Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Peters’ time has passed

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Despite Andre Dillard’s struggles in 2019, he deserves a chance to start for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 without Jason Peters looking over his shoulder.

Jason Peters wasn’t horrible in 2019.

He wasn’t good, far from it in fact, but to call the longest-tenured member of the Philadelphia Eagles horrible is a bit harsh. Sure, he had 10 penalties, the second-highest mark of his career, and allowed three sacks, the third-worst mark on the team, but if Peters were to hit the open market tomorrow, there would surely be a handful of quality, playoff teams willing to sign up the future Hall of Famer to a fairly lucrative one-year deal.

As weird as it would be to see ‘the bodyguard’ wearing a blue, red, or orange jersey in 2020, maybe that’s for the best for all parties involved.

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You see, over the last few seasons, the Eagles have had this horrible habit of investing in older players far beyond their prime. Whether it’s signing ‘just a guys’ like Andrew Sendejo, re-upping Darren Sproles season after season, or the similarly incongruous decision to guarantee Alshon Jeffery‘s contract for the 2020 season – a decision that they certainly don’t already regret – the Birds just kept plugging holes on a sinking ship.

Could signing a player like Byron Jones or Amari Cooper to a long-term deal backfire? Sure, but I’d rather bet on their futures than settle for a duo like Orlando Scandrick and Jordan Matthews who didn’t even make it through the season.

But here’s the thing, Peters isn’t Matthews or Scandrick. He’s still a solid left tackle in the NFL, just not the Eagles’ future at the position. That honor, hopefully at least, belongs to Andre Dillard, the 6-foot-5 tackle out of Washington State the team traded up two spots to acquire in the 2019 NFL Draft.

As crazy as it sounds, the Eagles aren’t in win-now mode, or at least shouldn’t be.

Does Peters give the team a chance to be better than Dillard right away in 2020? Probably so, but what about Week 17? How about 2021? You don’t invest a first-round pick in an ultra-athletic tackle who only surrendered one sack as a college senior to have him sit on the bench indeterminately.

Okay, I guess you could, especially with backup swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in all likelihood moving on to greener pastures, but is that really the best idea? Is Dillard going to learn how to play tackle against the best rushers the NFL has to offer by sitting on the bench? Again, I doubt it.

I know, I know, Dillard gave up four sacks in 2019 on only 337, one more than Peters on 535 fewer snaps. That. Is. Bad. However, offensive line, especially offensive tackle, isn’t the easiest position to plug and play. Dillard himself described the process of playing right tackle after a decade on the left, declaring: “Think about it like this: you probably write with your right hand, right? Say, all of sudden, you had to write a big essay with your left hand right now”. He played right tackle for all of two quarters and surrendered two of his sacks as a result.

Keeping a 38-year-old Peters would keep Dillard trapped on the bench for another season and leave the team with yet another need to acquire a swing tackle to fill in behind Lane Johnson should he miss more time in 2020.

Currently, the Eagles use a sixth offensive tackle roughly 20-25 percent of their offensive snaps in any given game. Why not instead invest in a solid third-string tackle like, say, Joe Haeg, our old friend Dennis Kelly, or even Big V? Doesn’t that make more sense both now and moving forward?

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Jason Peters is a Philly legend, a Super Bowl champion, and a potential Hall of Famer. A day may very soon come when Peters’ jersey hangs in the rafters of the Linc alongside all-timers like Brian Dawkins, Reggie White, and eventually LeSean McCoy. His legacy is set regardless of where he plays in 2020, making an obligatory final contact with the team. Andre Dillard is the future at the position and deserves a chance to run with the first team unencumbered moving into his sophomore season.