Kelce is Still Leading the Way on Eagles’ OL
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Despite persistent rumors surrounding his future in Philadelphia throughout the offseason, it looks as if veteran center Jason Kelce remains in the Eagles' plans for the 2017 season.
The team's depth on the interior of the offensive line, Kelce's lofty price tag and his declining play over the past few seasons all contributed to the narrative but the veteran Pro Bowl selection was in charge as usual during offseason work, handling virtually all the repetitions with the first-team.
When it comes to any potential roster move, things are fluid and with Stefen Wisniewski, who has plenty of starting experience at center in this league before arriving in Philadelphia as a backup last year, 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo and even Josh Andrews as available depth that makes Kelce a potential trade chip down the line if another team needs a center.
In many ways, this is a similar situation to what went on at quarterback last season when the Eagles still had Sam Bradford and were grooming Carson Wentz to eventually take over in 2017. After Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater suffered a catastrophic injury 11 days before the start of the season, however, Howie Roseman got the phone call and the rest of history.
In this case, the Eagles believe Seumalo is the heir apparent to Kelce and whether that gets sped up or not depends on circumstance.
A clear indication of that came when New Orleans center Max Unger underwent foot surgery in the offseason, fueling speculation that the Saints would turn toward Kelce, a scenario that would have saved the Eagles $3.8 million in cap space. Unger, however, is expected to be back by Week 1 so the desperation just wasn't there.
For now, the Eagles' coaching staff remains very comfortable with Kelce in the pivot and his ability to help Wentz with the protection calls.
"Jason Kelce is a great leader up front," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said when talking to reporters during the team's OTAs. "He's a quarterback up there. The guy is as smart of a football player as you can get. He's very versatile in the things he can do for us."
The big knock on Kelce revolves around his size and strength.
Always an undersized center who thrived due to his movement skills, Kelce probably got a little caught up in that during the Chip Kelly era when everything was based on tempo. Now, he's back to where we was before dropping the weight and is at least a little more equipped to deal with the more powerful nose tackles in this league.
And with Kelce, top-tier tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, as well as Brandon Brooks and either Seumalo or Allen Barbre at guard, the Eagles figure to have one of the better offensive lines in the league.
"I love our O-line," Reich gushed. "Last year, I felt the same way, we just have more depth and more strength this year. I think it's one of the strong points of our team."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen