Eagles analysis

After retirement announcement, how will Eagles replace Jason Kelce?

Jason Kelce retired on Monday and now the Eagles have to replace a legend who was still playing at an All-Pro level.

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The day has finally come to replace Jason Kelce and it won’t be easy.

The legendary center announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday after 13 seasons and a Hall-of-Fame career. And as Kelce moves to the next phase of his life, the Eagles have the unenviable task of replacing the All-Pro center.

That will probably start with Cam Jurgens.

The Eagles used their second-round pick (No. 51 overall) on Jurgens in the 2022 draft. Coming out of Nebraska, Jurgens was considered to be one of the best centers in that class and had some of the athletic tools we’ve seen in Kelce for years.

Heck, Kelce was even involved in scouting Jurgens, even though he downplayed his involvement in that process.

“I think a big part of them asking my opinion is really just them saying, ‘hey, we’re going to draft your replacement here. Are you OK with this?’ I think that’s … let’s all be honest here,” Kelce said in May of 2022. “I love looking at young guys, I love looking at guys on our team. The whole mentality of self improvement and reaching their potential. That’s something that I certainly love being a part of. I’ve loved my own journey of that and I’d love to help other guys reach their potential.”

In his rookie season in 2022, Jurgens barely played. And last season, he took over at right guard after Isaac Seumalo left in free agency. Jurgens dealt with injuries but still started 11 games at right guard. There were definitely some ups and downs. Jurgens graded out as the 31st best guard in the NFL out of 79, according to PFF.

But you can also point to the fact that Jurgens was playing out of position. Center is his natural spot and it’s the spot the Eagles drafted him to play.

“I’m pretty excited about the kid,” Kelce said about Jurgens in 2022. “I liked him a lot. I like his tools. I like his mentality. Probably overstated a little bit, my involvement in that selection. I’d like to probably step that back a little bit. I think I’ve looked at a few guys the last couple years when they’ve asked my opinion. But he’s here obviously because Jeff Stoutland, Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni, all these people really watched that tape and believe in him. 

“I think although he does have a lot of similar traits to me, he’s going to be his own player. I’m looking forward to helping out any way I can with these young guys, particularly Cam.”

Here’s what we definitely know about the Eagles’ offensive line in 2024:

LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
RT: Lane Johnson

Johnson will turn 34 in May but he’s not ready to hang ‘em up just yet. That’s good news because he’s still one of the best right tackles in the NFL.

“I’m excited about where this team’s going to be at next year,” Johnson said after the playoff loss in Tampa. “And I plan on finishing my career strong. I think I have a few good years left and I’m going to take it to the limit.”

Mailata, 26, played at a high level in 2023 and is under contract through the 2025 season on a four-year, $64 million extension he signed before the 2021 season began. 

And Dickerson, 25, is entering a contract season as a second-round pick in 2021. He is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and is finally eligible for a contract extension this offseason; the Eagles should make that a priority. Even though Dickerson has the ability to play center — we saw a glimpse of it this season — he’s a Pro Bowl guard so it probably doesn’t make sense to move him, especially because of how well he and Mailata play together.

If Jurgens moves to center, the top internal candidate to replace him at right guard is Tyler Steen. The 2023 third-round pick played sparingly as a rookie but Sua Opeta, who started most of the games when Jurgens was injured, is a pending free agent. Although, it’s possible Opeta could re-sign with the Eagles. It's also worth noting that backup T/G Jack Driscoll is also a pending free agent.

If the Eagles had to play a game today, this would likely be their OL:

LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Cam Jurgens
RG: Tyler Steen
RT: Lane Johnson

But they don’t have to play a game until September. Free agency begins next week and the draft takes place late next month. The Eagles have plenty of cap space and are projected to have eight draft picks in 2024, including three in the top two rounds.

The Eagles have drafted an offensive lineman in each of their last six drafts so it seems very likely they’ll replenish this April too. There’s a thought that the Eagles could use one of those high draft picks on an eventual replacement for Johnson. If that happens, that player might be versatile enough to play some guard and potentially challenge Steen for a job.

Even without Kelce, the cupboard isn’t bare on the offensive line and veteran OL coach Jeff Stoutland was retained again. It won’t be easy to move on from Kelce but the Eagles have been preparing for this moment for years.

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