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May 08, 2017

Saints lose center Max Unger for a substantial period of time: Let the Jason Kelce rumors begin

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the New Orleans Saints have lost center Max Unger for a substantial period of time, with the likelihood that he will not be able to play to start the season.

During the 2015 offseason, the Saints traded tight end Jimmy Graham along with a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks for Unger and a first-round pick. Unger has since started 31 of 32 games for New Orleans.

Let the Jason Kelce to New Orleans rumors commence.

Back in January, PhillyVoice reported that the Eagles were considering moving on from Jason Kelce this offseason. We later reported that any move on from Kelce would be via trade, not release.

If there's a team that's loaded up with centers (and interior offensive line personnel in general), it's the Eagles. Here's a look at their interior offensive line depth. which includes three players (Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, and Stefen Wisniewski) who can all play center. The number in parentheses next to each player notes the number of games they have started in the NFL:

Eagles OG/C
 LGIsaac Seumalo (4) Allen Barbre (36)Dallas Thomas (26) Aaron Neary (0) 
 CJason Kelce (78) Stefen Wisniewski (83) Josh Andrews (0) 
 RGBrandon Brooks (58) Chance Warmack (48) Darrell Greene (0)  

Their projected second-team unit has 167 combined career starts. Not listed above is Tyler Orlosky, a projected fourth-round center who surprisingly did not get drafted, and then reportedly signed with the Eagles during the undrafted free agency phase of the draft.

Here's a scouting report on Unger prior to the 2016 season from Dan Hatman of The Scouting Academy.

You can find some similarities between Unger and Kelce on Hatman's report, however, the big difference that could scare off the Saints is Kelce's questionable ability to anchor against bigger defensive tackles. It's obviously not ideal for any quarterback to have to worry about a defensive tackle pushing the pocket toward him, but it's even more concerning for a smaller quarterback like Drew Brees, who depends on open throwing lanes to see past the line of scrimmage.

Then again, Brees' presence in New Orleans could serve as a reason for the Saints to have interest in a solid, smart, veteran center in Kelce. Brees is now 38-years old and the end of his career is near, so the Saints could be in win-now mode. They don't have much of anything in the way of depth at center, behind Unger, so they do indeed now have a huge hole to fill, as Rapoport noted in his tweets.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have a glaring hole at running back, and the Saints suddenly have a lot of good runners there in Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, and rookie Alvin Kamara. At 5'9, 215, Ingram would be a bulkier back with some receiving ability who might look good running in between the tackles in Philly's offense.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles and Saints talked extensively about a trade that would send wide receiver Brandin Cooks to Philadelphia. We'll see soon enough if they begin talking again.

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