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June 08, 2017

Mailbag: Will the Eagles lose a big chunk of their better players after this season?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of good unanswered questions that I was not able to get to, so we'll cover them and some recent emails here in an Eagles mailbag.

Question from Joe: I think the Eagles are going to take a step back in 2018. They have 18 free agents and can’t re-sign all three of Alshon Jeffery, Timmy Jernigan, and Nigel Bradham. They’ll lose Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Brent Celek to retirement (or release). They have a short term plan now with a bunch of one-year band aids that could form a really good team this year, but the team won’t really come around again until 2019.

In the event Peters, Sproles, and Celek are all gone next season (which isn't a certainty), let’s tally up the extra money the Eagles will have to spend:

 Player2017 cap number 
 Jason Peters$11,700,000 
 Darren Sproles$4,000,000 
 Brent Celek$4,000,000 

Of the three free agents mentioned, Jeffery will cost the most, although he is already counting for $9,500,000 against the cap in 2017 as it is. Jernigan will certainly get a significant bump in pay if he plays well, but it's worth noting that the defensive tackle market was not exactly robust this offseason. Meanwhile, who's going to throw big money at a guy with two arrests under his belt?

Let's also not forget that Carson Wentz will be in Year 3 of his progression as an NFL quarterback in 2018. That said, I can't predict the 2018 season before 2017 happens, but if the Eagles want to keep Jeffery, Jernigan, and Bradham, they should be able to do that.

Question from Cody: When Jason Peters retires, any chance the Eagles try to fill the LT position with someone other than Lane Johnson? His brief time at LT I think two years ago didn’t look great.

I’ll disagree there. In 2015, Jason Peters missed two games (at Dallas, and Miami at home), with Johnson filling in at LT. Against Dallas, Lane shut down Greg Hardy on his own for four quarters. He was a big reason they won that game. Against Miami, Ndamukong Suh killed the Eagles interior OL all day, and Dennis Kelly allowed a couple sack-fumbles, one of which got Sam Bradford hurt. I didn’t go back and re-watch that entire game, but Johnson didn’t allow any sacks and he was hardly the problem spot for the Eagles’ protection issues that day.

I have no doubt that Johnson will be very good on the left side. Equally importantly, the Eagles paid Johnson “LT money.” Here are the highest paid RT’s in the league currently, on an average per year basis:

Player Team Avg/Year 
 Lane JohnsonEagles $11,250,000 
 Ricky WagnerLions $9,500,000 
 Morgan Moses Redskins$7,650,000 
 Bryan Bulaga Packers$6,750,000 
 Mitchell SchwartzChiefs $6,600,000 
 Marcus Cannon Patriots$6,500,000 
 Jermey Parnell Jaguars$6,400,000 
 Ryan Schraeder Falcons$6,300,000 
 Menelik Watson Broncos$6,125,000 
 4 guys $6,000,000 

Johnson is the highest paid RT in the NFL by a substantial margin, although to be fair, he’s also probably the best RT in the NFL. Still, that’s left tackle money.

Question from ErtzIsElite: Is Lane Johnson the most athletic OT in the NFL?

If we’re just using Combine measurables, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the most athletic offensive tackle ever. His spider chart:

It’ll be hard finding anyone with better athleticism across the board than that.

Question from Papale86: Any chance that Beau Allen doesn’t make the team with all the interior depth the Eagles have now?

I don’t see much in the way of depth at all at DT. The Eagles have a pair of good starters in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, and then what? Jernigan got a little dinged up and left practice for a bit on Monday and Destiny Vaeao was getting first-team reps in his place. That’s not exactly ideal depth.

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