Counting Down the Eagles’ Needs: No. 7, Offensive Line

Counting Down the Eagles’ Needs: No. 7, Offensive Line

Free agency is right around the corner, and the draft will be here before you know it. With the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason in full swing, we’re examining where the roster stands at each position, counting down based on team need. Check out the previous installments on quarterbacks, tight ends and  running backs.

Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans made triumphant returns from season-ending injuries in 2013, and while there were certainly other factors at work, it’s not at all coincidental the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense—not to mention the club’s record—bounced back. Along with Evan Mathis and rookie Lane Johnson, all five starting offensive linemen appeared in all 17 games this season.

O-line play is once again a strength in Philly—but for how long?

With three starters into their 30s, it’s one of the few areas on the roster where the Eagles are old. How much longer will Peters and Mathis play at their current All-Pro level? How much longer will Herremans be a viable starter in the NFL?

[PHOTO GALLERY: What Linc upgrades will look like]

Now that everybody is back healthy, the front office is tasked with knowing when to replace these aging veterans and making a seamless transition in the process. It won’t be easy—offensive line continuity is often a delicate attribute—but it’s doable if the team begins setting plans in motion. Here’s a closer look at where the Birds stand at each position.

Left Tackle

Overview: Peters wasn’t quite as dominant in 2013 as his stellar ’11 campaign, but in addition to returning from a ruptured Achilles, he battled nagging injuries all season and still managed to earn first-team All-Pro honors. He could be even better in ’14.

Journeyman veteran Allen Barbre is signed through next season to be the backup and was excellent in relief appearances.

Why the Eagles must think about the future: Peters is scheduled to become a free agent next year when he’ll be 33 years old.

What they should do: Peters’ eventual replacement is already on the roster in the form of Lane Johnson. However, as long as Peters is playing at an All-Pro level, efforts should be made to retain him. A two- or three-year extension would be perfect, but if nothing else, they can get one more season out of him on the franchise tag.

Left Guard

Overview: Mathis was finally recognized as the best at his craft in 2013, earning All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. Since signing with the club in ‘11, left guard has been a rock for the Eagles.

Mathis did not miss a single snap last season. Barbre is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart.

Why the Eagles must think about the future: Although Mathis is signed through ’16 and has shown no signs of slowing down, he is 32 and his cap hit jumps this season.

What they should do: Nothing, for now. Mathis hasn’t given the team any indication that he’s going to be anything less than a top-notch guard, and he’s under contract. Continue developing talent behind him, but from what we can tell, there needn't be any hurry to find a replacement.

Center

Overview: While he was not recognized as an All-Pro or even so much as earned a nod to the Pro Bowl, Kelce graded as the best all-around center in the league in ’13 according to metrics site Pro Football Focus. His play merits more attention for such accolades going forward.

Julian Vandervelde served as Kelce’s backup last year, but the team already signed former San Diego Charger David Molk to a futures contract this offseason. Competition for the roster spot appears likely.

Why the Eagles must think about the future: Kelce is only 26 and can become a free agent next season. They wouldn’t want to let him get away.

What they should do: Sign Kelce to an extension this offseason. Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin are among the names that could be seeking extensions next year. The Eagles have an estimated $20 million in cap space right now, and using some of that to front-load some of Kelce’s new deal wouldn’t be a bad idea.

A new deal for Kelce could cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million per year.

Right Guard

Overview: It took a little time getting used to another new position, and playing alongside a rookie undoubtedly did not help, but Herremans finished the year strong. That being said, he’s clearly the weak link on this line.

Herremans did not miss so much as a snap this past season. Barbre is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, and 2012 fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly has also tried right guard for the Birds.

Why the Eagles must think about the future: Herremans will turn 32 this year, and his cap hit is set to jump next season. He’s a solid hand who can play multiple spots, but looks like he might be starting to slow down a little. The team has to at least consider whether they can do better, and for less $5.2 million per year.

What they should do: Herremans is signed through 2016, and it might not make much sense to release him any earlier than that (unless he stinks) because of the dead money against the salary cap—$2.4M in ’15, $1.2M in ‘16. The logical thing to do is use a mid-round draft pick in the upcoming draft and start grooming somebody to take over in a year or two’s time.

Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland previously held the same position at the University of Alabama, and therefore would have added insight about a prospect like Anthony Steen. If Steen (6’2”, 310 lbs) is still available in the fourth round, he could be a perfect stash for the Birds.

Right Tackle

Overview: It was a little rocky at first, but Johnson held his own as a rookie. Chip Kelly raved about Johnson improving every week, and by the end of the season, it was easy to forget there was a rookie starting on the offensive line.

Johnson came out for just one snap all season and was replaced by Barbre. However, Dennis Kelly is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, and inactive for that game due to injury.

Why the Eagles must think about the future: Because they didn’t use the fourth-overall pick on the kid to stick him at right tackle forever. The plan is for Johnson to eventually replace Peters on the left side, which in theory could be as early as next season.

What they should do: Thanks to the franchise tag, the Eagles likely have another year at least to sort this out, and that’s if Peters doesn’t agree to an extension. It’s not good to let the situation linger much longer without putting a backup plan in place.

Unless the coaching staff is confident in Kelly’s ability to take over at right tackle, they may want to consider taking another developmental tackle at some point in the draft as well. Best case scenario, Peters is sticking around for a little while longer, but you never know, he may want to test free agency as well.

Counting Down the Eagles’ Needs:

No. 10, Running Back
No. 9, Tight End
No. 8, Quarterback

The Rockies Twitter account tweeted whole game in 'Rocky' quotes

The Rockies Twitter account tweeted whole game in 'Rocky' quotes

If you watched Monday night's Phillies loss at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, you probably weren't very entertained -- unless you're a Rockies fan.

But if you followed the game on Twitter and happen to follow the Rockies' account, you may have been slightly more entertained.

Slightly.

They tried something we haven't seen from an opposing team just yet. They tweeted throughout the game using only quotes from the Rocky movie franchise.

Now, you can debate how successful of a move this was but you have to at least give them some points for creativity. And it's not like this was a playoff game with high stakes. This was a relatively boring Monday night game in the middle of May.

You can read our recap of the Phillies' 8-1 loss right here. Or here's how the night transpired on Twitter:

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Sixers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Sixers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 

On Tuesday, Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato takes a look at the state of the Sixers

How did we get here?
By now, you all know about “The Process.” The Sixers last competitive season was five years ago when they reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2012. They began dismantling that group, and the following year, went 34-48 under Doug Collins. 

The Sixers then entered a three-year period of dismal basketball with a revolving door of players coached by Brett Brown that culminated in a 47-199 record. During that time, they stockpiled injured players, draft-and-stash prospects and a handful of future picks through transactions made by then-general manager Sam Hinkie.

Hinkie stepped down from his role with a memorable 13-page resignation letter last April. The Sixers hired Bryan Colangelo as president of basketball operations, marking a new chapter in the organization. 

The 2016-17 season was the first glimpse into the potential of “The Process.” They finished 28-54, including a 10-5 month of January. Joel Embiid made his NBA debut after two years. While he was limited to 31 games because of (another) injury, he quickly proved he can dominate when healthy. Dario Saric came to the NBA two years after being drafted in 2014 and emerged as a Rookie-of-the-Year candidate after Embiid was shut down for the season. The Sixers landed the number one pick in the 2016 draft and are waiting on the debut of Ben Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in training camp. This season, the Sixers established legitimate pieces for their future, rather than players who could be on the summer league team. 

Are the Sixers on the right path back to prosperity?
The Sixers are on the right path back to prosperity, and it starts this offseason. They have the third pick in the 2017 draft, with the possibilities of adding another young talent or packaging the pick to land a more established player. The Sixers have flexibility with plenty of cap space — which they could use to acquire a key free agent. The team has maintained they will not rush into making a trade just for the sake of it  — Jahlil Okafor’s future with the Sixers is still uncertain — or spending money just because it’s available. The Sixers showed flashes of potential last season. If they gather the right pieces this summer and — a big “and” — they stay healthy, the Sixers will continue to move toward an upward trend of rebuilding with the longer-term goals (this isn't happening overnight) of becoming a contender again. 

Coming Wednesday: A look at the Phillies' rebuild