Just days after some strange trade rumors involving Andre Dillard began to surface, the Eagles released a slightly surprising statement. Jason Peters, the man who has anchored the left tackle position for 11 years in Philadelphia, will be allowed to test free agency waters.
The Eagles originally traded for Peters back in 2009. Nine Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pro selections and a Super Bowl later, and it’s safe to say that JP will go down as a Hall of Fame tackle. But this decision was one the team simply had to make.
In his end of season press conference, Howie Roseman acknowledged the fact that he hasn’t always been able to separate personal ties to players from business negotiations. Darren Sproles and Jason Peters are two that stand out in that regard, with both being given new contracts despite their eyebrow-raising age.
“It’s very difficult when you have guys who have given their heart and soul to this organization, to this team, who you’ve developed personal relationships to say goodbye, and I’m not talking about those guys [specifically], I’m just talking about that decision.
At the same time, you also need veteran leadership on your football team and you need guys that have been through it. I think you saw that for us at the end of the year, there are guys that have been through the adversity and were able to overcome it and be able to take our young players and lead them and tell them kind of the expectations that they had.
Peters played at a high level for the Eagles last year, but the 38-year-old isn’t getting any younger and has missed action in 23 games since the 2017 season. Peters believed he could still play at a very high level and he’s not wrong, but with his replacement waiting in the wings, the Eagles had to do what’s right for the long-term.
Ten months ago, the Eagles traded up three spots in the NFL Draft to select the Washington State product. The idea would be that he would sit behind Jason Peters as a technically raw tackle before taking over the Throne when ready.
According to PFF, he blew 7.8% of his assignments, the worst record of tackles who had played in 300+ snaps. He also allowed a whopping pressure-rate of 14.7%. But we seem to be forgetting one game. The game where he was thrown to the Wolves at right tackle despite echoing to the media just how tough that task really is.
Whether there was cause for concern or not, Dillard is entering his second season as an NFL tackle and his second as a first-round pick. Redshirting him for a second year in a row just to keep an ageless wonder around makes little sense and really cuts into the value that his rookie deal has.
The big question mark now hangs over Jordan Mailata’s head. With Halapoulivaati Vaitai to secure himself a sizable bag in free agency, the Eagles need a backup they can rely on and we’re yet to really see a significant growth spurt from Mailata (offseason 3 pending). We may well see a developmental tackle added to the drafting mix.
Even outside of the backup role, there’s no veteran leader in Peters to help bring Dillard along anymore. He’ll have Lane Johnson on the other side of the bookshelf, but this is very much a fresh page for the Eagles after doubling down on their investment and removing the training wheels.
After Doug Pederson stated that he wanted JP back in 2020, this move is surprising, but it’s at least a firm indicator that Howie Roseman meant what he said. The Eagles are getting younger and separating personal connections from business decisions, and that can only be a good thing.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports