Doug Pederson Expects Competition at LG for Eagles, Kelce to Be on Team

PHOENIX -- Get ready for the great left guard competition of 2017.

While the Eagles still have all five members of their 2016 starting offensive line on the roster as of Wednesday morning at the league's annual meetings, it seems very possible the starting O-line won't look the same next year.

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At the NFC coaches breakfast at the Biltmore Hotel, Pederson said he still expects center Jason Kelce to be on the roster when the season starts in September. With a few options to replace him, the team has reportedly been trying to trade Kelce, which would help their salary cap situation.

But even if Kelce is the team's starting center in 2017, there's no guarantee that last year's starting left guard, Allen Barbre, will be lining up next to him.

At first, Pederson, when asked about keeping the same starting O-line, said, "You'd hope so," but then talked about the competition for that left guard spot.

"Well, going into OTAs, Isaac (Seumalo) has showed he played on a moment's notice," Pederson said. "He's a guy that we want to get into the mix and Allen (Barbre) is a veteran player that obviously has a wealth of experience, obviously a lot of starts in the National Football League, so there's going to be some good competition going into this season."

And it's not just Seumalo and Barbre in contention to win the starting left guard spot. The team also brought in free agent and former first-round pick Chance Warmack and re-signed Stefen Wisniewski to a multi-year deal. Pederson mentioned both of them by name.

That leaves four players, with 171 combined career starts (Wisniewski 83, Warmack 48, Barbre 36, Seumalo 4), fighting for one starting gig.

"It just creates some of that competition that we're always looking for, trying to find the best five going into the season," Pederson said.

Barbre will be 33 by the time the season starts, Warmack is on a one-year deal, and Seumalo appears to be the center of the future, so any of these three taking backup roles makes sense for now.

The more unique situation is with Wisniewski. The 28-year-old guard/center came to the Eagles on a one-year deal last season and wasn't shy about his desire to become a starter. Then the Eagles signed him to a three-year deal this offseason.

"Again, it's another opportunity for him to compete and compete on our roster," Pederson said. "He had six starts last year and he filled a role that we needed last year. Going into this season, the beauty of having guys like that, whether they're starters, backups, role players, whatever you want to call them, it just gives you depth at the position and gives you competition in training camp. It's a great thing to have veteran players as backups or role players that compete and want to start."

While there will still be question marks at the left guard and even center positions when the Eagles get together for spring workouts, there aren't questions at the other three spots on the offensive line. Jason Peters is the left tackle, Brandon Brooks is the right guard and Lane Johnson is the right tackle.

It seems very possible, however, that this will be Peters' last season, at least with the Eagles. The team asked him to restructure his contract this offseason but eventually decided to keep him at his $11.7 million cap hit. That number would go up even more in 2018, the last year of his contract.

The Eagles already have a solid succession plan already in place. When Peters retires or moves on, Johnson will slide over from right tackle to left and protect Carson Wentz's blind side.

But do the Eagles have a replacement ready for Johnson?

Pederson thinks they might have an answer in Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a fifth-round pick last year, who will enter his second season in 2017. He's just not sure yet.

"It's hard to just say, pin me down and say he's a starter," Pederson said. "I think what he did last year, talk about incremental improvement, that kid improved every week and I think there's a chance. I think there's a chance he could be a dynamic starting tackle in his future. And, again, it's a credit to Jeff Stoutland and Howie (Roseman) and the guys for finding him and looking at him. He was one of the guys watching on tape last year that really stood out a little bit. You saw from the Washington game on, how well he improved. If he continues to do that, I think he could be a starter in this league."

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