It is probably time to break up the Eagles band
Brandon and Jason and Zach.
If you didn’t know better, you’d have the makings of a decent early 90s boy band. Sadly, the days of boy bands are long gone. So too, are the days when the Eagles competed for playoff glory or Super Bowls.
Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce and Zach Ertz will go down as the defining players of this Eagles generation. Each of the three, for different reasons, may well have played their final game in Midnight Green.
Graham was the first to come to Philly. A first-round pick in 2010, the 13th pick overall, the Michigan defensive end didn’t have the start his draft status anticipated. Still, through perseverance and unflagging optimism, he built himself into one of the team’s most consistent players.
He’ll always be remembered for the only Eagles sack of Super Bowl LII, stripping Tom Brady late in the fourth quarter to all but seal the only Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Graham’s tenure as the longest-serving Eagles player is at the mercy of an over-extended salary cap and an aging body that has played 11 NFL seasons, including 79 starts in 80 games. He sat out the final game before the playoffs in that Super Bowl season.
The Eagles could decide they just don’t need him anymore at any price. Graham could decide his time is up. If, somehow, they can work something out, it will have to come at a discount price. A discount for a 12-year vet returning after earning his first Pro Bowl selection.
Kelce was a sixth-round pick in 2011. His intelligence and athleticism made him a surprising but immediate starter at center for the team. This year illustrated just how valuable and remarkable his career has been. The Eagles used 14 different starting offensive lines in 16 games this year. Kelce was the only offensive player to start every game. He was joined by Graham as the only other 16-game starter.
How good and consistent has Kelce been? He’s started all 16 games eight times in 10 years. He has played 1,000 snaps in a season seven different times, including three seasons when he played every offensive snap.
"Kelce is such a competitor," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "He's like all the guys who want to win and do everything in their power when they're out there playing.He's a great leader."
The next player to start at center for the Eagles will be the first to start a game there other than Kelce since 2015. That day can come anytime. Kelce has spoken about retiring after each of the last three seasons. How the three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro-Bowler feels after this lost season is anyone’s guess.
By all rights, Kelce should be able to dictate how and when his career comes to an end. That’s not always how things work out.
Ertz is the newcomer to this boy band. A 2013 second-round pick, Ertz became one of the league’s top tight ends. Ertz set a league record with 116 catches in 2018. This year, after missing a chunk of games to injury, Ertz had 33 catches for 335 yards and a single touchdown.
Long after most of his teammates had slogged off to the locker room Sunday night, Ertz remained on the bench alone, lost in thought.
"It's tough on the veteran guys," Pederson said. "I know exactly how they feel. I've been there. They give everything to the organization, to their teammates. In Zach's case, this was not the season he had hoped for either ...
"It's hard, when its the last game of this season. You just want to take it all in and soak up the emotion. You think about the immediate future and your plans as an individual player."
It’s very possible, Ertz was on that sideline for the final time in his career. Remember, it was Ertz who caught the game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Patriots in Minneapolis, three seasons ago.
Remember, too, that Ertz publicly aired his contract extension concerns during the season. With the younger, bigger, less expensive Dallas Goedert already under contract, Ertz may have overplayed his hand.
For different reasons, any or all three huge reminders of past glory, Super Bowl glory, could very well have played their last games as Eagles.
Graham and Kelce and Ertz. Could they really be breaking up the band?
Contact Tom Rimback at email@example.com. Follow on twitter @RimbackBCT