Even the good news surrounding the Eagles contains an inkling of future apprehensions and uncertainties.
On Friday, veteran center Jason Kelce and the Eagles announced that the 33-year-old would return for the 2021 season under a restructured contract — guaranteeing that one of the anchors of the offensive line will stay for at least another year.
The playing status of Kelce has been very much up in the air after each of the last few seasons as retirement looms as a sizable consideration.
A three-time All-Pro and Super Bowl winner, Kelce has stated that he’s playing on a year-to-year basis. When asked what he was most worried about on former teammate Chris Long’s podcast back in February, Kelce admitted that it was retirement.
At least he squashed those rumors heading into the weekend.
“I’ve always said I’m playing until I’m not and I still have a very strong desire to play the game of football,” he said. “I still want to do it. I still want to be around the guys. I want to be around the building, around the coaches.
“I still enjoy that aspect of it, and I’m not ready to stop doing it yet. I’m excited with a lot of the energy going around right now and, also, I didn’t want to end my career on a season like we had last year. It wouldn’t feel right. I want to leave the Eagles knowing that I left it in good hands.”
The Eagles have a lot of work to do before they are left in good hands.
With new head coach Nick Sirianni at the helm, the quarterback situation is a major unknown after the team decided to trade Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. Jalen Hurts is the favorite right now entering his second year, but the Eagles could take a quarterback with the sixth pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
There is also a noticeable lack of offensive weapons around the quarterback, especially if the team decides to trade tight end, Zach Ertz, too.
Kelce’s retirement would have left the Eagles in a horrendous spot on an offensive line that needs a boost as it is. Gutting the franchise of its long-time center who still has plenty left in the tank would have thrown the protection unit into further disarray.
It also would have seen one of their locker room leaders — a player who believes in winning above all else — vanish. That was clear in Week 17 of the 2020 season when he vocally disagreed with former head coach Doug Pederson’s tactics of pulling Hurts and basically throwing the game.
“At all times in the NFL, the focus should be on winning the football game,” Kelce said. “Nothing else takes precedence: no player evaluation, no amount of curiosity from anybody within the organization. Everything is focused, in my opinion, in this league upon winning games.
“You see a lot of losing teams sustain losses for a number of years when they have bad cultures. They have cultures where you don’t try and win every week… This isn’t basketball. One draft pick isn’t going to make us a Super Bowl champion.”
Losing that kind of leader is the last thing a team in the midst of the rebuild needs.