Lane Johnson Suspension Upheld: Eagles Tackle Will Miss 10 Games
Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension has been upheld, according to his lawyer Steve Zashin (via NFL reporter Albert Breer). The Eagles’ starting right tackle tried to appeal the ruling last week to no avail. Zashin released a statement regarding the final decision on Johnson.
“We are disappointed with Arbitrator James Carter’s summary ruling,” said Johnson’s counsel. “We will wait for his formal written opinion. After we review that decision, we will review all available legal options.”
The Eagles also released a statement via executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman.
“We’re very disappointed that Lane Johnson has been suspended 10 games,” Roseman said. “His actions have affected the entire organization. We are all working under a clearly-defined set of rules and regulations set forth by the NFL in the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA.”
“Moving forward, he has no choice but to hold himself accountable to Jeffrey Lurie, Coach [Doug] Pederson and his staff, his teammates, and to the entire organization and our fans. When he returns from suspension, we will continue to support him and welcome him back to the team. We are moving on with our preparations for this week’s game in Washington.”
News of Johnson’s suspension first emerged all the way back in August when it was revealed he tested positive for performance enhancing-drugs for the second time in his career. It wasn’t until late September that the suspension became official and Johnson officially started his appeal process.
This suspension has a lot of ramifications on Johnson and the Eagles. In the short-term, Johnson will miss the next 10 games of Philadelphia’s 2016 schedule. This means he won’t be able to play until the Eagles’ second-to-last game of the season against the New York Giants on Thursday, Dec. 22. Johnson will be eligible to return to Philadelphia’s active 53-man roster on Monday, Dec. 19.
In the meantime, the Eagles are expected to start rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle in place of Johnson. Vaitai, or ‘Big V’ as coaches and players call him, was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s yet to make an appearance on the Eagles’ active game day roster.
Originally the Eagles had proposed shifting left guard Allen Barbre out to right tackle with Stefen Wisniewski or Isaac Seumalo taking over in place of Barbre. The veteran Barbre has played well, though, so the Eagles don’t seem keen on moving him out of his regular starting spot.
Johnson’s second career PEDs suspension is also bad news for himself and the Eagles in the long-term. If Johnson gets suspended a third time for the same charge, he’ll be banned from the NFL for an entire two years. That’s not a comforting thought for the Eagles, who have planned for Johnson to take over at left tackle once Jason Peters retires.
There’s also a financial impact to be considered here. Philadelphia signed Johnson to a six-year, $63 million contract extension earlier this offseason worth $35.5 million guaranteed. Per the terms of his deal, however, this suspension will void all of his remaining guaranteed money. Note that Johnson can still earn that money; it’s just not guaranteed anymore.
The Eagles got off to a 3-1 start while Johnson was able to play. Now the team will have to weather the next 10 games without him and hope they’re still in playoff contention when he’s able to return in late December.