Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
3. Jason Kelce
It seems very possible — even likely? — that Jason Kelce is entering his final NFL season in 2021.
And the Eagles need it to be a good one if they have any chance of succeeding.
In any season, the perennial All-Pro/Pro Bowl center is going to be an important member of the team, but he’s especially important in a season where the Eagles are starting a new era with a new head coach and a second-year quarterback who is very inexperienced at the NFL level.
Kelce, who will turn 34 during the 2021 season, is coming to the end of his impressive pro career but is still playing at a very high level. He made it to his fourth Pro Bowl last season but didn’t get to his fourth consecutive All-Pro team. Still, he was a steady force for the Eagles during what was ultimately a miserable season.
The Eagles won just four games last season and it’s tough to think about just how awful they would have been without Kelce, the only member of the offense to start all 16 games. On an offensive line that went through 13 offensive line combinations last season, Kelce missed a total of four snaps. He hasn’t missed a game since 2014, when Jalen Hurts was still in high school.
The one knock on Kelce from last season was that he had a few poor snaps. He’ll own that. And even though he simply wouldn’t accept the excuses, Kelce was almost single-handedly trying to keep the offense together last season … so you can understand if his focus wavered for brief moments.
The entire offense was a train wreck in 2020 and while it’s true that Kelce didn’t have his best season, he still played really well. He always plays really well. Just look back at his PFF rank among centers:
2012: (Played just two games)
There seemed to be a decent chance that Kelce would hang ‘em up after that awful 2020 season, but instead he’s coming back. And he explained why in a way only Kelce could.
“But the bottom line is I still want to play,” Kelce said on WIP this offseason. “I still love coming to work and I still love coming to work into an environment where everybody is trying to be the best they can be and I’m in an environment with the best people at what they do in the world. I don’t know how I’m going to get that (after I retire), and that’s the biggest thing.”
The Eagles have plenty of qualified leaders in their locker room but none who should be more revered than Kelce, even if the word “revered” might make him uncomfortable. He’s someone the younger players should and will follow into a new era of Eagles football. Even if this is his last season.
Based on the way Kelce’s contract is currently structured, it seems pretty clear this will be his final season in Philadelphia barring some sort of renegotiation. And the Eagles did just draft Landon Dickerson in the second round with the No. 37 pick. So whether Dickerson or Isaac Seumalo is the future center, the Eagles appear to have their Kelce exit strategy. That’s important. Because Kelce can’t play forever.
Still, the Eagles aren’t ready for their future center to take over yet in 2021. And having Kelce out there for the 2021 season will be vitally important for their success.
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