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Eagles can create cap space and still keep Jason Peters

Contrary to rumors the Eagles could try to trade Jason Peters, signing the 36-year-old left tackle to a contract extension might make more sense.

The Eagles are well over the projected NFL salary cap for 2018, and Peters’ money looks like an easy target. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection is scheduled to cost more than $10 million next season after suffering a torn ACL in October. Since then, the team went on to win a Super Bowl with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle.

Peters is aging, expensive, recovering from a serious injury, and a young alternative would earn a fraction of his salary — all sound reasons for the Eagles to explore a trade.

“The offense operated well without Peters, and he'd have some value,” an anonymous league executive told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “The kid who filled in is nothing special, but the offensive line as a whole was fine without Peters.”

La Canfora expects the Eagles to be “proactive” in their effort to move Peters.

I’m not so sure. Entering the final year of his contract, Peters and the Eagles agreed to a new contract last June — a deal fueled in part by Peters’ desire for financial security beyond the 2017 season. Though the pact does not explicitly prohibit a trade, it certainly disincentivizes the Eagles from going down that route.

According to estimates, trading Peters creates only $4.3 million in cap savings for 2018. The Eagles would be on the hook for another $6.3 million, for a player who will no longer be on the roster.

At that point, why not just pay him?

Peters is still the best left tackle on the team. He was well on his way to another Pro Bowl before injury struck. He’s probably the most respected player in the locker room. As long as the stated goal is to repeat as world champions, this is somebody the Eagles should want around.

If money is the motivating factor, extending Peters may prove more helpful. The Eagles can pick up his team option for 2019, perhaps even add a year in 2020, and structure a new contract similar to the deal reached last summer, pushing bonus money into future years to lower his cap hit in '18.

Obviously, there is risk involved. Restructuring kicks the can down the road, so the Eagles will have to deal with the financial consequences next offseason rather than now. 

There aren’t many better options, either. Peters reportedly declined to take a pay cut last offseason — he’s not just going to give the money back. And while the Eagles could recoup some draft picks in a swap, it would come at the expense of their O-line depth, with minimal financial benefit.

Peters was dominant last season. He’s bounced back after major surgery before, returning to form after a torn Achilles in 2012. In fact, every time there’s been concern about Peters’ ability or future, he seems to respond better than ever.

Maybe it’s about time we have some faith in an eventual Hall of Famer and quit trying to ship him out of town.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Lane Johnson
Age: 28
2018 cap hit: $12.484 million

How good was Johnson last season? Just look at the names of pass rushers he silenced over the course of the year. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson surrendered three sacks all season while blocking the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Olivier Vernon, Ryan Kerrigan, Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Chandler Jones, to name a handful.

Jason Peters
Age: 36
2018 cap hit: $10.666 million

News flash: Peters isn’t even the highest-paid tackle on his own team anymore. In fact, his cap hit is third among Eagles O-linemen, behind Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks. Peters currently ranks 13th among all NFL left tackles, as well, so his contract is hardly some out-of-control cost.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Age: 25
2018 cap hit: $686,000

Is Vaitai the left tackle of the future? Maybe. Analytics haven’t been very kind to 'Big V,' but whether filling in for Peters or Johnson over the past two seasons, he got the job done. Fortunately for the Eagles, Vaitai isn’t a free agent for another two years, so there’s no need to rush to conclusions.

Will Beatty
Age: 33
Free agent

Signed as an insurance policy after the injury to Peters, Beatty’s only action came in the Eagles’ meaningless Week 17 clash against the Cowboys. The club will no doubt look to the draft and continue developing Taylor Hart — re-signed to a futures contract last week — for tackle depth in 2018.