Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce has been a pleasant surprise since being drafted in 2011. A somewhat undersized center and a late round selection, Kelce quickly impressed coaches and wound up becoming the starter in his rookie year. His sophomore season in 2012 was wiped out due to injury, but he rebounded well in 2013 as a key cog on Philadelphia’s solid offensive line.
Center’s aren’t dime-a-dozen players. For a unit like the offensive line that relies heavily on continuity, it’s hard to just plug someone in to play. If the Eagles view Kelce as part of their future (and all signs point to that being the case), they should sign him to a contract extension in the coming months.
Worrying about money beyond 2014 shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Eagles, as they could see a solid chunk of money free up next year — specifically on the offensive line. Jason Peters is slated to hit free agency, and Todd Herremans is a declining talent. I think the Eagles will bring back Peters, but they’ll likely do it at a cheaper price than the $9.65 million he’s scheduled to make in 2014. Herremans could prove to be expendable with a poor season in 2014, and his $5.2 million cap hit could come off the books if the Eagles decide to go another route.
Evan Mathis and Lane Johnson are both years away from new deals, so their situations aren’t immediate issues.
Signing Kelce to an extension now could help save the franchise some money down the road. The Eagles could take a gamble and wait until his contract runs out, but few extra million dollars in Kelce’s pocket right now might give the Eagles the ability to slightly underpay for his services. That’s sometimes how these things works — the longer the wait, the higher the price.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kelce was rated as the best center in the NFL this year. The Panthers’ Ryan Kalil is the league’s highest paid center at just over $8 million per season, but Kelce hasn’t earned that kind of coin just yet. The Eagles likely value him in the range $4-$5 million per year. That’s a big jump from the $645,000 he’s due next year.
The new CBA prohibits teams from talking contract extensions with younger players until after year three of their rookie deals. Kelce, a member of the Eagles’ 2011 draft class, is the only player from the group to have made any real significant impact. For the most part, he’s the only player on the team still under contract who could see a significant pay increase right now.
Along with Kelce and Peters, Bradley Fletcher is the only other key contributor who is scheduled to hit the open market in 2015. If all goes well, the Eagles could extend guys like Nick Foles, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin at that time, but they wouldn’t be in danger of losing them if they didn’t.
The Eagles have close to $20 million in cap space right now, and could see that number increase depending on roster cuts. They should do something with Kelce while the money is there, and maybe consider giving him an extra bump in salary for 2014 before thinning it out a bit in the coming years.