June 13, 2022
The Philadelphia Eagles currently have eight players who are 30 years of age, or older. They are C Jason Kelce (34), DE Brandon Graham (34), RT Lane Johnson (32), CB Darius Slay (31), DT Fletcher Cox (31), S Anthony Harris (30), TE Richard Rodgers (30), and DE Matt Leo (30!). They also have a pair of specialists — P Arryn Siposs and LS Rick Lovato — who will turn 30 during the season.
Six of the Eagles' 30-somethings are starters, and five of the six 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.
• C Jason Kelce (34): At some point, when pondering his NFL future each offseason, Kelce will choose to retire. If 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens pans out, then the Eagles should have their center of the next decade with no gaps in between, even if it took a premium resource to fortify that succession plan.
• DE Brandon Graham (34): While the Eagles have a good edge rusher trio of Graham, Haason Reddick, and Josh Sweat, they still could have added a pass rusher in the 2022 draft. Sensing that the addition of a premium edge rusher might not be possible, the Eagles punted that long-term need into 2023 when they re-signed Derek Barnett instead. The addition of a "hand in the dirt" defensive end (as opposed to more of a SAM linebacker type) will remain a big long-term need during the 2023 offseason.
• RT Lane Johnson (32): Johnson's troublesome ankle held up in 2021, and he had an All-Pro season. Though he is still playing at a very high level when healthy, Johnson remains something of an injury risk. Assuming the Eagles don't trade Andre Dillard this offseason, they have short-term depth at offensive tackle, but Dillard is likely moving onto a new team next offseason, if not sooner. An offensive tackle could make sense early in the draft next offseason, pending Johnson's play and durability in 2022.
• CB Darius Slay (31): It might have made sense for the Eagles to trade up for one of the two premium corners — Derek Stingley or Sauce Gardner — in the 2022 draft, but when those guys went third and fourth overall, that possibility was gone. Either of those guys could have served as the CB2 of the present / CB1 of the future. Instead, the Eagles signed James Bradberry when the Giants released him after the draft, solidifying their 2022 depth chart.
As for the long-term outlook of the position, over the last year the Eagles have added a slew of young corners to the mix, like Zech McPhearson, Tay Gowan, Josiah Scott, Kary Vincent, Jimmy Moreland, Mac McCain, and a trio of undrafted rookies in Josh Jobe, Mario Goodrich, and Josh Blackwell. They seem to be throwing a lot of corners at the wall and seeing if one or two might stick. But there's time, as Slay had a Pro Bowl-worthy season in 2021.
• DT Fletcher Cox (31): The Eagles probably should have moved on from Cox already this offseason rather than pay him $14 million. That money could have been better allocated elsewhere. But, for now, the Eagles are loaded at defensive tackle, both in terms of veteran talent (Cox and Javon Hargrave), as well as young up-and-comers (Jordan Davis and Milton Williams).
• S Anthony Harris (30): Once they missed out on Marcus Williams and Justin Reid in free agency, the Eagles brought Harris back to ensure they at least had a starter with whom they're comfortable, but he's basically year-to-year. Safety is a rare spot on the roster where the Eagles have an immediate glaring concern, much less a long-term one.
• TE Richard Rodgers (30): As DickRod ages, the Eagles may be on the lookout for a new tight end that they have to add to the roster every October after some guys get hurt. Maybe Noah Togiai? J.J. Arcega-Whiteside?
• DE Matt Leo (30): Leo is entering his third year in the NFL's International Player Pathway program. It's a little unclear when that program actually ends for such players — and I'm not burning an inquiry on this with my "random/obscure NFL rules" guy — but if this is Leo's last year on the program, the Eagles may not get one of these International Player Pathway exemptions for a while.
That means that the Eagles may soon be left without an Australian plumber to explain that the Coriolis Effect, explained inaccurately in an episode of The Simpsons, has no bearing whatsoever on which direction water swirls while going down the toilet depending on whether you're in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.
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