A little before noon on Wednesday, Jason Peters signed his name on a brand new five-year contract that, he hopes, is the first step in ensuring he finishes his career in Philadelphia and retires as an Eagle.
"It feels wonderful," Peters said when asked about getting the extension done. "Just knowing that you're going to be in one spot and be one of the first Eagles to retire here, it just feels good.
"I guess (the Eagles) didn't want to risk losing me, and I didn't want to go anywhere. I let them know that and we got it done."
Peters was not the only one who felt it was important that he finish his career in Philadelphia.
"We talked about it this offseason, about the names on the back of the jersey meaning something," general manager Howie Roseman said Wednesday. "When you have a guy like (Peters) who has played at this level and has the opportunity to continue to play at this level, you want to keep that guy. You don't want to see him in another jersey playing at a high level and have your players and your fans and the people upstairs saying, 'Why aren't they here anymore?' So it is important for us that we have Eagles, guys that represent our team and when people think about the Philadelphia Eagles – I know that when people talk to me about the Eagles and our offensive line, he's the first name they mention."
The new deal should keep Peters in Philadelphia through the 2018 season, when he will be 36. It is not often that non-quarterback players remain elite into their late-30s, but Peters defied the odds throughout his accolade-filled career. First, Peters went from undrafted tight end to Pro Bowl left tackle. Then, he returned to form when many counted him out following a pair of ruptured Achilles.
"Of course, I think so, and (the Eagles) obviously think so," Peters said, when asked if he expects to maintain his level of play throughout his contract. "They wouldn't have given me the contract if they didn't. I'm going to definitely live up to it."
"We think that he's going to continue to evolve in this offense," said Roseman. "Second year in the offense, really being able to focus on his conditioning, his offseason program, as opposed to rehabbing, and when you watch him out on the field, I know that when I'm watching a game and Jason Peters is at left tackle, I have a sense of calm."
Peters revealed that the Eagles actually approached him last offseason, when he had still yet to play a game after rehabbing the twice-surgically repaired Achilles' tendon that forced him to miss all of 2012, about a potential contract extension heading into the 2014 season. Even though the media and general public were skeptical whether he could return to form, the Eagles and Peters knew how well his rehab had gone and were optimistic about his future prognosis.
"I told you all (the media) I was 100 percent coming into (the 2013) season," Peters said. "I felt very good. I want to thank my doctor, Steve Raikin, for doing a great surgery for me. All the rehab I had to do with Joe (O'Pella, Eagles Assistant Athletic Trainer) and all the rest of the crew in the training room, they helped me out a lot. I want to thank Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie for even believing in me coming off a great year. I want to thank my management, Keith Houston, my agent Vincent Taylor, my whole team. I just thank the whole (Eagles) organization – president (Don Smolenski), Howie, everybody – for believing in me."
"It takes a long time to get these deals done," Roseman said. "You start with exploratory talks about Jason trying to finish his career here, and Vincent Taylor deserves a lot of credit, Jason deserves a lot of credit, because they wanted to be in Philadelphia, and sometimes you need to show that with actions, not only words, and I think they did that."
When thinking about Peters, former United States Theodore Roosevelt's famous "Speak softly, and carry a big stick" mantra comes to mind. Peters is not the loud, boisterous type who draws attention to himself and he seldom talks to the media during the season, but he makes a tremendous impact on the field and in the locker room.
"There aren't many players at their position playing at the level that he's playing at," Roseman said. "And then you have to try to project where he's going to be two, three, four years from now, which is hard, but we believe in Jason. We believe that what he brings to our team is impossible to replicate and you'd probably have to find a guy (with) the first pick in the draft, and even those guys aren't coming out, so we're really excited to have him done and have him here and his fit in our system, and really his fit in our culture. I know that … when you look before games and who is breaking down our team, it's Jason Peters. His leadership is really underrated and his personality on this team is really underrated."
Now with his future secure and the burden of thinking about a contract gone, Peters can focus solely on playing football.
"It's a whole lot of weight off my shoulders, just knowing that I'm going to be here, be in Philly," Peters said. "Like I said, I loved it here from day one when Coach Reid brought me here, and I'm ready to go to battle for (head coach) Chip (Kelly), I'm with him for the next five years."
Without a defined position as a 6-foot-4, 328-pound tight end coming out of college, Peters went undrafted and signed with Buffalo for what he recalls as a meager $5,000 signing bonus. After emerging from the practice squad as a special teams ace during his rookie season, Peters worked his way into the starting lineup along the offensive line a year later. After five seasons in Buffalo, the talented lineman became the apple of the Eagles' eye.
On April 17, 2009, the Eagles and Bills completed a trade that sent Peters to Philadelphia in exchange for the Eagles' first-round pick (28th overall) and fourth-round pick (121st overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft, and a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. The Eagles then signed Peters to a six-year, $60 million deal through 2014.
"It took a long time to consummate that deal," Roseman said of the 2009 trade. "We were on them for a long time about Jason Peters because it's hard not to recognize his skill set and when you just kind of look at where he was as a player then and now, it's almost like he continues to get better. He's so confident in his technique, he's got incredible strength and power and he's just an explosive athlete."
"I thank (Andy Reid) for even bringing me here, getting me out of Buffalo – not saying that Buffalo was a bad organization, but it was just wasn't a good fit for me at the time later on in my career," Peters said. "I love Philly."
Peters has made the Pro Bowl in each season he has played for the Eagles (2009-11, 2013), and has twice earned first-team All-Pro honors (2011, 2013). Given his remarkable recovery from the double Achilles' tear and how he performed his first season back in 2013, expect Peters to earn more individual awards before his career is over – a career that will end with the Philadelphia Eagles.