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February 25, 2015

The offensive line, not the secondary, is the Eagles' most pressing need in the draft

Eagles NFL
022515JasonPetersEvanMathis Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

The Eagles have the oldest projected starting OL in the NFL.

Without question, the 2014 Eagles' secondary was awful. It gave up 72 pass plays of 20+ yards, which was the most in the NFL, and the third most in league history. It also gave up 18 plays of 40+ yards, which again, was the most in the NFL. The Eagles were dead last in the NFL in pass defense in 2013, and 31st in 2014. 

The corners rarely looked back for the ball when it was in the air:

Allen Hurns TD

Or their slow corners were toasted deep, as if they were under a rainbow:

Bradley Fletcher

Or Nate Allen was daydreaming about picnics in a dewy meadow as receivers ran by:

Nate and Dez

And so, whenever you see a mock draft for the Eagles (self included), you see the Eagles selecting a cornerback or a safety in the first round. In fact, if you go to's mock draft page, each of their panel of four experts chose a CB for the Eagles, but none of them picked the same guy.

Mock draft CB

• Daniel Jeremiah, Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

Charles Davis, P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

• Lance Zierlein, Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

Bucky Brooks, Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

Give them a corner. Any corner!

They're not wrong. The defensive secondary is by far and away the Eagles' most pressing "offseason" need. However, in terms of strictly looking at the "draft," an argument can be made that the offensive line, not the secondary, is the Eagles' most pressing need.

To begin, I'll point out what many others have pointed out this offseason -- The Eagles' offensive line is old. 

But exactly how old is it?

  1. It is the oldest projected starting offensive line in the NFL. By the end of the 2015 regular season, the average age of the starting five will be 30.6 years of age.
  2. Jason Peters turned 33 in January. He is the second oldest projected starting OT in the NFL.
  3. Evan Mathis will turn 34 in November. He is the oldest projected starting OG in the NFL.
  4. Todd Herremans will turn 33 in October. He is the fourth oldest projected starting OG in the NFL.

Eagles old OL

Peters and Mathis are both athletic freaks of nature, and Mathis has relatively low mileage with just 78 career starts, which could delay Father Time for a bit, but for how long? Herremans, meanwhile, is a more traditional old guy, as he is a mere mortal athletically and has been a regular starter since the end of the 2005 season. All three players have had injuries that have caused them to miss significant time at some point during the last three seasons.

On the one hand, the Eagles offensive line, when healthy, is still very good. Peters and Mathis both made the Pro Bowl last year (although there's an argument to be made that Peters' game fell off some in 2014), and Herremans may still be a "good enough" guard with bonus points because of his versatility. When the offensive line isn't healthy, we saw how competent (not very) the backups were in the first half of the 2014 season.

And therein lies a long term problem. If the Eagles plan on keeping the Peters-Mathis-Kelce-Herremans-Johnson crew together in 2015, what quality free agent is going to want to sign with Philly to be a backup? Let's ask Eagles fan and all-time winningest Jeopardy Champion ever, Brad Rutter...

Brad Rutter

Correct, Brad.

From the Eagles' perspective, assuming they don't think Herremans' career as a starter is over, signing a starting-quality free agent offensive lineman wouldn't make much sense financially. The only seemingly reasonable possibility would be if the Eagles signed a quality (and therefore costly) guard to replace Herremans, which would almost surely end Herremans' career in Philly. However, cutting Herremans would result in a cap hit of $2.4 million. Let's do that math:

New costly free agent RG + Herremans' $2.4 million cap hit = A lot of money allocated to the least important position along the offensive line.

That basically means that if the Eagles are going to add a player this offseason capable of being a quality NFL starter, they're going to have to do so through the draft only, while starting pieces in the secondary can be added both through the draft and in free agency.

Obviously, the sooner the Eagles add young talent to the mix, the sooner they can be developed and acclimated to the Eagles' offensive scheme. If they don't invest in big young uglies through the draft... now... they're going to have to replace a bunch of starters along the OL simultaneously when the older guys experience an inevitable decline.

And that will not be fun to watch.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski