Barring a free agent signing or trade, the Eagles are set to roll with Matt Pryor at right guard to replace the recently injured Brandon Brooks.
Side note, you would have never thought Brooks just tore his Achilles:
Two days after announcing his Achilles tear, Brandon Brooks is doing jiujitsu training while wearing a boot. (From Brooks’ Instagram). pic.twitter.com/g4mJyyLRe0
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) June 17, 2020
If the next few weeks show that Matt Pryor, or any of the other young options on the team, show futile for the task, could the Eagles look to the Patriots for help?
Recently, NFL Insider Albert Breer listed the Eagles as a possible destination for talented guard Joe Thuney, who was named second-team All-Pro after the 2019 season.
Thuney, 27, has played four years with the Patriots and never missed a game. Additionally, he only missed nine snaps all year, which were the first snaps he’s ever missed. He also did not commit a single penalty. I think Jason Peters was just flagged again as I was writing that.
However, do the Eagles really have the need for such a high priced guard? Let’s break it down and see how he would fit.
Contract: can they keep him beyond 2020?
Playing under the franchise tag in 2020 barring an extension, Joe Thuney is making $14.871 million. The Eagles currently have $24.7 million in cap space, no problemo in regards to fitting that contract in.
However, the problem lies in 2021’s cap space, which is negative $50.6 million.
Adding him brings the cap space for 2020 to $10.6 million, which would be used to add the contracts of the rookies outside of Prince Tega Wanogho.
If they trade for him and lose him to a huge deal in free agency in 2021, the Eagles would stand to gain a 3rd round compensatory pick in 2022. We all know how much Howie loves his comp picks.
If the Eagles sign him to a “Howie special” extension, where the money is severely back-loaded and has a ton of guarantees, then the only real maneuvering will have to happen in the current contracts. Extending Ertz, extending Goedert, restructuring Cox, and restructuring the Jackson’s (DeSean and Malik) would be the start. They would also have some difficult decisions with Derek Barnett and Marquise Goodwin. With the Eagles being $50 million over the cap in 2020, and cap revenue probably taking a severe hit due to COVID, this union looks unlikely.
Does he even fit?
According to ProFootballFocus, Thuney has been a top-five guard in the league over the last three years. In addition to never committing a penalty in 2019, Thuney also only allowed 16 pressures on 693 pass-blocking snaps. He has also been one of the best blockers in “true pass sets”, which are just simple dropbacks in which the player has to block for more than 2 seconds with no roll-outs, play actions, or screens. Since 2018, Thuney is the only guard to not allow a sack on a “true pass set.”
However, the Eagles don’t have a simple drop-back quarterback. I’m not sure if you know this, but Carson Wentz can move.
According to the popular Relative Athletic Scores, Joe Thuney is athletic enough to thrive in the Eagles pass-blocking sets:
Surprises me when I hear people talk about Joe Thuney as if he wasn't always one of the best athletes ever at guard. Despite being undersized, still posted a ridiculous #RAS and has been doing well for #Patriots. pic.twitter.com/6dvEUrXmXL
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) January 27, 2019
The 40-yard dash and the broad jump are two extremely important drills for linemen. Coming from a three-point stance to accelerate, as one must do in a 40-yard dash, shows how explosive a lineman can be. Thuney’s 4.95 was best among all guards and second-best among all linemen. The broad jump exemplifies just how explosive a lineman’s lower body strength is, which is crucial in anchoring against defensive tackles and getting off the snap-in time to block the quicker defensive linemen and pick up blitzing linebackers. Thuney’s 110 inches was tied for second among guards and was top ten among all linemen.
As you can see in the tweet above, Thuney’s 10 and 20-yard splits were also elite in comparison to his peers. Despite having to block for a statue of a quarterback in Tom Brady, he has all the tools to be able to block for the mobile Carson Wentz.
Ripple effect on the current players
Trading for Thuney would most likely kick Isaac Seumalo to right guard, since left guard is Thuney’s position. As NJ.com’s Mike Kaye mentions here, moving Seumalo from the spot he performed very well in isn’t ideal. While moving Seumalo to right guard shouldn’t preclude the team from making this move, consistency is key in an offensive line.
While a line of Dillard, Thuney, Kelce, Seumalo, and Johnson seems fantastic, what happens if/when Brooks comes back?
Option one: Extend Thuney and Kelce retires
In this scenario, Kelce finally hangs it up and the Eagles are now left without a center. With Brooks back and Thuney extended, both guard spots are locked up. Seumalo, who has center experience, would be the replacement in this scenario. In 2018, Brandon Brooks gave Seumalo a vote of confidence at center:
“From day 1 … he was always comfortable making the calls and knowing what’s going on,” Brooks said. “He’s like a younger Kelce. They both smart, both super athletic — I have to give it to Kelce, he’s fast, but Isaac’s not far behind.”
Former Eagles offensive lineman Tra Thomas weighed in on Flippin’ The Birds on a possible change from left guard to center for Seumalo:
That’s what he’s there for. You have him there in case Kelce goes down. He’s going to be your back up center and then you bring somebody else in to play left guard. But, you know, from what I hear, Isaac is a hell of a center. When I look at him play I can see some of that center tendencies where his stance is extremely wide, it gets a little balanced. At guard, you have to have a little bit of a stagger in your stance, kind of like a tackle a little bit. But sometimes Isaac gets a little balanced like he was a center especially when Wisniewski was there, he played with a balanced stance because he was a center, that’s what he was used to. But I think you can bring someone in at left guard if you need to use Isaac at center.
The 2021 line: Dillard, Thuney, Seumalo, Brooks, and Johnson
Option two: Let Thuney go in free agency, Kelce retires, the young guns take over
In this scenario, Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig get their chance to battle it out for the 2021 spots. With Thuney gone to greener (money) pastures, and Kelce retired, Driscoll and Herbig are the options at center. Driscoll, the Eagles fourth-round pick in 2020, worked on center drills at his Pro Day and former NFL offensive lineman Kendall Simmons said it looked “natural“. While Herbig may have the initial leg up in the competition at center, Driscoll’s potential may win out. Could the Eagles offensive line in 2021 be Dillard, Seumalo, Driscoll, Brooks, and Johnson?
Should this happen?
While adding an elite guard to replace another elite guard seems ideal, but with all the other factors considered, it’s not something that should happen.
With other options available in free agency for depth, the Eagles would be wise to have a one year offer extended to one of those players rather than sending a player and/or pick to the Patriots for someone needing a massive extension.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports