There was a time when big-money contract extensions for 32-year-old players just weren't how the Eagles rolled.
But times change, front offices change, exceptions arise. If Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had any reservations about guaranteeing Jason Peters $19.55 million in a five-year, $51.3 million contract announced Wednesday, Roseman did a very good job of hiding them.
"He's got a chance to be a Hall-of-Fame-type player in an Eagles uniform. For us to get that kind of player, and have him end his career here, still playing at an extremely high level ... Just knowing that he continued to get better in this offense, in this scheme, with his work ethic and his determination, he's a guy that really can defy all the odds that you look at going forward," Roseman said after the deal was announced. It replaces Peters' previous contract, which had one year and $10 million remaining. ESPN's Adam Caplan said the Eagles will gain about $2 million in cap room this season.
"He's a unique player. when you talk about the physical gifts that he has, there's not many men on this earth who are as physically talented as he is ... This is a core player to us, it's an important statement to our football team and our players about what we're going to be about," Roseman said. "It negates a lot of commonly held facts about us, that you hit a certain age and we're not going to keep you, that if you get paid a certain amount, we're not willing to pay that to keep you."
Peters, a six-time Pro Bowl left tackle, isn't a media star, isn't glib. He started his career in Buffalo, as an undrafted tight end (who got a $5,000 signing bonus, Peters recalled Wednesday). Made his first two Pro Bowls for the Bills. Sometimes it's possible to overlook what he means to the organization, as the first four-time Pro Bowl Eagles offensive lineman in franchise history, who has a chance to make at least a few more.
One obstacle Vincent Taylor, Peters' agent, faced when he first sat down to talk to Roseman last offseason about a contract extension was the lack of comparable deals.
"That was one of the biggest hurdles, getting over," Taylor said. "Howie will tell you. Had nothing to work off of. Talked to the NFLPA today, they said that's the highest guarantee for any o-lineman at 32 years old or above. We just had to look at it almost like the pink elephant - what is it worth to you? It may not be worth much to the next person, but what is it worth to you? And they felt like, 'Hey, that's what he's worth to us,' and we settled."
Peters returned to Pro Bowl form in 2013 after having his right Achilles' tendon repaired twice in the spring of 2012. Realistically, the Eagles aren't tied to Peters with significant guarantees after 2015, but they certainly expect him to be their starting left tackle at least that long, and now they don't have to worry about him becoming a free agent after next season.
"He's a generational player," Taylor said. "Once every 20 years, you get a guy that size, with that athleticism, that football IQ, and that kind of work ethic."
From Peters' perspective, the extension removes any uncertainty after this season, and puts a big chunk of money in his pocket right away. That's important to a man whose career flashed before his eyes two years ago, when he ripped the Achilles', had surgery, then ripped it again when he fell off the Roll-A-Bout scooter device he was using while recovering.
Roseman recalled he was driving back from the 2012 NFL owners' meetings in Florida with his wife and their then-three young children when he got a phone call from an Eagles athletic trainer. Roseman knew this would not be good news.
"I picked up the phone and I said, 'What's wrong?' When he told me, my heart sank," Roseman said. "When you lose a player like that, the ramifications just along your offensive line, and the things you need to do to recover, are extremely hard."
Roseman said looking at the projected 2015 roster without Peters, he couldn't say "those thoughts don't come across" of how the rudderless o-line looked during a 4-12 2012 nightmare.
Taylor related what Peters told him about doing a new deal.
"He said, 'Vince, I just want peace of mind. 'Cause you know, I don't know any other gear other than 100 percent. I just want to know, if something happens, me giving it all I got to the Eagles, that I'm OK.' "
Now, "we're married. Can't leave this house without each other," Taylor said.
Peters said it would mean a lot to him to be able to retire as an Eagle - something few Birds stars of the past few decades have been able to do. Assistant offensive-line coach Tra Thomas, who made three Pro Bowls as Peters' predecessor, finished up as a Jacksonville Jaguar. On the other side, Jon Runyan finished as a San Diego Charger. It's hard to recall a big Eagles star who retired as an Eagle since Mike Quick a quarter of a century ago.
"I love Philly and I love the organization," said Peters, who said he wanted to thank former coach Andy Reid "for getting me out of Buffalo."
Peters talked of having "a whole lot of weight off my shoulders, just knowing that I'm going to be here, be in Philly ... I'm ready to go to battle for Chip (Kelly). I'm with him for the next five years."
Peters has definitely embraced the Kelly regime's conditioning emphasis, losing 30 pounds off his 6-4 frame, getting down under 320 last season. He suffered a finger injury early, which came to light after Peters had a rough night against Kansas City's Tamba Hali in Week 3. Peters minimized the injury's effect at the time, but Taylor said Wednesday the bone in the finger actually was broken and displaced. Peters played the rest of the year with three fingers taped together for support.
"He had to change the way he blocked, the way he set," Taylor said.
The Eagles gave no reason when Peters elected to skip the Pro Bowl. Taylor said it was because he had just undergone surgery to put the bone back together.
Taped fingers and all, Peters led a resurgent offensive line that powered LeSean McCoy to the NFL rushing title and the all-time franchise single-season mark with 1,607 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz tweeted Wednesday that a new contract for Peters was the best possible birthday present for quarterback Nick Foles, who turned 25 on Jan. 20.
"There aren't many people cut from the same cloth as Jason Peters," Kelly said in a statement released by the team. Kelly lauded Peters' comeback and said, "Having him at left tackle provides a lot of comfort to our quarterback and our entire offense."
The new deal means that Lane Johnson, drafted fourth overall a year ago, stays put at right tackle for the foreseeable future, though Peters said Wednesday he expects Johnson to replace him when he's done. The upcoming draft is said to be especially deep at offensive tackle. What happens if the Eagles' 22nd overall selection in the first round arrives and the best player on their board, far and away, is an offensive tackle?
"We're going to take him," Roseman said. "We want five really good starters."
Toward that end, Roseman indicated an extension could be coming soon for center Jason Kelce, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
SOURCE: DEALS NEAR FOR MACLIN, COOPER
A source close to the situation said the Eagles are making progress in talks toward a deal with pending free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
The team is expected to retain both Maclin and fellow pending free-agent WR Riley Cooper. The moves could be announced at the same time.