Eagles must make critical offseason decisions on offensive, defensive lines

Philadelphia Eagles NFL Brandon Graham

The Eagles quickly addressed the quarterback quandary last Tuesday, when Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson declared that Carson Wentz would be the starting quarterback for 2019 season and the team will likely move on from Nick Foles.

“Carson is the quarterback going forward,” Pederson responded to the first question of the joint press conference.

OK, so now that we have settled the most-pressing priority in the offseason, it’s time to address the next one: The offensive and defensive lines, which could see the most turnover since Pederson became the coach.

The front office must determine who is going to protect their franchise quarterback and who is going to attack the opposing team’s signal caller.

The offensive line has the most question marks, starting with left tackle Jason Peters. Signed through next year at a cap hit of $10.6 million, according to Spotrac.com, he turns 37 next week, missed huge chunks of snaps due to injuries – despite playing in every game – and his production has been in decline.

The Eagles are only on the hook for his $2.6 million signing bonus. They could hope he remains durable for one more season or cut him and save $8 million to use elsewhere.

In addition to Peters, the futures of center Jason Kelce and guard Brandon Brooks, who were both named to the Pro Bowl for the second-straight year, are uncertain. Kelce, 31, is reportedly contemplating retirement, while Brooks tore his Achilles against the Saints in the playoffs and is out for at least six-to-eight months.

The team is anchored at right tackle with Lane Johnson and has solid depth at guard and tackle with veterans Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo, and Stefen Wisniewski, as well as rookies Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata. 

“Howie has alluded to the fact that we would love to have them all back,” Pederson said. “The more guys obviously up front that you can keep together in the future is great for your quarterback, great for your running game, and just great for your offense in general.”

On the defensive line, the Eagles have three pending free agents in defensive ends Brandon Graham and Chris Long and tackle Haloti Ngata.

While the 34-year-old Ngata is not expected to return, the Eagles have a tough decision to make on Graham, who is 31, still playing at a high level and due for a big payday. The same can be said about Long, who is a reliable but affordable third-down pass rusher.

With DEs Michael Bennett, who was second on the team in sacks with nine, and Derek Barnett slated to return from a season-ending injury, the team could absorb Graham’s loss and target depth at the position in the draft, which is rated highly at the position, or in free agency.

Another player to keep an eye on is tackle Tim Jernigan, who missed most of the season after undergoing surgery last May for a herniated disc. The Eagles restructured his deal last spring and converted Jernigan’s guaranteed $11 million 2019 salary, and $13 million cap hit into non-guaranteed money. This offseason, they could cut Jernigan loose and recoup a ton of dough.

Overall, Roseman said teams usually have a 15-20 percent roster turnover each year. It could be even higher for the guys in the trenches.

“We know we have a lot of work to do this offseason,” he said. “We know we have to improve the roster. We’re looking forward to that challenge and we’re going to get to work on it right away.”

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