Jason Peters likely has dibs on his old locker, but his old position might be spoken for.
The 38-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Eagles Tuesday morning after a long and fruitless stretch on the free-agency market. Upon the announcement of the deal, though, the nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle was listed as a guard, signaling the Eagles’ intention to bring Peters in as a replacement for the injured right guard Brandon Brooks. The Eagles have said they expect 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard to be the starting left tackle.
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Peters’ deal is worth up to $6 million with $3 million guaranteed, according to his agent, Vince Taylor.
Brooks, one of the best guards in the NFL the last few seasons, tore his left Achilles tendon last month, a little more than a year after tearing his right one. He’ll miss the 2020 season barring any major postponements due to the coronavirus.
Peters has spent the last 11 years with the Eagles and will be going into his 17th season in the NFL. He struggled with false starts last year, getting flagged 11 times during the regular season, but otherwise played well.
He played in 13 games, missing three because of a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, and was ranked the NFL’s sixth-best tackle in 2019 by Pro Football Focus. Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson was ranked second.
Dillard spent most of his rookie season shadowing Peters. Until Brooks’ injury, signing Peters could have been perceived as an indictment of the Eagles’ confidence in Dillard to fill Peters’ shoes.
When asked about the dynamic between Peters and Dillard in May, coach Doug Pederson commended Peters, while emphasizing the team’s desire to get Dillard on the field at tackle.
“Jason Peters is a tremendous, not only football player, but he is a tremendous Philadelphia Eagle,” Pederson said. “I have a lot of respect for a guy like Jason Peters to play that left tackle position for so many years at a high level and so I have a lot of respect for his game and what he has accomplished in his career.
“But as we move forward, Andre Dillard was the player that we drafted to be that left tackle for us,” he added. “Andre played last year, and I think that kind of propels him into this offseason where he’s taken command of that role, and we have a ton of confidence, I have a ton of confidence in Andre Dillard and playing the left tackle spot.”
Peters’ return was met with praise from several players, including Johnson and quarterback Carson Wentz, who both posted on Twitter to welcome the longtime Eagle back to the fold.
Johnson was originally drafted as the heir apparent for Peters in 2013 before becoming one of the best right tackles in the NFL opposite him. Now, he’s begun welcoming his onetime mentor to the right side of the line.
Johnson posted a photo of himself carrying his linemate’s jersey out of the tunnel in Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium before Super Bowl LII in 2018. Peters missed the game because of a knee injury.
Peters isn’t the only Eagle now studying up on a new position. Defensive back Jalen Mills is spending the offseason working to replace Malcolm Jenkins’ hybrid safety position. During a donation event in which Mills helped deliver meals to employees at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Mills said he expects Peters’ transition to guard to go smoothly.
“That’s a big body who can move, on the inside,” he said. “That’s definitely going to help us, for sure. ... JP is like the godfather, for sure. Leadership, knowledge. He knows the offense in and out.”