Two offseasons ago, starting offensive guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were cut by the Eagles in the same offseason, with no real plan to replace either one of them. After years of neglecting the position in the draft, the club was down to a couple of journeymen and some projects that weren't really working out. Allen Barbre. Andrew Gardner. Dennis Kelly. Matt Tobin.
Yet remarkably enough, guard has rapidly become an area of great strength for the Eagles, thanks to a renewed interest in the position. Barbre surprisingly panned out, which certainly helped speed up the rebuild, while the front office went out and signed veterans Brandon Brooks and Stefan Wisniewski, then invested a third-round draft pick in Isaac Seumoalo.
The best part: three of those four players are under contract for 2017, and two of them carry a cap hit under $2 million. Even if the Eagles do nothing, they are in great shape here.
At the very least, a decision must be made on Wisniewski, who is set to become a free agent again — that is assuming he doesn't make it for them. Teams weren't exactly beating down Wisniewski's door last offseason, which is why the Eagles were able to swoop in with a one-year deal, but it's a little strange. He's a solid interior lineman that can also play center and has five years of starting experience in the NFL. You would think he can fill a need somewhere.
If the Eagles can have Wisniewski back as a reserve, it might be a no-brainer. He doubles as a high-quality backup to Jason Kelce, plus Barbre has only the upcoming season remaining on his deal and is getting up there in years. Cost becomes an issue, as Wisniewski did not come cheap, but with six starts in 2016, there was some bang for the buck.
Or, if the Eagles really wanted to be competitve, they could accelerate Barbre's demise and entice Wisniewski with the promise of more work. The club stands to save all but $150,000 on the final year of Barbre's contract if he were to get the axe or is traded, money that could be put toward the younger alternative. That potentially opens up a job for Wisniewski at left guard, although Seumalo obviously is in the mix as well.
There's a reasonable possibility Wisniewski generates more interest on the open market this time around, so with Brooks locked in at right guard and Seumalo waiting in the wings, the Eagles wouldn't be a very attractive option. That's a nice problem to have, though.
OFFENSIVE GUARDS UNDER CONTRACT
Cap Number: $7,200,000
Money well spent. According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks scored the fifth-highest cumulative overall grade of any offensive guard in the NFL in 2016. Yet in terms of money, eight guards currently carry a higher cap hit for next season, so while he came at a high price, Brooks is paying dividends thus far. There is the matter of Brooks unexpectedly missing two games with issues related to anxiety, but he vowed to get that squared away, so hopefully it's not a problem going forward. As long as he's healthy, Brooks was quietly the best free-agent addition by the Eagles in 2016, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound mauler who should be around for a long time.
Cap Number: $1,950,000
Barbre doubles as a swing tackle, starting three games at right tackle in '16, though he's much better inside. Still, that versatility alone might be enough to give the Eagles pause about about trying to save $1.8 million this offseason. As it turns out, Barbre is actually a pretty good guard, too, earning the 22nd-highest cumulative grade from Pro Football Focus for this past season. With all of that in mind, a case could be made the Eagles are getting a steal here. The real question is whether they should think about extending his contract, although that might be unnecessary with Seumalo in the fold.
Cap Number: $764,966
Barbre isn't the only person who can kick out to tackle in a pinch. Brooks has done it in the past as a member of the Texans, and Seumalo lined up on the outside just this year. The rookie didn't embarrass himself, either, no matter what position he was playing. There's little question the Eagles view Seumalo as the left guard of the future, which could be 2017 if they let Wisniewski walk and part ways with Barbre as well. One departure might happen, but probably not both, as it would unnecessarily create a depth issue at guard. Still, the franchise has to be thinking very highly of Seumalo right now, so much so that you wonder if he'll get a chance to compete for a starting job even assuming Barbre remains.
Cap Number: $540,000
An undrafted free agent out of LSU, Gordon initially made the 53-man roster out of training camp, indicating the Eagles really liked him and wanted to protect him from the first run of waiver-wire pickups. He was eventually moved to the practice squad, then reactivated at the end of the season once injuries mounted, seeing the field for a grand total of two snaps. While listed at 6-4, 322 pounds, Gordon seems smaller than that, but maybe that's because he's so agile. Coach Doug Pederson was giving him a look as a part-time fullback during camp.
Greene reportedly received a rather large bonus to sign with the Eagles as a rookie out of San Diego State, though wound up being passed on the depth chart by Gordon. Still, Greene was retained on the scout team and signed a future contract at the conclusion of the season, so he's being viewed as a prospect. Obviously, the front office will add more competition, but between the two of these guys, they can afford to lose a veteran.
2016 Cap Number: $2,760,000
Wisniewski had a higher cap hit as a backup in '16 than Barbre did as a starter, which is yet another complicating factor in a potential re-signing. The idea initially was Wisniewski would battle for the job, but a competition never materialized, and he became a highly paid reserve instead. Now if there are injuries, particularly to Kelce at center, he quickly becomes worth every penny, and he was. Regardless, the debate will be taken out of the Eagles' hands if Wisniewski catches on as a starter somewhere. Kind of a shame, but this is a situation where you probably can't keep everybody.
* Age as of 12/31/17