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June 17, 2024

A look at the Eagles' players over 30, and their succession plan for each

Cam Jurgens is stepping in to replace Jason Kelce. What will happen in the future when Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson and other Eagles hang up their cleats?

Eagles NFL
061624DariusSlay Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Darius Slay will turn 34 during the 2024 season.

The Philadelphia Eagles lost C Jason Kelce and DT Fletcher Cox to retirement this offseason. Kelce will be replaced at center by Cam Jurgens, who the team drafted two years ago to be his successor, and the Eagles have been loading up in the draft for years at DT in advance of Cox's departure. 

The Eagles currently have six players who are 30 years of age, or older, plus an additional two players who will soon turn 30. The 30-somethings are EDGE Brandon Graham (36), RT Lane Johnson (34), CB Darius Slay (33), TE C.J. Uzomah (31), LS Rick Lovato (31), and James Bradberry (30). TE Dallas Goedert and K Jake Elliott will both turn 30 in January.

Five of the players listed above have at least one All-Pro season on their résumés. That's not out of the ordinary. The oldest players on teams are often also the best players, seeing as they've been able to stick in the league long enough to become among the oldest.

Here we'll take a look at what kind of succession plan the Eagles have in place for each of their aging players (oldest first).

Edge Brandon Graham (36): Graham will be playing in his 15th NFL season in 2024, which he said will be his last. He played in every game in 2023, but only played 395 regular season snaps. His snap count will likely land somewhere in that area again in 2024, if he stays healthy.

The Eagles more or less swapped out Haason Reddick for Bryce Huff this offseason, and got Josh Sweat to take a pay cut after putting him on the trade block.

They also drafted Nolan Smith in the first round of the 2023 draft, and Jalyx Hunt in the third round of the 2024 draft. Smith barely played as a rookie, and Hunt is unlikely to play much as a rookie this season.

Reddick, Sweat, and Graham combined for 38 sacks in 2022, plus another 6 in the playoffs. Reddick is already gone, Graham will be gone next year, and Sweat might not be around next year either.

The succession plan, for now, is Huff, Smith, and Hunt. Huff is the most accomplished of the three after having a breakout season in 2023, but even he is a work in progress as he'll have to improve against the run to be a more reliable three-down player.

The succession plan on the edge is shaky, and it's a pretty good bet edge rusher will be a high priority next offseason in the draft and/or free agency.

RT Lane Johnson (34): During the 2022 season, Johnson said that he wanted play "maybe two more years."

During the 2023 offseason, he negotiated a four-year contract that replaced his existing contract, making 2026 the final year of his deal.

In the locker room after the Eagles' playoff loss to the Bucs last season, Johnson said that he thinks he has "a few good years left."

So when will Johnson retire? Hard to say! 🤷‍♂️

He is still one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, so the Eagles hope he'll stick around while longer.

The 2024 draft featured a deep crop of first-round talent at offensive tackle, and it would have made sense to select a successor for Johnson, especially if that player could also play guard in the short term. Instead they drafted a corner, which was another obvious need.

As far as succession plans, the Eagles don't really have one at RT, unless you count lottery ticket free agent Mekhi Becton or 2023 draftee Tyler Steen, who the team selected to play guard.

"To draft Lane's successor or not" was a hotly debated topic leading up to the 2024 draft, and probably will be as well leading up to the 2025 draft.

CB Darius Slay (33): With Slay now 33 years of age (he'll turn 34 during the season) and James Bradberry likely on his way out of Philly, the Eagles made cornerback a priority this offseason, using their first two picks in the 2024 draft on Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean. Last offseason, they selected Kelee Ringo in the 2023 draft, while also signing-and-stashing Isaiah Rodgers, who is now back from suspension.

Those guys still have to prove themselves at the NFL level, but the Eagles can feel reasonably good about their succession plan at cornerback.

C.J. Uzomah (31): Uzomah is probably just a one-year rental, assuming he makes the team. There's no succession plan needed for a this type of player. 

LS Rick Lovato (31): Lovato was scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, but he signed a one-year deal a day before the start of free agency. He could be a year-to-year decision for the Eagles for the rest of his career.

CB James Bradberry (30): (See Darius Slay above).

TE Dallas Goedert (30 in January): The Eagles drafted Goedert after Zach Ertz's fifth season when Ertz was only 27 years old. They drafted Ertz after Brent Celek's sixth season when Celek was 28. Goedert has played six seasons and he'll turn 30 in January.

Tight end is a position where it often takes young players a few years to become reliable. Tight ends also tend to fall off sharply once decline sets in. 

The Eagles selected Grant Calcatera in the 2022 draft, but he only has 9 career catches. They have also taken some fliers on other teams' trash (Albert Okwuegbunam) and undrafted free agents (most recently McCallan Castles this offseason), but they do not have any legitimate succession plan in place for Goedert, whose contract runs through the 2025 season.

K Jake Elliott (30 in January): There's no reason to believe Elliott won't be a great kicker for the foreseeable future, and he just signed a contract extension that runs through 2028. (Also, having a succession plan in place at kicker isn't really a thing teams do). 

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