April 01, 2017
I received a very interesting email on Friday from a reader named Gary, who lives in the Denver area, and has heard Jason Peters' name come up quite a bit on the radio out there recently. His email, lightly edited:
Multiple times in the last week I have heard the local Denver sports radio guys talking about Jason Peters. These guys say that Peters is the top guy on the Broncos wish list and that there is some noise behind the scenes. They say that a trade might be possible and even state that the Birds might flat out release Peters because of the cap.
- There is no way that Philly releases Peters, right?
- Have you heard any of this "noise?"
- What would the Broncos need to send to the Eagles to make a deal like this happen - what type of draft pick or pick plus player?
My very short answers:
Just for fun, let's take a deeper look at that possibility.
On the downside, the Eagles currently have a pair of very good starting tackles in Peters and Lane Johnson. That is an ideal setup for a second-year quarterback that the team is making every effort to surround with talent. Trading Peters unquestionably weakens the offensive line, as Johnson would slide over from right tackle to left tackle, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would presumably fill in at right tackle. There likely wouldn't be a dropoff from Peters to Johnson, but there would be a major drop from Johnson to Vaitai, as we saw last year.
Still, it's not a crazy thought. Consider the following (buckle up for a heavy dose of speculation):
As you've heard all offseason long, the Eagles are strapped for salary cap space. They likely will be next year as well. If the Eagles were to trade Peters they would save $9,700,000, which they could use however they see fit, including rolling some of that over into 2018.
It was reported early in February that Peters was asked to take a pay cut out of the kindness of his heart. Peters' reply was likely something to the effect of, "Uh, yeah, thanks but no thanks."
It's unknown if the Eagles would have asked Peters to take a pay cut if they weren't so tight against the cap (thus signaling that they don't think he's worth his cap number), or if they were simply desperate to clear space.
Lane Johnson's average annual pay is $11,250,000. He's the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL, ahead of Ricky Wagner, who cashed in this offseason with the Lions at $9,500,000. The next closest player after Wagner is the Packers' Bryan Bulaga, who checks in at $6,750,000 per year.
In other words, as you just read, Johnson is making "left tackle money." When the Eagles re-did his deal, they did so with the idea in mind that he would soon be playing left tackle. Having him on the books at around $10 million this season to play right tackle is a huge chunk of money.
Every chance the Eagles get, they praise Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The latest example was Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meetings when Doug Pederson was asked if he thought Vaitai could start at RT whenever Peters retired or was no longer with the team.
“It’s hard to say, pin me down today and say he’s the starter (whenever Peters is no longer an Eagle)," Pederson said. "I think what he did last year, you talk about incremental improvement, that kind improved every single week. And I think there’s a chance that he could be a dynamic starting tackle in his future. And again, it’s a credit to Jeff Stoutland, and Howie and the guys for finding him and looking at him. He was one of the guys, watching last year on tape, that kind of stood out a little bit. You saw from the Washington game on, how well he improved. And so if he continues to do that, then I think he can be a starter in this league.”
I spoke with a Broncos beat writer I trust, and he was of the opinion that both of their projected starting tackles, Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson, are both right tackles. If the season began today, the thinking is that Stephenson, who was bad at right tackle last year, would have to play left tackle.
The Broncos themselves openly acknowledge that they don't have a left tackle.
“It was a possibility that we weren’t going to have [the left tackle position] filled [by now],” head coach Vance Joseph said on Tuesday, via Zac Stevens of BSNCenver.com. “You talk through every issue that’s possible with free agency and with your roster. I’m not surprised that we are sitting here without a known left tackle. But again, Stephenson has played some left, Watson has played some left, so I’m not overly concerned with it.”
“We’ll have a solution," general manager John Elway said, via Chad Jensen of Mile High Huddle. "It’s not fixed yet but it doesn’t have to be fixed yet. We’ll continue to work on it. We’re aware of that problem. We’ll do the best thing big-picture-wise for the Broncos.”
With their dominant defense and just a year removed from a Super Bowl title, the Broncos are in a better position to contend in 2017 than the Eagles. The 2017 NFL Draft class is weak at tackle, and Peters would fill a glaring hole.
While teams aren't simply going to fritter away draft picks just because they have some extra ones, teams that have extra picks are certainly more likely to be willing to trade them for veteran players. In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Broncos have 10 picks, listed here:
If the Broncos were willing to cough up, say, a second-round pick for Peters, I think the Eagles would do that in a heartbeat. It might not even take that much.
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