While the new five-year contract for Jason Peters ensures that the 32-year-old will be patrolling the left side of the Eagles' offensive line for years to come, it also signals a changing of the guard in some ways. In the past, there was a prevailing notion that the Eagles were uninterested in retaining the services of their veterans on the plus side of 30 years old. With Peters newly locked up, along with, to a lesser extent, previous extensions that kept veterans like Todd Herremans and Trent Cole in Philadelphia beyond the 30-mark, it's now clear that the Eagles do, in fact, take care of their own.
"I think it negates a lot of commonly held facts about us, that you hit a certain age and we're not going to keep you, that if you are paid a certain amount that we're not willing to pay that to keep you," general manager Howie Roseman said Wednesday. "We are going to keep or try to keep, obviously it takes two to tango, our best players and the guys that we feel are part of our culture and that fit well into the chemistry of our football team on and off the field and in the scheme. It's an important message for us this offseason and I think when you look at it, and everyone's talking about free agency, we know these players. We've lived with them; we've been married to them.
"I talk a lot about arranged marriages in free agency, and these aren't arranged marriages. We know how they work, we know how they act. That's very important to us. I know that when we're in a big game, Jason Peters is in the middle of the field getting our team ready, breaking them down and kind of leading our team off the field. That's important. So when we talk about the guys that are free agents and the guys that are young players on our team that we want to sign, we know enough about them and we're not worried about how they're going to perform in this system."
Peters, of course, is a special case. The six-time Pro Bowler is widely considered to be perhaps the league's best left tackle and showed in 2013 that he is back in top form following a 2012 season lost to a twice-torn Achilles.
"He's a unique player," Roseman said of Peters. "When you talk about the physical gifts that he has, there aren't many men on this Earth who are as physically talented as he is. When you go back and look at his career and the fact that he didn't play as much early on in his career, and we spent a lot of time with him, talking to our trainers and out strength coaches and his physical gifts. Again, this is a core player for us. It's an important statement to our football team and our players about what we're going to be about."
Up front, it's also clear that the Eagles will be about protecting the quarterback and paving the way for LeSean McCoy. Peters' new contract comes a year after the Eagles spent the fourth overall pick on Lane Johnson, who manned the right tackle spot as a rookie. Roseman explained that the team does not view Johnson merely as a right tackle, though. Rather, Peters and Johnson form the kind of tackle tandem that is required in today's NFL.
"For us, the way we look at our offensive line, we want five really good starters and right now you look at it going left to right and we're really excited about those guys going forward," said Roseman. "It's interesting because, for us, there's a lot of talk about right tackle and left tackle but when you look at the pass rushers in this league and how they're playing defensive players, if you have a weakness on one side, they're going to put the best pass rushers on that side. You really need two left tackles in this game and we think we have that.
"When we are in scouting meetings, we don't separate left and right. To us, it's about having really good offensive linemen and really good offensive tackles. I think that because of the way people play now. I think that's one of the things that has kind of gone by the wayside. I don't think that there's a left-tackle value and right-tackle value. Lane's 23 years old, so hopefully he's playing for 10 more years and we know that he can play the right side, he can play the left side. But when you have both of them on the same team, that's an incredibly strong feeling on your offensive line."
So with Johnson and Peters in tow, it's safe then to assume that the Eagles are done addressing the tackle position this offseason, right? Not so fast, Roseman cautioned, when asked whether the team would select a tackle prospect if he were atop the draft board come May.
"We're going to take him," Roseman said. "I think that that's a commitment to whatever position that is. If the best player is whatever position and they're the highest-ranked player on our board, we're going to take them. For us, the way we look at our offensive line, we want five really good starters and right now you look at it going left to right and we're really excited about those guys going forward."
As the Eagles offense raced to new heights in 2013, including s record-setting season for LeSean McCoy and a new franchise record in points scored, the offensive line was an obvious key to the team's success. A year after the unit was ravaged by injury, all five starters played in every game of the 2013 season. Where, then, is the room for improvement this season?
"I think that if you kind of go in and expect not to have injuries on your football team or your offensive line, you're setting yourself up for failure," Roseman said. "So we're going to continue to try to build depth and have backups that we think can play at a high level, so that's important. The second point is, now you're talking about the second year in a system, so now it's not as much getting ahead in the playbook. Now they know a lot of the things that we're doing and they're able to work on technique, work on offseason conditioning. I think that's always a plus the second year, you assume that these guys are able to concentrate on the things that enable them to get better."
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