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Brooks provides an upgrade at guard

When the window for negotiations opened Monday, two days before the start of free agency, Brandon Brooks said he received text messages from three Eagles offensive linemen, among others, urging him to sign with their team.

When the window for negotiations opened Monday, two days before the start of free agency, Brandon Brooks said he received text messages from three Eagles offensive linemen, among others, urging him to sign with their team.

Center Jason Kelce was one of the first to reach out to the free- agent guard. It shouldn't have come as a surprise. Kelce stood to benefit more than anyone. Last season's struggles on the interior of the line were, in part, of his own doing. And some of his problems were attributed to having not one but two new guards playing at his side.

But the sum of the unit is only as great as its parts, and guards Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin were weak links. Both remain on the roster, but they weren't one of the three linemen - tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson were the others - who reached out to Brooks. For obvious reasons.

The Eagles went into the offseason clearly wanting to upgrade at guard. They targeted Brooks, who spent his first four seasons with the Texans, and signed him to a five-year, $40 million contract, making him one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL.

Even if the 26-year-old Milwaukee native doesn't play up to the worth of the deal - he received $21 million in guaranteed money - at the bare minimum he will be an improvement over Tobin at right guard. The Eagles are banking on significantly more.

"It was no dragging of the feet," Brooks said Friday of negotiations with the Eagles. "It was no, 'Well, we're going to see kind of how it works out, shakes out.' It was, 'We want you.' "

The Eagles went into a full- court press. They nudged Kelce, Peters, and Johnson to extend olive branches to Brooks, and more than anything, they made a financial commitment. The Texans and several other teams bowed out after a certain number.

It's easy to understand why. Only one guard in the league is now paid more than Brooks in per-year salary ($8 million) and that is Kelechi Osemele, who signed a five-year, $58.5 million contract with the Raiders on Wednesday.

The salary cap increased, so contracts were bound to get out of whack, but has Brooks proven to be as good as Pro Bowl guards such as Mike Iupati ($8 million) or Marshall Yanda ($7.9 million)? He's drifted under the radar some, but he hasn't played well enough to be mentioned in the same category.

The Eagles, of course, were excessive in their praise.

"Big, strong, athletic, road grader-type, nasty mentality and demeanor," coach Doug Pederson said of Brooks. "He's a guy that can get out on the perimeter and run. He's smart. He has all the things that you look for in a guard that we need right now on this offensive line."

Pederson's schematic plans for the offense still remain a bit of a mystery, but judging by the system he ran under Andy Reid with the Chiefs, his linemen will be asked to block in every which way. The Texans zone-blocked, but not as much as the Eagles did under Chip Kelly, or should under Pederson.

Brooks is sneaky athletic, especially for someone of his size (6-foot-5, 345 pounds). But he had trouble blocking in space, whether it was on pulls, second- level blocks, or perimeter plays.

Brooks conceded, though, that he needed to work on his "feel" in the run game. "Hit some landmarks a little bit better," he said. "Pulling around I can get a better jump of keeping my shoulders square and getting downhill."

His struggles the last two seasons in space may have had something to do with limited exposure to zone-blocking during his two seasons with Bill O'Brien. That wasn't the case during his first two years under Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"I've done that. I've displayed my athletic ability," Brooks said. "As far as people saying maybe I'm not as athletic or . . . too big, all I can show you is on tape."

Brooks has been more consistent in pass protection. He has one of the quicker releases for guards, which has allowed him to anchor quickly before facing the rush.

"He gets good vertical push off the ball, which is something you don't see a lot of nowadays," a senior personnel director said. "My only issues with him were that he lacked a consistent nasty finish and that he had an element of laziness to him."

Brooks will face comparisons with Jeff Allen, who was signed by the Texans shortly after Brooks committed to the Eagles. Allen, who played for Pederson in Kansas City, signed for four years, $28 million. Clearly, if the Eagles thought he was better they would have taken the cheaper deal.

Allen, though, has been injury- prone. Brooks has missed only four starts over the last three seasons. He sat out two of the games because of stomach sickness. He has reportedly had problems with an ulcer.

Brooks comes off as thoughtful. He had been taking classes at the University of Houston in pursuit of his MBA, but he said Friday that he was planning to take a hiatus as he pursues football.

He said he's looking forward to working with Eagles offense line coach Jeff Stoutland, whom he called "an intense, fiery guy."

"Throughout my career," Brooks said, "intense, fiery guys, along with my effort, have gotten the best out of me."

And Brooks said he was eager to block alongside Kelce, whom he called "one of the best pulling centers that I've ever seen."

"I really want to learn from Kelce," Brooks added. "He does a lot of things at a high level. Great guy. He was probably the first or second guy to text me saying we could build and do great things here."

Now who's playing left guard?