Eagles may be perfect partners for Center hungry Saints, but is a trade likely?


According to a report from Ian Rapoport, Saints Center, Max Unger, has sustained a foot injury that means he could likely miss the start of the 2017 NFL season.

The void left by the two-time pro bowler is huge for New Orleans. After being part of the deal that sent Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, Unger has played in 31 games since and has been crucial in the incredible offensive efforts from Sean Payton’s men. It goes without saying, that the team need to source a replacement and fast. This year’s Draft class was hardly stacked with talent at the position, and with a severe lack of depth on the roster..all eyes turn to the trade market.

It just so happens that the Eagles are simply stacked at the center position, and at interior guard in general. With the injury to Unger naturally fueling trade speculation surrounding Jason Kelce, whom the Eagles were reported to be shopping for quite some time, a potential move seems all too obvious..and that’s because it is.

After a 2015 season that left many questioning his long-term future on the Eagles roster and the continuation of a plantar fasciitis injury that certainly makes things difficult for the center, the expectations were that his athleticism would play straight into the hands of Doug Pederson..but could also come back to haunt him.

Kelce was the only player on the Eagles roster to play in every offensive snap in 2016, shaking any concerns of durability. His offensive holding penalties still cost the team, although he was penalized less on that front than he was in a flag plagued 2015 season.

As the year went on the chemistry with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz continued to grow and by the end, rogue snaps had been eliminated and the improvement was clear. The relationship between Kelce and Wentz has been widely regarded as such a strong factor in establishing offensive continuity and confidence that was on show throughout the final stages of 2016..and it’s something that the front office would rightly be concerned of tampering with.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some suitable trade candidates behind Kelce however, and if Malcolm Jenkins was hearing his name mentioned in trade negotiations, then it’s clear that very few people would be completely off the table..Kelce included. But in a scenario where the Eagles didn’t wish to part ways with their Pro-Bowl center, the team are in a position of power.

Stefen Wisniewski, for instance, seems like he would be a more fitting candidate for the role. The 27-year old signed a one-year deal last offseason and went on to appear in 12 games for the Eagles. Originally hoping for a long-term deal and starting role, “Wis” proved to be a vital cog in the Eagles offensive line when Johnson’s suspension stung the most. Playing in every interior spot and having a wealth of experience at center from his days at Oakland, the $9M deal signed by Wisniewski is of tremendous value..but with the deal rising close to $15M with incentives, trading him may also be an interesting option given the Eagles dire need for cap space.

Wisniewski wanted to earn a starting role in 2016..something he arguably did. Although he wouldn’t be the long-term option at Center, the idea of at least taking the reins until Unger returns, realizing how little OL depth New Orleans really has, a trade may even be appealing to versatile interior guard.

Whether the Eagles would be willing to part ways with “Wis” or not, would simply all come down to how they view Isaac Seumalo. It would allow the team to ride with Jason Kelce at center for one more year, giving Seumalo room to develop and setting his a clear direction for his career. Although, with the future of the starting left guard spot also cloudy..there are many factors to consider.

Allen Barbre currently holds that position, but with newly acquired former Jeff Stoutland pupil, Chance Warmack, and Isaac Seumalo swimming as the Sharks in the Water, the 32-year old’s future in Midnight Green is also in question. When you consider all of the if’s, buts and maybe’s, it seems like the Eagles would be the ideal candidates for a trade with New Orleans..but there’s one crucial thing to consider.

There’s a reason that the Eagles have so many offensive linemen on the roster. Last year, they had 16 on their 90-man roster..and this year, that number stands at 17. Building from the ball out has truly been the name of the game for Howie Roseman and company, fortifying the decision to move up and draft their franchise quarterback of the future..and when you look at two franchise quarterbacks drafted in the last few years, and how their team’s corresponding offseason moved have affected their growth, you can see why this was always the best option.

Widely regarded as the best raw QB talent coming out of college since Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times in 2016, matching the total of times he was speared to the ground during his rookie year. Combine this with an injury last year and being sacked 32 times in 2013..and it’s safe to say that even despite the addition of T.Y Hilton, the Colts struggle to keep their quarterback upright. Putting even more pressure on a pocket-passer to withstand a brutal pass rush and make logical decisions to often carry his team to victory.

Wentz was hit 33 times during his rookie season..a year in which he broke the NFL record for most pass attempts in a rookie season. Drafted as a quarterback with the intent of learning behind Sam Bradford, being expected to swim in the deep end straight away was no easy task..but like Andrew Luck before him, the NDSU star held his own.

In comparison, the likes of Derek Carr benefitted massively from an incredibly tough offensive line in 2016. Carr was sacked just 18 times all season, en route to a 28 touchdown, 6 interception season in which he threw for 3,937 yards before picking up a heartbreaking injury.

Howie Roseman explained at the NFL Annual Meetings just how important solidifying the trenches are to him.

“The first thing we talked about this morning was the outstanding depth we have on the offensive line.” Roseman told the media. “When you look at it, you can say you’re committed to the lines..but then the actions have to back that. As we look at our offensive line and the depth that we have, we played five right tackles this year. We know we’re going to need all of those guys.”

After drafting Derek Barnett, Roseman would go on to say the following:

“For us, the thing we’re proud about this offseason, is that we committed to building the lines. On the offensive line, we brought everyone back, and re-signed Wiz [C/G Stefen Wisniewski] and added Chance [G Chance Warmack]. Then on the defensive line, making sure we’re really strong up front.”

The projected link with running back Mark Ingram has been doing the rounds already, despite the Eagles drafting Donnel Pumphrey and adding UDFA Corey Clement to the roster, meaning that the Eagles have six running backs and a flex player in Byron Marshall. For the Saints..it’s bad news. While the Eagles have a ton of depth at the interior guard positions, it’s not by chance. They didn’t accidentally fall into a position of strength..it’s something that has been built intently over the last two seasons and for extremely good reason.

Even a rotational player could end up costing the Saints more..especially considering how much they initially demanded for Brandin Cooks when the Eagles were reportedly interested. Howie Roseman has earned a reputation as a ruthless negotiator..and while trade talks are likely..and the Eagles will be all ears to all things Salary Cap and roster building related, the returns would have to be substantial for the Eagles to warrant rocking a Boat they’ve tried so incredibly hard to build.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports