Updated: Jan 16
Martin Frank - Delaware Online Sports
PHILADELPHIA – Eagles general manager Howie Roseman made it clear last week that several veterans won't be returning, that the strategy of loading up with established players to keep the formula for the Super Bowl has to change.
After two injury-riddled seasons, especially at wide receiver, it is time to change course. The Eagles could have as many as 10 picks in the 2020 draft, after having five in each of the past two years.
There will also be a new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach after Mike Groh and Carson Walch, respectively, were fired last week.
Here, then, is a look at several veterans on offense, and whether they should return or not:
Stay: Peters will turn 38 on Jan. 22, but he's still one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Sure, he led the team with 10 penalties. But as Peters said recently about whether he can still play: "You tell me somebody that’s better than me, and I’ll walk away from the game."
There's nobody better on the Eagles.
Go: The Eagles drafted his successor in Andre Dillard in the first round last season. Dillard started three games when Peters was out with a knee injury. Dillard played well enough to show that he'll be ready in 2020. He spent his rookie season learning from Peters. He's ready to take over.
Verdict: Peters is a free agent, and there's no way the Eagles are going to re-sign him for $6 million or more, and have Dillard sit for a second season.
Stay: By releasing Jeffery, the Eagles would eat $26 million in dead money, unless they can trade him, which would reduce that by $10 million. Good luck trading someone who just had foot surgery and needs several months of recovery time.
The Eagles might be left to hope that if Jeffery is healthy toward the middle of next season, that he can contribute like he did in 2017.
Go: Jeffery is coming off his worst season. He's also about to turn 30. And while he vehemently denied being the source of an ESPN report last October criticizing Wentz and the Eagles' offense, he and Wentz did struggle to find a comfort zone on the field.
Verdict: If the best reason for keeping Jeffery is that the Eagles are going to be stuck with him because of his contract, then it's time for him to go. The Eagles drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside because of his ability to get 50-50 balls. It's time for Arcega-Whiteside to prove that he can handle it.
Stay: Jackson is the speed receiver the Eagles desperately need. In his one full game, the opener against Washington, he caught TD passes of 51 and 53 yards. There are few players in the NFL who can take off the top of a defense like Jackson, even at the age of 33.
Go: The injuries. Jackson hasn't played a full season since 2013, and there's no telling how much longer he can continue to burn defenders deep. He's also coming off core muscle surgery.
Verdict: The Eagles should bring him back, but also add another speed receiver, either in the draft or free agency (Robby Anderson of the Jets?).
Stay: After a dreadful and injury-plagued season, it's hard to find a reason for Agholor to return unless the pending free agent is willing to take a one-year, prove-it type deal. Even then, it would have to be very team friendly.
Go: It just hasn't worked for the Eagles' first-round pick in 2015, other than the Super Bowl season. It's probably best for both Agholor and the Eagles to move on.
Verdict: Greg Ward showed that he deserves to return as the slot receiver after being the Eagles' leading receiver over the final five weeks of the season. Ward would also be much, much cheaper than Agholor. This is a no-brainer.
Stay: Howard was the Eagles' lead running back before he was hurt on Nov. 3. He had 525 yards rushing, and with his bruising, straight-ahead style was the perfect complement to rookie Miles Sanders
Go: Sanders established himself as a budding star, and will be the lead back next season. The Eagles also have Boston Scott, who like Ward, proved that he deserves a role next season. There's also Corey Clement coming back from shoulder surgery, although he's eligible for free agency.
Verdict: Howard is eligible for free agency. Whether the Eagles want him back or not, it's hard to see Howard turning down the chance to start for another team for more money.
Stay: For three straight seasons, Vaitai has started multiple games in place of either Peters or right tackle Lane Johnson. He hasn't been great, but he was good enough for the most part when called upon.
Go: The Eagles have enough depth on the offensive line. Matt Pryor played well enough at right guard in place of Brandon Brooks when needed, and Pryor can play tackle. And Jordan Mailata cross-trained at right tackle before spending last season on injured reserve.
Verdict: Vaitai is a free agent, and some team out there will sign him to start. The Eagles won't pay starter money to keep him.
Stay: McCown was already well respected in the Eagles' locker room, both for his experience and his work with Carson Wentz. Then he achieved hero status when he admitted playing the second half of the Eagles' playoff loss to Seattle with a torn hamstring that required surgery.
At 40, McCown was like another coach for Wentz, and he proved that he can still play. That's invaluable.
Go: There is the age, and the surgery, and that McCown would fly home every Friday during the season to help coach his kids' high school football team. The Eagles also have Nate Sudfeld, who was going to be the backup before breaking his wrist in the summer, forcing the signing of McCown.
Verdict: It's been a great run for McCown, who played 17 seasons, and he got a chance to play in a playoff game for the first time in his career. Sudfeld is a free agent also. Still, it's easy to see the Eagles signing another veteran backup QB, maybe even someone like Eli Manning, and bringing back second-year man Kyle Lauletta, who spent last season on the practice squad, as the No. 3.