In this edition of “Mosher’s Mailbag,” I answer a question about veterans with shaky job security.
Q. What veteran doesn't make the final roster?
-- Mike (@MikeLusch)
A. Good question, because several high-priced veterans on the team should be looking over their shoulders this camp.
Before I answer, let’s go through some notable veterans whose jobs are potentially on the line and examine why each could get pushed out the door:
• Right guard Todd Herremans: Herremans picked up his play after a slow start last year, but he turns 32 this season (his 10th) and will make $3.2 million. Plus, the Eagles just signed backup Allen Barbre to a three-year extension.
• Outside linebacker Trent Cole: He turns 32 in October and had just eight sacks last year after going without one for the first eight weeks. The Eagles used their first-round pick on outside linebacker Marcus Smith.
• Tight end Brent Celek: He turns 29 after the season and had his role changed in Chip Kelly’s offense, catching just 32 passes last year, his fewest since his second season. Kelly drafted Zach Ertz with a high second-round pick last year. Ertz caught 36 passes for 469 yards last year and is expected to have an increased role this season.
• Left cornerback Bradley Fletcher: He belonged to a pass defense that ranked as the NFL’s worst last year. The Eagles signed free-agent corner Nolan Carroll to push him for the starting job.
• Outside linebacker Brandon Graham: Like Cole, Graham is more of a 4-3 D-end than 3-4 ’backer. He’s also in the last year of his rookie deal and stands to make $1.25 million, a high salary for a backup.
Most of these veterans are very likely headed for their final season in an Eagles uniform. It’s possible that one or more won’t even see this season. From here, I can narrow down the most likely guy to get his walking papers.
I can’t see the Eagles getting rid of Herremans, especially with Lane Johnson suspended for the first four games of the season. Herremans, who played two years of right tackle before moving back to guard last year, could play tackle until Johnson’s suspension is over.
Cole’s days are numbered, but the Eagles don’t seem ready to hand the starting job over to Smith, who worked mainly on the third team during spring camps. Cutting Cole would save $5 million in base salary in 2014, but $4.8 million of his pro-rated signing bonus remains on the books, so they might as well hang onto him for one more year.
Celek has turned himself into an above-average blocker and I have a hunch Kelly wants to feature more two-tight end formations with Celek and Ertz until rookie wideout Jordan Matthews is ready to see an uptick in playing time. I highly doubt the Eagles are ready to cut ties.
That leaves Graham and Fletcher, both of whom who are in jeopardy of not making the team because of salary and competition. Graham is an expensive reserve at $1.2 million and the Eagles have Smith, Bryan Braman and Travis Long looking to make the team. If Fletcher loses his job to Carroll, he’s probably not going to be a backup making $3.275 million, especially if fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins can do the job.
At this moment, Graham and Fletcher are the two veterans with the loosest grip on a roster spot. But, hey, stranger things have happened.