The start of Dorial Green-Beckham’s Eagles career meant the end of Dennis Kelly’s Eagles career.
And while a late-round offensive lineman like Kelly may not move the meter very much among Eagles fans -- not like a potential big-play wide receiver like Green-Beckham -- Jason Kelce said Kelly is a significant loss to the Eagles’ offensive line.
“I really think Dennis was very underrated,” Kelce said Tuesday. “He’s a big, strong, tough guy, and every time he played, he did a very good job for us, at a variety of positions.
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"He’s a very smart player, and I think his athleticism was definitely underrated.”
The Eagles on Tuesday shipped Kelly, a fifth-year offensive lineman, to the Titans in exchange for Beckham, a second-year wide receiver who was the 40th player taken in last year’s draft.
Kelly, 26, started 15 games in his Eagles career, including 10 as both a guard and tackle as a rookie. He can play either guard or tackle and, in his four NFL seasons, had started four games at right guard, two at left guard and nine at right tackle.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Kelce said. “On the one hand, I’m bummed, because he’s a great guy and a good player, and I’ll miss him. On the other hand, I’m happy because now he’ll get an opportunity to start.”
Kelly was originally a fifth-round pick out of Purdue in the 2012 draft. He was one of only nine remaining Eagles who had played under Andy Reid. Now there are eight.
With Tennessee, his position coach is legendary Russ Grimm, the former Redskin who’s now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I like his versatility,’’ Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Kelly. “He has really good size, he’s versatile, he's played a lot of positions. He embodies the traits we look for in an offensive lineman – smart, tough, and dependable.'
Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was in his first stint as general manager when the Eagles drafted Kelly in 2012.
“Since we drafted him, model citizen, really has stepped in in tough situations, has had a really good camp,” Roseman said. “It was really hard to part with him personally and professionally.
“They were looking for a tackle. We weren’t looking to move Dennis, but because of the depth that they had at that position it was kind of a win-win situation for both of us.”
Roseman said the emergence of rookie offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo, a third-round pick, and Halapoulivaati Vatai, a fifth-round pick helped make the departure of Kelly easier.
Seumalo is currently running with the first team at left guard, and Roseman said the Eagles are high on Vatai at tackle.
“We’re really excited about the development about some of our young offensive linemen to mix with the veterans,” he said.
“I know this time of year you take a lot out of one preseason game because that’s the time of the year we’re at, but we’ve gotten a chance to these guys every day, and we think that we’ve got some talented guys there.”
“Offensive line is a continuity group, and the more time they can stay together and play together the better chance they have to succeed.”
With Kelly gone and Lane Johnson likely facing a 10-game suspension, Vaitai, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner are the backup right tackles. Roseman said Vaitai, the TCU product, has had an impressive preseason.
“We think he’s incredibly talented, and it’s a great opportunity for him and it’s a also great opportunity for those other guys on the roster,” he said.
“Andrew Gardner’s played that position before. We have some young offensive linemen that we’ve seen and we think they have a chance.
“Someone’s got to step up. There’s no question about it. Matt Tobin’s done a really good job.
“We believe in the offensive line. This was a hard trigger to pull because of that reason. But we also felt that because of where we are from a pick standpoint going forward that we have to take some chances to increase the talent level.”