It was only a year ago Jason Kelce was on the trade block. Now the city of Philadelphia is prepared to anoint Kelce Eagles center for life.
And the Eagles may just follow through with that suggestion — or at least a new contract that ensures Kelce will have an opportunity to finish his career in Philly.
Kelce didn’t just endear himself to fans with his impassioned speech at the Eagles’ victory parade. He graded out as the top center in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and was named the league’s best offensive lineman, period, by Football Outsiders. Analytics aside, Kelce also took home first-team All-Pro honors despite being snubbed for the Pro Bowl.
That’s OK. Kelce was too busy winning the Super Bowl to show up anyway.
As it turns out, Kelce’s acclaimed season was well-timed for reasons beyond aiding an Eagles championship run. He happens to be well positioned for upcoming contract negotiations.
Take your warm and fuzzies out of the equation for a moment. Kelce has three seasons remaining on his current deal with the Eagles, but 2018 is the final year to include guaranteed money. Usually, a player with any semblance of leverage can get an extension out of a similar situation, or at least restructure to provide financial security.
Kelce is also set to account for $7.2 million on the salary cap, ninth-most among NFL centers currently under contract. The case can be made he’s the very best center and one of the best O-linemen in the entire league, and he deserves a raise.
It stands to reason the Eagles should sign Kelce to a new deal on merit. Doing so could benefit the club for the short-term future as well. The Eagles are over the current projected cap for '18, but an extension or raise for Kelce would almost certainly be structured in such a to lower his number for next season.
Theoretically, Kelce can agree to restructure his deal strictly for the security, without adding years or money. But at age 30, coming off probably the best season of his career and his popularity having reached new heights, this may be his best shot to score one last long-term contract.
Given everything Kelce means to this franchise — now more than ever — and that a deal might be mutually advantageous, the Eagles could be happy to oblige.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018
2018 cap hit: $11.136M
Currently the second-most-expensive guard under contract for 2018 and worth every penny. Brooks graded out third at his position last season, earning his first Pro Bowl invitation in the process. Low key, one of the best free-agent signings by the Eagles in recent years.
2018 cap hit: $7.2M
Kelce has been through highs and lows, but in the right situation, he’s a unique weapon. There truly isn’t a more agile center in the league, and Doug Pederson knows how to make the most of his ability. Kelce is smart, he’s tough and he’s right in the midst of his prime.
2018 cap hit: $2.958M
What a steal Wisniewski turned out to be. It’s hard to imagine why this guy was sitting around waiting for the phone to ring three weeks into free agency when the Eagles finally called in 2016. Now he’s the starting left guard for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
2018 cap hit: $1.984M
Initially, Warmack looked like a disappointment, ultimately losing the starting left guard job to Wisniewski. Warmack performed more capably in relief and spot starts later, offering some hope for his future. The Eagles could reopen the competition in 2018, the final year of his contract.
2018 cap hit: $854k
Almost an afterthought now, Seumalo began the season at left guard unopposed, then tumbled to the bottom of the depth chart two weeks in. The Eagles aren’t giving up on the 2016 third-round pick, but he has two years remaining on his contract and a lot of catching up ahead.