With a cap number in excess of $11 million, Jason Peters is currently the most expensive player on the Eagles roster for 2017 — and he's still worth every penny.
Peters is coming off of his ninth Pro Bowl selection, and unlike last season, it wasn't a token invite. He legitimately rebounded from a down year plagued by injuries and performed like one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Peters received the eighth-highest cumulative grade at his position in 2016 from Pro Football Focus, so while he wasn't as dominant as once before, the 13-year veteran was highly effective.
Even if he was only the eighth-best left tackle in the league last season, as it turns out, that's actually right in line with his salary. According to OverTheCap, Peters' cap hit for '17 ranks seventh among left tackles, while five come within a million dollars.
So while Peters is making a lot of money, it's neither an unusually large sum for his position or a player of his caliber. If anything, he might be able to ask the Eagles for MORE.
It is interesting that coach Doug Pederson and director of player personnel Howie Roseman both have said they would like Peters back but haven't spoken as if that's inevitable. Maybe they're simply allowing for the possibility he would retire, although there's no indication that's the plan. Maybe the Eagles intend to ask him to take a pay cut. Or maybe Peters' agent is making overtures about the need to renegotiate a contract that expires in 2018.
Whatever the case may be, having Peters back at or around his current rate makes sense for both parties. He's not overpaid, but given his age, he's not underpaid, either. There might be a case here for a short extension which gives him some financial guarantee beyond '17 — as of now, the Eagles could cut Peters next season and save all but $1 million against the cap.
So long as Peters isn't looking for a huge raise, there shouldn't be a problem. Regardless, it certainly seems as if something could be afoot with his contract this offseason.
OFFENSIVE TACKLES UNDER CONTRACT
Cap Number: $11,200,000
In case your concern is saving money in 2017 rather than providing Carson Wentz with the best protection money can buy, the Eagles could recoup all but $2 million of Peters' cap hit if he's moved. That cash isn't going to do a whole lot of good though when the franchise quarterback gets folded into a pretzel. Yes, Lane Johnson could move to left tackle, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai can take over on the right. Of course, that's a lot to entrust to Vaitai, a fifth-round draft pick who started six games as a rookie. Not only that, but such a move would instantly decimate the club's depth at tackle, which was suddenly beginning to look pretty good. It's probably a lot smarter to pay Peters now and continue drafting and restocking the talent pool behind him.
Cap Number: $10,000,000
The Eagles' record in 2016 with Lane Johnson: 5-1. Without him: 2-8. Obviously, the reason for such a drastic switch is a little more nuanced than one player, but there's no question Johnson made a big difference, especially as injuries mounted and the offense began cycling through replacements. While that's a lot of money to be paying a right tackle — his cap hit is over $2 million more than the next player at his position — the plan is to move him to the left eventually. The Eagles might be hesitant to put too much stock in that happening, as Johnson's next suspension for performance enhancing drugs will cost him a full season. Then again, at least that latest ban gives the club financial flexibility, as it reportedly allows his guaranteed money to be avoided in the event of his release. Regardless, fingers are crossed upstairs that Johnson's troubles are behind him.
Cap Number: $900,000
Matt Tobin wound up getting a two-year contract extension last offseason because it was cheaper than his restricted free-agent tender. Yet it was still somewhat surprising when he made the 53-man roster. "Serviceable" is about the best possible compliment you could give Tobin's work at either tackle or guard. He was also used as a third tight end quite a bit in power situations in '16, though he didn't make himself irreplaceable in that role, either. Tobin can get the offense by for a game or two in a pinch, but it might be time to look at younger options with more upside. All but $50,000 of his cap hit turns into savings in the event he doesn't make the team.
Cap Number: $596,281
Vaitai got thrown to the wolves in his first NFL start against Washington in Week 6. Instead of giving the rookie right tackle plenty of help and easing him into the game with a run-first game plan, the Eagles came out throwing and left him singled up with the likes of linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Predictably, Vaitai looked lost and overmatched while Wentz got mauled for a good portion of the afternoon. Vaitai settled down as the contest wore on — though not before the Redskins built a decent lead — and gradually improved as the weeks went on until he was sidelined by a knee injury. It wasn't enough of a body of work to feel completely comfortable with turning the job over to him in year two, but the Eagles definitely appear to have a prospect and potential future starter on their hands here. Not bad for a fifth-round draft pick.