The Eagles opted to pay Jason Kelce $14M, making him the highest-paid center in the NFL once again. It’s a title he’s more than worthy of and a contract even more so, but this isn’t the first time that Howie Roseman has let sentimentality rule the day.
The original plan
With the defense bleeding assets by the day, players like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Darius Slay have been given the green light to look elsewhere while Howie lumps a huge chunk of cap space into an aging veteran. It’s a tale as old as time and while this is a special case, because Kelce is a rare-breed of athlete who is playing the best ball of his life and somehow showing no signs of regression, was it a move the Eagles needed to make?
I get it. Jason Kelce is an all-time great. He has been playing at a phenomenal level for years and even at the age of 35, he was easily the best center in the NFL. But while his play has been unparalleled, Kelce has admitted himself that his body is beginning to ’break down’.
This prompted the Eagles to draft Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens with the 51st overall pick. Jason helped Howie and the team handpick his future heir, giving the Eagles a line of succession and a window to develop Jurgens under the radar while Kelce puts up another astounding season.
It as assumed by many that Jason Kelce might be ready to hang up the boots after 2022. But after discussions with his family and friends, along with a $14M payday, he decided that he’s got one more year in the tank. Who could blame him? His play is deserving of every penny of that contract and this isn’t like the Jason Peters situation where Howie is just pouring money into his bank account for a tackle whose best days are 3 years in the rear-view mirror.
The Cam Jurgens experiment
But it does come with a caveat. Jurgens, who never played guard prior to joining the NFL, will now likely shift over to the right-hand side to replace Isaac Seumalo, who is currently testing the free-agent market. The automatic response to this is that Jurgens will be fine. He has Jeff Stoutland, an actual Wizard, working miracles in that OL room, but it can’t just be assumed that it will be an overnight transition from center to guard.
He has a similar frame to that of Seumalo, but regardless of whether or not the Eagles are able to make this work (which they most likely will), they have now spent two day-1 picks on guards with the direct link to Jason Kelce. Landon Dickerson’s immediate impact and stunning recovery was able to negate the loss of Nate Herbig. Seumalo kicked to the right, Dickerson jumped into the LG spot and never looked back. Great. Now Seumalo is about to head out and Cam Jurgens has to step up into the RG spot. This begs the question – do the Eagles need to look for another potential heir to Kelce’s throne, or another guard?
Has Jason Kelce’s contract set the Eagles back?
They have the draft selections to attain both and while this is a pretty good problem to have, it’s not the best use of assets we’ve ever seen. This isn’t even taking into account the fact that Kelce’s $14M is a lot for a team that is seemingly willing to let everyone else walk. The only players retained? Longtime Eagle BG and longtime Eagle Jason Kelce.
There is something to be said about the leadership of both players and I completely agree that the traits both have are invaluable. But this isn’t the first time that Howie Roseman has continued to reinvest in ageing veterans and it won’t be the last.
Darius Slay, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, T.J Edwards, Kyzir White, Marcus Epps. Out of that group, you’d assume that a couple would be kept on and that $14M would cover it. Instead, they’ve all walked. I’m not saying the decision to bring Kelce back was a bad one as I love him just as much as the next fan, but center is the only spot when looking at the names above where there is enough depth in behind to warrant the goodbye.
The Eagles now need at least one starting linebacker, two starting safeties, and a starting corner. The NFL Draft will help and there is a lot of green grass in free agency, but the Eagles don’t have an infinite amount of cap space.
You can’t tell an Eagles fan that bringing back a player teetering on retirement for the better part of three years was a bad idea when his name is Jason Kelce. But his return does carry a butterfly effect that will severely impact how the Eagles try to force this Super Bowl window back open.
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