Eagles ready to roll with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at RT

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The Philadelphia Eagles have lost their starting right tackle, Lane Johnson, for the next ten games. Johnson’s impending suspension was upheld after the Eagles right tackle went through the appeal proccess for using a banned substance.

The Eagles are ready to roll with one of their rookies they selected in the fifth-round of the 2016 draft to replace Johnson at right tackle.

The Eagles apparently have made up their mind and are going to start Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle in place of Johnson. There was a lot of speculation and assumptions that the team would shift left guard, Allen Barbre, at right tackle and replace him with Stefen Wisniewski at left guard.

The Eagles see that as weakening two positions and they’ve decided against that and would rather see what their rookie has, which is a great idea if you actually think about it.

The Eagles will have a decision to make in the offseason on long-time left tackle, Jason Peters, regarding his future with the team. Peters will be 35 in January and could consider retirement, but if he’s opposed to it, the Eagles might be forced to move on.

The Eagles are projected to have $6 million in salary cap space in 2017 with the projected yearly cap increase factored in. The team has two starters in cornerback, Nolan Carroll, and defensive tackle, Bennie Logan, scheduled to enter free agency in 2017. They’ll have to free up salary if the team hopes to keep at least one of those players, especially Logan, who has been a very important component to the team’s defensive line.

Releasing Peters will free up $9.2 million in salary cap space in 2017. Peters has the highest cap number on the Eagles roster in 2017, and he’s not that caliber of player anymore to have that.

The Eagles rewarded Johnson with a five-year, $56.25 million dollar extension this past offseason. Clearly a left tackle’s salary, which is his future position once Peters leaves the organization. That opens up the right tackle position. The Eagles might already have their replacement for the spot on the roster, but get to find out ahead  of time if that’s the truth thanks to Johnson’s suspension.

Doug Pederson praised Vaitai for his play versus the Eagles starting defensive line in practice this past week in his presser, when the head coach was asked if he’s considering starting Vaitai. The truth of the matter is, Vaitai must be impressing the coaching staff enough to even consider starting him at this point in his rookie career.

This coaching staff has proven to have faith in this past draft class giving their rookies starting opportunities. Carson Wentz was supposed to red-shirt his rookie season, but instead the Eagles discovered they indeed had their franchise quarterback after they traded Sam Bradford. Leodis McKelvin’s hamstring injury, in addition to the trade of Eric Rowe, has given Jalen Mills an opportunity to prove he’s capable of being a contributor to the Eagles secondary during his tenure with the team now. Why not give Vaitai the same chance the team gave those two players?

Playing Vaitai could dictate the future of the Eagles offensive line. The team could have their potential offensive tackle tandem, which is huge for Wentz’s future. They’re giving Vaitai the chance to prove himself. Time will tell if he can.

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