Pederson expects Kelce back; how about other expensive vets?

Pederson expects Kelce back; how about other expensive vets?

INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Eagles are planning on cutting or trading long-time center Jason Kelce, no one has told head coach Doug Pederson.

Shortly after his podium session on Wednesday inside the convention center at the combine, Pederson was asked if he expects Kelce to be back on the team next season.

"I do," Pederson said without hesitation.

"Listen, he's a player that's under contract, a Pro Bowl player who has been a tremendous asset to the team, so yeah."

Kelce, 29, is coming off a Pro Bowl season but has been labeled as a possible salary cap casualty this offseason. In 2017, his cap number rises to $6.2 million and the Eagles would save $3.8 million if they cut or trade him.

Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman wouldn't commit to Kelce's return. But when he was asked about the center, Roseman praised him.

"Jason Kelce was a second-team Pro Bowler, has been a huge contributor to our football team," Roseman said. "I don't want to get into specifics of any player individually because that will open the door to every other player. But certainly appreciate the tremendous value that he's had and had for our young quarterback this season."

The Eagles have shown that they'll skip no expense to give Carson Wentz every tool he needs. They signed Chase Daniel to be a mentor, blocked quarterbacks coach John DeFillipo from leaving and it looks like they're going to keep a more expensive option at center to keep continuity. The Eagles are also keeping left tackle Jason Peters at his $10.7 million cap hit in 2017.

Back on Feb. 8, the Eagles cut cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Since then, things have been slow.

Kelce, of course, is among some of the tough decisions the club needs to make. Another is defensive end Connor Barwin, who shares the same agent. The Eagles, coming into the week, were expected to meet with their agent while in Indianapolis.

"You don't want to pay for a guy for what he's done," Roseman said. "You have to figure out what his value is going forward and what he's making."

So that brings up plenty of questions about Barwin, who is coming off a relative down season in his first year in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense. He had just five sacks in 2016.

Will Barwin be worth his $8.35 million cap hit in 2017, or does it make more sense to cut him and save $7.75 million in cap space?

"You talk about Connor and what he's meant to our football team on and off the field," Roseman said. "There were a lot of questions about his ability to play in a 4-3. And he did it and he did a really good job with it. Obviously, we're not going to get into whoever you guys ask me about. We're not going to get into specifics of who's going to be back and who's not. Certainly, when you talk about Connor, he's got all those traits we're talking about here, about guys who have done a good job and still have stuff left in the tank."

If Barwin still has "stuff left in the tank," the Eagles' decision to hold onto him this long might make sense. Instead of cutting him, perhaps the Eagles can trade him to another club and recoup at least some sort of asset. 

Another veteran player who would be a logical cut is veteran running back Ryan Mathews, who is set to have a $5 million cap hit and is coming off a significant neck injury.

"Ryan is doing great," Roseman said. "We fully expect him to be ready to play. He's under contract and I think it's as simple as that."

Only it's probably not as simple as that. The Eagles would save $4 million in cap space by cutting the oft-injured Mathews – a move that would seem to make a lot of sense -- but it's not that easy thanks to his injury.

When asked in general terms, Roseman said league rules prohibit teams from cutting an injured player.

So maybe the Eagles' hands are tied there until they can figure out some sort of injury settlement.

But for decisions about the other guys, the clock is ticking.

The legal-tampering window begins on March 7 and free agency begins two days after. So it would appear March 9 would be a deadline for when the Eagles want to make these decisions. Roseman isn't giving himself that deadline.

"There's no deadline on the decision-making," he said. "We don't have a drop-dead date. For us, again, it goes back to information gathering, getting as much as possible, seeing the potential options for us. We don't want to do something shortsighted and lose and opportunity. And it's easy to talk about all the players you want to get rid of, but do you have a plan to replace them?"

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

The Eagles' biggest back might be getting a bit smaller in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Field Yates, LeGarrette Blount has an incentive in his contract with the Eagles that will net him $50,000 if he weighs in between 240 and 245 pounds when the team reports for training camp on July 24. Blount's one-year deal carries a $1.25 million cap, including a $900,000 base salary as well as a $200,000 signing bonus.

Currently, the Eagles' website lists the two-time Super Bowl champion running back at 6-foot, 250 pounds — at least 30 pounds heavier than any back currently on the roster. 

When asked how much he weighs at an introductory press conference last month, Blount responded, "The weight I need to be at."

Weight clauses have become more and more common, especially with running backs. Seattle's Eddie Lacy earned $55,000 in May when he tipped the scales at 255 pounds (or fewer) and the Seahawks' bruising back will have the chance to earn another $330,000 over the course of six more weigh-ins through the end of the regular season.

The same goes for Atlanta defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who could bank as much as $500,000 in bonuses if he slims down to 330 pounds from his listed 346 pounds.

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.