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January 16, 2024

Was the Eagles' playoff loss to the Bucs the end of the line for Jason Kelce?

Jason Kelce likely won't make a decision on his future for a bit, but the Eagles center was visibly emotional leaving the field following Monday night's wild card loss to the Bucs.

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Jason-Kelce-Exit-Eagles-Bucs-NFC-Wild-Card-2023.jpg Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles center Jason Kelce

The final seconds and an embrace of O-line coach Jeff Stoutland were caught on the broadcast cameras. The moment was heavy. And the quiet walk back through the tunnel while fighting back tears, even more so. 

The Eagles lost to the Buccaneers, 32-9, in the NFC Wild Card down in Tampa on Monday night. Their season and a catastrophic weeks-long spiral are over, but with that, longtime center Jason Kelce may finally be facing the end of the line for his playing career as well.

There's no decision yet, and likely won't be for a bit as the Eagles' season only just ended, but the visible emotion along with Kelce's declining to speak to the media postgame said a lot on their own. We're more than likely closer to the end than we've ever been. 

"No, guys," Kelce, with his eyes locked to the floor, told the mass of reporters that swarmed his locker in the immediate aftermath of Monday night's heartbreak. "Not today. Sorry."

Kelce, 36, has been a fixture of the Eagles since 2011, developing into an All-Pro center and a part of the organization's "Core Four"  alongside fellow veterans Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham. 

Numerous players have come and gone through the years – coaches, too – but Kelce remained a constant for the Eagles and, with time, became a figure essential to creating and upholding the team's culture – from Andy Reid to Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson, and Nick Sirianni, and from Nick Foles to Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. 

No matter how much the Eagles changed in the past decade, Kelce was always there at the foundation. But it wouldn't be that way forever. 

Kelce has been operating on a year-to-year basis with the team for the past several years now, and even though the stretch has seen him play some of his best football with few signs of slowing down, contemplations of retirement were mulled over with each passing offseason. 

After a 2021 season that saw a retooled Eagles team make a surprise run to the playoffs behind a first-year starting QB in Hurts and a rookie head coach in Sirianni, Kelce opted to come back for 2022. He said he was having too much fun with the, at the time, new group. 

Then the run to the Super Bowl happened, and while it fell just short, a lot of the major talent that got the Eagles there was returning for 2023, plus Kelce was still playing at an elite level. So give it one more shot. 

He did, but it just didn't turn out like anyone was hoping for in the end. Instead of going out on an all-time high note of bringing a second Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia, Kelce instead left the field at Raymond James Stadium with the Eagles having suffered a playoff thrashing, the completion of a monumental collapse that's left all of the city stunned, and the looming possibility that this very well could be it for a franchise legend and surefire Hall of Famer. 

"He's hinted at it," Johnson said postgame. "But I think it's gonna be him who's gonna have to make that call. I mean, I was playing like it was his last. You never know, but you'll have to ask him that."

But if you ask the Eagles about Kelce, from what he's meant to the organization for the past 13 years, to the city, and what they hope he still might be able to bring if this isn't it for his career just yet:

"I love him," said Sirianni, who might now be facing an uncertain future as well. "I love him. Obviously, we're not there at that position yet, or to talk about [his future], but he's special, and I love him. He's one of the most special guys I've been around...He's always got a place here, and I always want him to play. We'll see what happens as time progresses here."

"He's one of my brothers," Johnson said. "I've never had a brother. I was an only child, so these guys are my family. So I love him. He's one of the best centers to ever play the game...I don't think we'll see another one like him for a long time."

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