021?
Peters has told people that he wants to play into his 40s. He’s only 38 right now so he seems to be eyeing up at least two more seasons, including this one. Just because Peters intends to play doesn’t mean he’ll get his wish. But it’s wild to think if this might not even be Peters’ last year in the NFL ... or with the Eagles. He doesn’t clearly fit in to Philly’s 2021 picture so maybe he’d wind up elsewhere. But, then again, many thought Peters wouldn’t be back with the Eagles in 2020 and here he is.