INDIANAPOLIS – The Eagles are treading very carefully with respect to a decision on Jason Peters’ future with the team.
Peters, the 38-year-old left tackle who has spent 11 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Eagles, is an unrestricted free agent. Last month, following their playoff loss to Seattle, Peters said he’d like to play at least one more year in Philadelphia and told the team as much.
On Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson said he is in favor of Peters returning for at least one more season but added that a final decision on whether to offer him a contract hasn’t been made.
“Yeah,’’ Pederson said when asked at the NFL scouting combine whether he’d like the future Hall of Famer back in 2020. “I think I said the same thing [last year] about Darren Sproles.’’
He did. And the 36-year-old Sproles missed 10 games last season with a quad injury after missing 10 the year before with a hamstring injury. Plus, Sproles was a situational running back. He retired last month and has joined the team as a personnel consultant. Peters was/is the team’s starting left tackle.
There’s also the fact that the Eagles selected Peters’ replacement last spring, moving up three spots in the first round of the 2019 draft to grab Washington State tackle Andre Dillard with the 22nd overall pick. Then again, they also drafted his replacement seven years ago when they selected Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Johnson is a three-time Pro Bowler -- at right tackle.
The thing is, despite his age, Peters, a six-time All-Pro, played pretty well last season. He started 13 games and was rated the league’s fourth-best tackle by Pro Football Focus, behind only the Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, the Packers’ David Bakhtiari, and the Texans’ Laremy Tunsil.
Peters allowed just three sacks, four hits and 21 total quarterback pressures. The 21 pressures were the ninth-fewest allowed by a tackle.
“JP is a Hall of Fame left tackle in my opinion,’’ Pederson said. “You want those kind of guys back. They’re great for leadership with those young players.’’
General manager Howie Roseman, who ultimately will make the final call on whether to offer Peters a contract for 2020, said the team is keeping “an open mind’’ about all of their free agents. Peters made $6 million last season.
What the Eagles don’t want is another public-relations mess like the one they found themselves in 11 years ago after a clumsy free-agent breakup with Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins, arguably the most popular player in franchise history. Dawkins played the final three years of his career with the Denver Broncos.
“When you’re talking about Jason Peters, you’re talking about a Hall of Fame player, a Hall of Fame person,’’ Roseman said. “Someone who’s very special to us and played at a really high level for us last year. We’ll go through all of these decisions this week.’’
Peters missed three games last season with a knee injury and played just 18 snaps in a fourth. Dillard replaced him and played OK. The Eagles were 2-2 in those four games, losing to Minnesota and Dallas and beating Buffalo and Chicago with Dillard at left tackle.
“When it comes down to it, it’s either JP or it’s Andre [at left tackle],’’ Pederson said. “That’s a decision we have to make.
"Andre was the guy we selected. He was our top pick a year ago. We feel like he has a bright future. That’s where the fine line comes in. We have to have some difficult conversations, not just us internally, but also with the players.''
The Eagles have had an extraordinary number of injuries the last two years. Bringing back a 38-year-old left tackle, even if he still can play, wouldn’t seem to be the best way of altering that injury pattern.
“History obviously is a great predictor of what’s to come,’’ Pederson admitted. “But we’ve done a nice job with JP as far as managing him. Getting him to game day. Practice when he needs to practice and all of that.
“But again, it’s something we’ve still got time to put our heads together and come up with the best plan at that position.’’