January 17, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles are considering moving on from starting center Jason Kelce this offseason, whether by trade or outright release, a source told PhillyVoice.
Kelce, who turned 29 in November, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft and immediately became the starting center, appearing in 78 regular season games for the Eagles, all of which he started.
Kelce is scheduled to count for $6,200,000 against the salary cap in 2017, $3,800,000 of which the Eagles would save if they traded or released him. Kelce is the tenth-highest paid center in the NFL, according to overthecap.com, and there's a significant gap in pay between himself and the eleventh-highest-paid center:
Kelce has not played like one of the top ten centers in the NFL over the last two years, however, he brings a unique skill set to the position.
On the downside, Kelce led all NFL centers in penalties in 2016 (8 of them), he has had more than his share of bad shotgun snaps, and will often struggle anchoring against bigger interior defensive linemen. On the bright side, Kelce can do things that no other center in the league can do. For example, Kelce's game against the Seahawks in November was basically a long highlight reel of athletic center play.
The most likely candidate to fill in for Kelce would be Isaac Seumalo, who the Eagles selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Seumalo sat for most of his rookie season, but he started games at three different positions -- LG, RG, and RT -- late in the year, displaying impressive versatility.
Seumalo was up and down in his first professional start at RG against the Green Bay Packers Week 12, but he was much better in his second start there against the Washington Redskins Week 14. In Week 15, he was forced to start at RT against a formidable Baltimore Ravens defense, and he held his own. In Week 17, he started at LG against the uninterested Dallas Cowboys and played well.
At Oregon State, Seumalo played tackle, guard, and center, with his primary position being center. The Eagles gave Seumalo reps at center and guard during practice throughout the season, and Doug Pederson has said that he believes Seumalo could make all the line calls if needed.
"I would have no hesitation if he had to play center," said Doug Pederson before the final game of the season. "You know, I think it's just where he's at as a player. The ability to make all the calls -- we give him a couple reps here and there, even on the service team at center during the course of the year, and just want to keep him going from that standpoint. He's been such a versatile offensive lineman for us, that I would have no issues if he had to play center."
On the day after the final game of the season, Seumalo said he would be mentally ready to play center if he had to.
"I'm with Wis (Stefen Wisniewski) and Kelce, a little center's union, and Josh Andrews," he said. "We prepare pretty well. Obviously, it's different than taking reps and playing (in regular season games), but mentally I feel good about it."
In our "stay or go" series, we speculated that Kelce's contract would spur action during the 2018 offseason when his cap savings will be much higher. The Eagles might not wait that long to free up badly needed space under the salary cap.
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