Eagles Offseason Outlook: Offensive Line
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. We have covered the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends so far. Now it’s onto the offensive line.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
All five original starters from last season – Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson – remain under contract.
Peters turned 33 last month. He might not be the player he was four years ago, but there are no concerns about him manning the left tackle spot. Mathis was unhappy with his contract going into 2014, but he showed up and played well. I was particularly impressed with the way he missed seven games due to a knee injury, but returned and performed at a high level down the stretch. It’s worth noting, though, that Mathis is 33.
By all accounts, the sports hernia surgery affected Kelce, even though he came back and battled through the injury. He signed an extension last offseason and has a bright future.
Herremans may be the only question mark here. His contract counts $5.2M against the cap, and Herremans turns 33 in October. He has missed 16 games due to injury over the past three seasons.
Johnson’s pass protection improved in Year 2 after he missed the first four games because of suspension. He’s the starting right tackle going forward and could eventually replace Peters on the left side.
Last year showed the importance of depth. David Molk, Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Wade Smith, Dennis Kelly and Allen Barbre all played snaps for the Eagles. Aside from Smith, every one of those backups is under contract for 2015.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
I think the Eagles hold on to Herremans, and he likely starts at right guard, assuming health. He looked last year like he could still play, and the dropoff after he got injured was significant. The exception here would be if the Eagles drafted a starting-caliber guard whom they felt could perform better than Herremans at a fraction of the cost.
Among the backups, Barbre will likely hang onto a roster spot, but the Eagles desperately need to get younger and upgrade their depth. They got into a bad spot last spring and didn’t draft a single offensive lineman. None of the backups distinguished themselves in 2014. Tobin battled through some injuries, but did not impress. Gardner can play multiple positions, but offers nothing in terms of upside.
Competition could be brought in at center with Molk and Julian Vandervelde.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top-10 tackles, per Rotoworld:
1. Bryan Bulaga
2. Michael Roos
3. Doug Free
4. Derek Newton
5. King Dunlap
6. Joe Barksdale
7. Byron Bell
8. Jason Fox
9. Jermey Parnell
10. Ryan Harris
And the top-10 interior linemen:
1. Mike Iupati
2. Orlando Franklin
3. Rodney Hudson
4. Stefen Wisniewski
5. Clint Boling
6. James Carpenter
7. Brian De La Puente
8. Rob Sims
9. Will Montgomery
10. Dominic Raiola
I haven’t studied most of these options yet, but I’d be surprised if the Eagles made a splash here in free agency. More likely, they’ll roll with the guys they have and try to build/get younger through the draft.