The Eagles finished 2014 without Todd Herremans. Now they have to figure out 2015, and beyond, without the player who suited up for 135 games at four positions along the offensive line.
The team cut Herremans Friday, leaving fellow 2005 draftee Trent Cole as the longest tenured Eagle. They will save $2.8 million this season, but still lose $2.4 million against the cap in dead money.
The first candidates to replace Herremans are already on the roster.
Andrew Gardner started the last six games and may have the upper hand on teammate Matt Tobin, whom he replaced.Tobin still saw action in 2014, mostly at left guard when Evan Mathis was injured.
After playing in 15 games in 2013, Allen Barbre was the top backup. He signed an extension and began the season at right tackle while Lane Johnson served his suspension.But Barbre suffered a high-ankle injury in the opener against Jacksonville that compounded the team’s offensive line struggles and ended his season.
If the Eagles look to free agency, the good news is guards come cheaper than some positions the team has worried about lately. The highest earner from last year’s free agent guard class is Rodger Saffold, who earns an average of $6.2 million each year after he resigned with the Rams.
One player for Birds’ fans to watch is Orlando Franklin. The 27-year-old Franklin has started every game except one since being drafted in 2011 by the Broncos. He has been a starter on Denver teams that led the NFL in both rushing (in 2011) and passing yards (2013.)
He offers size (6-foot-7, 320) and a versatility that will remind fans of Herremans. Franklin, like Saffold, started his career at tackle before moving to guard, a move that may make him eminently more affordable. The nine highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL are tackles.
The draft should be a priority given the age of the current line. The top prospects should be off the board by the time the Eagles pick at 20, but they have other fish to fry there anyway.
When the second and third day of the draft arrive, several more possibilities open up. A couple involve switching college tackles over to guard.
Oregon’s Jake Fisher had a standout combine. He’s got height (6-foot-6) and like other Eagles linemen is a former tight end. A bonus: Chip Kelly knows he can function in a high-paced offense.
One of the darlings of the draft process this year has been Hobart tackle Ali Marpet. After surprising with his play in the Senior Bowl, Marpet wowed at the combine, turning in the fastest 40-yard dash (4.98 seconds) among linemen and finishing second (to Fisher) in the three cone drill and shuttle run.
It should be said that it will be as difficult to replace Herremans off the field as on it. He will be remembered for his willingness to play wherever he was needed, and as the one constant in Philadelphia whose career spanned two dominant offensive lines.