Front And Center
Stay Or Go: Kelce Return, Seumalo Contract Influence Birds Decisions
Free agency kicks off on March 15, and the Eagles will be faced with some difficult decisions over the next few weeks regarding several pending free agents.
Often difficult to forecast, rosters are largely fluid year-to-year and susceptible to change. Veteran mainstays are jettisoned, new players enter the fold, and the draft essentially acts as a table setter.
In an attempt to outline the roster in its current state, we examined the offensive line in the second installment of Inside The Birds’ stay-or-go exercise.
As far as retirement is concerned, Kelce has kept his looming decision under wraps. But as evidenced by his performance throughout the Super Bowl run, the five-time first-team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Fame center is still playing at an elite level at 35. For now, I’ll have him returning for his 13th season. Ruling: Stay
Jurgens, the team’s 2022 second-round pick, watched from afar as a rookie, playing just 35 snaps. But Kelce’s decision notwithstanding, the 23-year-old will serve a prominent role on Jeff Stouland’s offensive line in 2023. In this scenario, it will likely be at right guard in place of pending free agent Isaac Seumalo. Ruling: Stay
The 27-year-old spent 2022 on the Eagles’ practice squad after joining the team late last summer and recently signed a reserve/futures contact that all but ensures he will return for training camp. While Tom, who has appeared in 13 career games (1 start) would theoretically provide experienced depth – especially vital if Jurgens pivots to right guard – he’ll likely have to stave off a more versatile draft pick/UDFA signing to stick around. Ruling: Go
Coming off a Pro Bowl sophomore campaign, Dickerson embodies the toughness and grit required to hold court on the inside and took an immense leap forward in his second season. Paired alongside bookend tackle Jordan Mailata, Dickerson solidifies perhaps the most formidable left side in the NFL. And he’s only beginning to scratch the surface. Ruling: Stay
Driscoll, 25, provides versatility and starting experience at both guard and tackle, and depending on Kelce’s playing future could potentially be called upon to fill in at right guard next season, with Jurgens assuming the reins at center. Ruling: Stay
An undrafted signing from Weber State back in 2019, the 26-year-old Opeta has managed to hang around for another training camp, as he was among the 11 players to sign a reserve/futures deal last week. Though he made the 53-man roster out of camp, Opeta, a weekly inactive the second half of the season, became a late-season casualty as the Eagles juggled the back end of the roster. Still, though, he represents a cost-effective option and provides experience – 25 games (4 starts) – and should serve as a crucial depth piece at a lean position. Ruling: Stay
Robinson, who blocked for Jalen Hurts in 2019 at Oklahoma, ended the season on the Eagles’ practice squad and was signed to a reserve/futures deal last week. The 23-year-old provides positional versatility at guard and tackle – where he started 13 games and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2021 – and while cost-effective, Robinson will assuredly be challenged in camp by a Day 3 rookie/UDFA. Ruling: Go
Seumalo, 29, served as a vital cog on the league’s most vaunted offensive line in 2022 – logging 1,137 snaps, second only to Kelce – and is sure to have multiple suitors coveting his services in free agency. With the Eagles presumably opting to allocate resources elsewhere, and potentially needing a spot for Jurgens, Seumalo appears to be on the outside looking in and likely played his snap for the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. Ruling: Go
Given the state of offensive line play across the league, Dillard will have his suitors in free agency. The team’s first-round pick in 2019, Dillard played sparingly for the Eagles in a reserve role the past two seasons, logging 377 snaps across 27 games (5 starts). As valuable of a depth piece as he is to the Eagles, there will be a teams who view the 27-year-old as a starting left tackle and compensate him as such. The depth is poised to take another hit with his departure. Ruling: Go
What Johnson accomplished during the playoff run, in which the All-Pro tackle valiantly battled through a torn adductor, was nothing short of heroic. All indications are that Johnson, who faces a 10-to-12 week recovery timeline after undergoing surgery last Thursday, will be full go for training camp. In case you were wondering, Johnson, who turns 33 in May, is still the best right tackle in football. And an argument could be made he’s the best tackle in the game. Ruling: Stay
Johnson, at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, spent the second half of the 2022 season on the Eagles’ practice squad before ultimately signing a reserve/futures deal last week. With Andre Dillard all but assured to move on, and Driscoll potentially focused on playing guard next season, the 25-year-old Johnson, who offers guard versatility, will have an outside shot and cracking the 53. Ruling: Stay
Johnson, 27, spent most of the 2022 season on the Eagles’ practice squad after spending the summer in Chiefs camp. Unlike Fred Johnson, however, he doesn’t offer positional versatility. He’s also two years older. I suspect he’ll be pushed off the roster by a rookie via the draft. Ruling: Go
Mailata, 25, continues to improve and relishes his role as the blindside protector for Jalen Hurts. While inconsistent at times last season, especially during the midway point, Mailata rounded back into his usual form when it mattered most. As previously stated, Mailata and Landon Dickerson essentially comprise an ubreakable wall on the left side of the Eagles’ offensive line. And like Dickerson, Mailata is merely scratching the surface of his capabilities. Ruling: Stay
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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