Will Birds bring back Peters and Kelce?

Eagles center Jason Kelce and quarterback Nick Foles. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles center Jason Kelce and quarterback Nick Foles. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 14, 2013

Jason Peters says there is no pain in his right Achilles tendon - no soreness, no twinge of discomfort when he digs his foot into the dirt, nothing.

He tore it twice in less than two months last year, missed the entire 2012 season, and after two surgeries, after losing 25 pounds to shave his weight to 320 and ease the strain on the tendon, with the help of a daily stretching routine and with his 32d birthday approaching next month, he is again starting for the Eagles at left tackle, is again among the NFL's best at his position, and he feels as if he'd never been injured at all.

"The way I feel right now," he said, "I've got at least five in me - five years, five good years."

Peters already has spent 10 years in the league, making five Pro Bowls over that span. But the confidence with which he asserted that he has another half-decade of excellence ahead of him highlights two interesting player-personnel decisions that the Eagles will soon have to make.

That the Eagles are a better offensive team this season than they were last is without dispute. Points, rushing yards, gross passing yards, total offense, turnovers - they've improved in all of those categories. And while much of that progress can be rightly attributed to Chip Kelly's presence, the play of Peters and center Jason Kelce, who missed 14 games in 2012 after tearing his right ACL and MCL, have also been vital factors.

The offensive line - Peters, Todd Herremans, Kelce, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson - has remained intact, and "any time you can have the same five guys for every single game," Kelce said, "that kind of continuity certainly helps."

With Herremans, Mathis, and Johnson all signed through the 2016 season, the Eagles can maintain that continuity for a while - which is where the happy problem emerges. Peters' and Kelce's contracts expire after next season, and before long, the Eagles will have to decide whether to re-sign each of them. (If it seems premature to consider this question, remember that a team in pursuit of sustained success has to keep the long view in mind at all times.)

Because he is 26 and has suffered the less-debilitating injury, Kelce is the easier call. Per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, he must wait until he finishes this, the third season of his rookie contract, to renegotiate. He is scheduled to earn $1.2 million in base salary over 2013 and 2014, according to NFL Players Association records.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman did not respond to a request, made through a team spokesman, for comment on Kelce and Peters. But a source with knowledge of the situation said that if Kelce continues to play well, the assumption is that the Eagles will offer him a long-term deal during the offseason.

That would be just fine with Kelce. He grew up in Cleveland as a devoted fan of the Indians, admiring Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., and the franchise's terrific teams of the late 1990s, and he understands and appreciates the mutual loyalty that can develop between an athlete and a particular region's people.

"Whenever a guy leaves, as a kid, at least for me, I hated it," he said. "They were my heroes, these guys I looked up to who were playing professional sports. When they left, it kind of felt they weren't part of the city, weren't really invested like I thought they were. So it's always been a goal of mine to really stick in one spot. Obviously that's not entirely up to me, and there are so many different factors. But I'd love to stay in Philadelphia."

So would Peters, though his age, his injury history, and the money he would command make him realistic about his future with the Eagles. He signed a six-year deal in 2009 that pays him $10.4 million in base salary this season and would pay him another $9.65 million in 2014.

"If they want to keep me, I'll retire here," he said. "If not, I'll move on. It's a job. It's a business. I understand that."

In his mind, he still has those five good years ahead of him - and maybe more, if the Eagles' newfound sports-science regimen works as promised. "I feel as strong as I've ever felt," he said, and the time will come soon enough when the Eagles' power people will weigh whether to put Jason Peters' supreme self-belief to the test.


msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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