The natural initial reaction was, "Huh?"
Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters is 32 years old and one year removed from an Achilles rupture that was thought at the time to be career-threatening. And yet, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he was being signed for five more years at a rate of over $10 million per season, with nearly $20 million guaranteed.
But dig a tiny bit deeper, and it all makes sense.
As Andrew Brandt of ESPN and TheMMQB.com points out, nearly half of that guaranteed money was going to be handed to Peters during the final year of his previous contract anyway.
That means he'll only be guaranteed $9.5 million beyond this upcoming season, which is less than his average annual salary anyway. If the Eagles want, they can pay him approximately $20 million for two years of service and release him at no cost at the age of 34 after the 2015 campaign.
What this essentially does is give the two sides one extra year so that Peters won't have a chance to jump ship as a free agent next offseason. Beyond that, the team can steer the ship, either rolling forward with their stud at left tackle or cutting bait in order to move 2013 No. 4 overall pick Lane Johnson into that role.
This shouldn't change the fact that Johnson is supposed to be the left tackle of the future, ideally protecting Nick Foles' blind side as part of an offensive line that continues to be one of the best in the game. He entered the league raw then improved immensely during his rookie campaign, but there's no reason to rush that transition. If he takes over in three years, he'll still only be 27 years old.
This naturally gives the Eagles less room to breathe next offseason, but they've been so damn smart with giving long-term deals to the right players that there really isn't anything to fear. The only key players the Eagles have to worry about attempting to re-sign right now are wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
And the only remotely important players slated to hit free agency next year are center Jason Kelce and cornerback Bradley Fletcher, according to Spotrac. Defensive lineman Cedric Thornton is also a restricted free agent this year who could become a UFA in 2015, but that's it.
That's because general manager Howie Roseman has taken care of his key cogs well in advance, rarely missing on who deserves long-term money and who doesn't. That's why DeSean Jackson, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans are signed through 2016, and LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole are signed through 2017. Peters and Connor Barwin are now under contract through 2018. DeMeco Ryans and Cary Williams are taken care of through 2015.
|Eagles: Key free agents the next three years|
|2014||Riley Cooper||Jeremy Maclin||Michael Vick||Donnie Jones|
|2015||Jason Kelce||Bradley Fletcher||Cedric Thornton||Jason Avant|
|2016||DeMeco Ryans||Cary Williams||Fletcher Cox||Nick Foles|
As a result, this extension for Peters is very unlikely to impact the Eagles in a negative way financially. And it could be a game-changer on the field.
We all saw what happened to that offensive line when Peters was out with a twice-ruptured Achilles in 2012. The line was one of only four in football to give up more than 200 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Michael Vick was constantly running for his life, and holes were no longer there for McCoy, who averaged only 4.2 yards per carry.
In 2011, Peters surrendered just three sacks in 14 games, earning the highest PFF grade at that position. And in 2013, he was responsible for just four sacks in 16 matchups, finishing as PFF's fourth highest-rated tackle.
He was a first-team All-Pro in both of those seasons, and so was McCoy. No coincidence there.
|LeSean McCoy since 2011|
|With Jason Peters||Without Jason Peters|
|Pro Football Reference|
"Jason is everything you look for in a left tackle," Roseman said in a statement, per Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "The unique blend of size, speed and athleticism that Jason possesses is something that everyone wants in an offensive lineman."
Peters is also a top-notch run-blocker, which is so critical to what head coach Chip Kelly does with that offense. He's an all-around beast who, right now, is irreplaceable. The Eagles are making a smart gamble that he'll remain irreplaceable for at least two more years.
And in the wild event that he continues to dominate into his mid- or late-thirties, the team will continue to have the option to keep him around at a rate that is more than reasonable in comparison to the market for franchise-caliber left tackles.
|Highest paid left tackles (average salaries)|
|Left tackle||Average salary||2013 PFF grade|
|1. Joe Thomas||$11.5 M||35.2|
|2. Ryan Clady||$10.5 M||26.9|
|3. Jason Peters||$10.3 M||30.0|
|4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson||$10.0 M||0.1|
|5. Trent Williams||$10.0 M||38.3|
|6. Andrew Whitworth||$9.8 M||20.2|
|7. Duane Brown||$8.9 M||14.6|
|8. Jake Long||$8.5 M||25.8|
|Spotrac (* Clady grade from 2012)|
Peters might be a future Hall of Famer, and he's still on top of his game, so it's impossible to argue that this wasn't another brilliant move from Roseman and the Philly front office.