OTA’s are in the books now for the Philadelphia Eagles as they turn their attention towards mandatory minicamp in a few days. This is important for various reasons and among them is the ongoing enigma facing the Offensive Line. The question being..what’s actually happening?
The birds bolstered their Offensive line dramatically over the course of the offseason. From the drafting of Isaac Seumalo to the free agency signings of Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski, the line appears to be in a much more stable state compared to this time last year..but that doesn’t mean it’s without uncertainty.
This isn’t discrediting the work that the Eagles have put into solidifying the Offensive more line as much as it is looking at the bigger picture and seeing that there me be a couple of holes in the theories behind the moves.
As it stands, the line would like this:
LT Jason Peters
LG Allen Barbre
C Jason Kelce
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Lane Johnson
There are two names missing from this list, free agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski and the versatile rookie Isaac Seumalo..and this is where things get interesting.
“Right now it is Allen Barbre’s job,” he said, “and I think again that’s something we did through the draft and a little bit of free agency is to kind of shore up that spot. I really like where we’re at. I like the depth at that position right now. But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he’s our starter.”
Barbre is 31 years old and hardly set the world on fire last season..it seems a bit of a strange move to name him as the starter before Seumalo has even taken to the practice field..something he’s set to do this week.
Then of course there’s the future of Stefen Wisniewski. The former Jaguar has spent most of his career at center but has a great amount of versatility. He was widely predicted to be competing for the spot next to Jason Peters along with Seumalo and instead has taken snaps as the team’s backup center during OTA’s behind Jason Kelce.
What about Andrew Gardner? The man who was written off by many in training camp before earning the starting role at left guard heading into 2015. Unfortunately he lost the position after suffering an injury in week 3 but has been lining up behind Matt Tobin as the team’s third LT at OTA’s…
It wouldn’t be surprising if Pederson was just trying to entice competition by naming his starter very early on, but it’s marginalizing the possibilities drastically. The Eagles signed Brooks to a long-term deal worth $40M so it’s almost certain that the former Texans star will start in 2016 barring an injury.
Kelce may have been inconsistent in 2015 but the expectation is that he will rebound in 2016 and return to the fine form he enjoyed in the season beforehand..meaning that there’s no real need to add competition at center.
If that’s the case, Wisniewski can’t compete for a starting spot at right guard or center..and Pederson has named Babre as his starting left guard. It’s a head-scratching scenario..but one that will come as a pleasant surprise to a line that suffered from severe depth issues in 2015. They now suffer an inverse problem that is likely going to see one offseason acquisition losing out.
It was unclear if third-round pick Isaac Seumalo was drafted to make an instant impact or simply serve as a backup in his rookie year to develop..but it seems a bit forward to eliminate him from the race by affirming that Barbre is the starter as it stands.
The main question facing the line heading into mandatory camp and beyond is who becomes the odd man out? Have the Eagles paid Wisniewski $1.5M on a one-year deal to be a one-season backup or will he eventually win out the starting position as many originally predicted?
Wisniewski is only on a one year deal as stated earlier and $1.5M seems an awful lot to spend on a backup..especially when there are other players who are more than capable of filling that role for a lot less. It would go against Roseman’s financial gameplan to spend a copious situational amount of money on a player who isn’t likely to impact the team..or sign someone who has been a starter throughout his career and demote him to a backup.
Will Seumalo see a limited role in his rookie season, waiting in the wings for an injury to pave the way for his first taste of NFL experience? If that’s the case, would it be fair to criticize the pick considering that there were many talented running backs among players in other positions of need still available at the time of drafting.
The Eagles finally have an abundance of talent on the Line and it’s something fans have been aching to see ever since the Chip Kelly roster purge began. While the depth is an obvious blessing after such a damaging 2015 campaign, it’s also a curse. The Eagles may not be getting their money’s worth..at least straight away if Pederson stands strong behind his word and starts the season with Barbre as his starting left guard.
Photo credit: Rick Osentoski / AP