Break-up With 'The Bodyguard' More Than Awkward
The Eagles are having a tough time saying goodbye. Remember when Howie Roseman stood at the podium and confessed to making a few too many personnel decisions last year guided by sentimentality. Must get younger, Roseman insisted. Can't hang on forever, Roseman admitted.
But is Roseman really ready to break up with 38-year-old once-cornerstone left tackle Jason Peters. It sure doesn't seem that way. Many fans, and even some media, felt Thursday as if the Eagles were actually cutting the cord with the 16-year veteran who's played his last 11 seasons in Philadelphia. The team released an unusually verbose statement indicating that both sides had agreed that Peters, who's an unrestricted free agent later this month, would first get a feel for his price on the open market before resuming any contract discussions with the Eagles. Some interpreted this statement as a courteous and delicate goodbye from a franchise that doesn't feel like ticking off one of its legendary superstars while it's also pointing him toward the exit. Peters is far from reaching Brian Dawkins status but the memories of that divorce still haunt the Eagles. Some have even suggested that the Eagles are clearly going forward with Andre Dillard and those trade winds gusting around Indianapolis at the Combine were just fabricated nonsense. Maybe the Eagles are preparing for life after Peters and they certainly should be throwing their support around for Dillard given Roseman's pledge to transform the roster. But if the Eagles were really just dressing up Peters' pink slip, why not simply thank him for his 11 elite seasons, wish him the best, and announce that they look forward to his eventual return on the day they retire his No. 71 jersey. If the 49ers can move on from Joe Montana, if the Raiders can move on from Tim Brown, if the Cowboys can move on from Emmitt Smith (what, you don't remember those three glorious years in Arizona?), the Eagles can surely part ways with Peters in an offseason when it's clear that they need an infusion of youth up and down the roster.
The idea that the Eagles have to tap-dance around Peters' exit simply because of his status as one of the NFL's great all-time offensive linemen just doesn't add up. Roseman appears to be finding out that breaking up really is hard to do, especially when the new main squeeze Dillard held his own at left tackle in a small dose last year but those who know the situation have said he still needs to get tougher, stronger and nastier to grow into a dominant left tackle.has already lost some luster.
Moving on from Peters this offseason was supposed to be easier because the Eagles had already drafted his handpicked successor by trading up in the first round for Andre Dillard, an extremely smooth-footed tackle naturally gifted in the art of pass protection. Dillard held his own as a rookie at left tackle in a small dose last year but those close to the situation have said he still needs to get tougher, stronger and nastier to grow into a dominant left tackle. He's fine dropping back and letting his god-given footwork and hip fluidity shine through. Moving other bodies forward with brute strength, momentum and a mean streak -- the hallmark of most great linemen -- isn't yet his thing. So here's Roseman, playing cat-and-mouse with Peters and his agent, Vincent Taylor, praying that 31 other teams remember all those games Peters either missed or checked out of over the past three seasons. Peters will enter free agency at a time when offensive line play is horrific. He'll hit the same market that's about to reward his teammate, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a career backup, with a long-term deal worth no less than $8 million annually, sources anticipate. Even as he nears 40, Peters could probably still score a 1-year deal with incentives that could land him in the neighborhood of $10 million -- which might otherwise be fine for Roseman if he didn't also need to shell out around $17 million for a cornerback and if he hadn't promised the paying customers that he wouldn't let nostalgia dictate personnel decisions. Make no mistake, that carefully crafted statement left the door ajar for a Peters return, even if bringing the legend back defies logic and makes a hypocrite of him. Roseman is dumping Peters but asking to still be friends. And pretty soon, he could be begging Peters to get back together. Even if Dillard isn't ready to dominate, the job should be his. The Seahawks gradually broke up the Legion of Boom and didn't have All-Pro replacements waiting in line. They've done just fine. The Patriots have ditched far too many talented, aging players to count and managed to survive. Roseman said the team needs a new wave of young, dynamic talent. He's finding out that's easier said than done. - Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is an award-winning journalist and member of the PFWA who has covered the Eagles and NFL for 16 seasons. He is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast with Adam Caplan. Hear the latest Inside the Birds podcast right here: https://www.insidethebirds.com/podcast/episode/e3fdf044/birds-free-agency-plan-b