Eagles well-positioned to handle loss of Jason Peters

ruptured his Achilles tendon. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
ruptured his Achilles tendon. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer (Offensive tackle Jason Peters)
Posted: April 01, 2012

Suddenly, the Eagles have a fire burning on their front lawn.

It had been a smooth and serene offseason for the team, the to-do list meticulously crossed off one by one until all that seemed left to do was kick back, watch some game film, and try to bolster a solid roster in the draft.

Then came Friday's news that Jason Peters, their Pro Bowl left tackle, one of the Eagles' two best players in 2011 along with LeSean McCoy, had ruptured his Achilles tendon, probably ending his season.

There's no quick answer to this problem. Peters might be the best there is at one of the most valuable positions in football. He single-handedly stuffed No. 1 pass rushers and cleared out defenders in the open spaces where McCoy is most dangerous. No one will simply replace Peters, but the Eagles have to find a way to minimize the drop-off.

Through careful planning, they have given themselves resources to try to cope. They have ample cap space - more than $10 million, though the exact amount depends on whom you ask. They have three of the first 51 picks in April's draft and they have an extra Pro Bowl cornerback, Asante Samuel, whom they can deal.

This is the result of a sound, businesslike approach by Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, and Joe Banner, though this strength is often mocked.

The Eagles brass are regularly derided as numbers crunchers who treat a visceral game like an accounting exam. Even Samuel jabbed Roseman and Banner for playing "fantasy football." It's like making fun of the kid who loves algebra.

In some ways, the Eagles bring it on themselves. They can be sensitive and defensive and a bit too proud.

Their executives and owner don't fill out their suits with broad shoulders or have weathered exteriors or talk in colorful football-isms. Instead the Eagles project all the style and warmth of an IRS auditor, and in truth it's good fun to beat them over their heads with the "Gold Standard" label when they get too clever for their own good.

But usually the Eagles' judicious methods help add talent on the field, as this offseason has reminded us. When DeMeco Ryans was available, they had the cap space and surplus draft picks to get him. When DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis reached the end of their contracts, the Eagles had the money to keep them. They had enough flexibility to extend Trent Cole and Todd Herremans, whose new deal suddenly looks that much more important.

Smart cap-management alone isn't enough to win big, though it helps. A championship also requires the right players, talent evaluation, and coaching. The Eagles aren't the only prudent ones, and they're hardly perfect.

Like any team, they sometimes sign or draft the wrong guy. Their recent picks on defense have been particularly questionable. These are errors of judgment, and real problems, but not a result of negligence or stupidity.

That seems like a low bar for praise, but look around the NFL - plenty of teams fall short.

The Texans are so tight against the cap they had to give away Ryans and let two-time Pro Bowler Mario Williams walk for nothing after drafting and grooming him.

The Dolphins can't get anyone to take their money, not Jeff Fisher, not Peyton Manning, not even Matt Flynn.

The Saints have a great team but lacked the adult supervision to know that if you're warned to stop doing something, you better stop or face severe consequences. Now their 2012 season begins under a cloud. And they still haven't re-signed Drew Brees, who is only the most important player in franchise history.

Then there are the Jets, who not only invited more chaos into their locker room but spit up on themselves in front of the entire league because they reportedly didn't read all the details in Tim Tebow's contract. Even in your wildest imagination, can you imagine the Eagles blowing a deal because they missed the fine print?

We've instead seen the team's foresight help them get off to a fine start this offseason. But while shrewd management is important when drawing up a plan, it might be even more critical when facing the unexpected.

Peters' injury is exactly the reason why teams need flexibility and resources in reserve. Now it's time to use those assets.

For the Eagles brain trust, the heavy lifting starts now.


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.

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