Since the Eagles traded for him in 2009, Jason Peters has become their longest-tenured player, one of the greatest players in franchise history and a likely future Hall of Famer.
It all started with a simple conversation back in 2004.
Back then, Peters was an undrafted rookie out of Arkansas in the middle of making a position switch from tight end to offensive tackle. The Buffalo Bills had him on their practice squad early in that 2004 season, but Howie Roseman (then the Eagles' director of football administration) saw something special in the relatively unknown player.
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"He came in to me and said, ‘Watch the tape of this guy,'" former Eagles president Joe Banner remembered. "‘He's kind of playing tight end, tackle, back and forth and it looks to me like he could be a really good offensive lineman.' He's not even on the team at this point. I watched the tape and agreed with him."
As the story goes, Banner and Roseman brought Peters' tape to Andy Reid, who liked him as well. But the Eagles were already in the middle of their season and roster spots were hard to come by. Their idea of stealing Peters off the Bills' practice squad never got beyond the idea phase. That November, the Bills promoted Peters to their active roster and the opportunity to poach him disappeared, but the Eagles' braintrust never forgot about him.
When the opportunity to trade for Peters arose five years later, they pounced.
The Eagles traded for Peters on April 17, 2009. Today is the 10-year anniversary of that trade, which will go down as one of the best and most franchise-altering decisions in Eagles history.
This is how it happened:
By the 2008 offseason, Peters had already established himself as a starter and even made his first Pro Bowl in 2007. He signed an extension in 2006, but quickly outplayed the $4 million average per year that deal was paying him. Peters wanted a new contract and he held out the entire spring and summer of 2008, getting fined about $650,000 by the Bills in the process. The holdout was orchestrated by late mega agent Eugene Parker and Peters' longtime agent Vincent Taylor of Elite Loyalty Sports. Peters ended his holdout in early September.
Dick Jauron, Bills head coach 2006-09: He was clearly, if not the best tackle in football, he was well on his way to being that. He had an unbelievable combination of size, strength and athletic ability. Uncanny for a man that big to be that fast, that quick, that tough. It was just a remarkable combination. Clearly, we had no desire to lose this player. From our side, the coaching side, and also from the front office side. They just couldn't get it done. I'm not into those issues on that (business) side, but the football issues, we had none with him. Except, if he's not on the field, he's not helping us. Eventually, we had to do something.
Banner: I actually noticed his development and that he was involved in this contract dispute with the Bills. Went back to Howie and then Andy and said, ‘Remember this guy? There might be an opportunity to take advantage of this dispute he's in. What do you think?' They said, ‘Nothing to lose by calling.'
Mark Gaughan, The Buffalo News: Eugene Parker told me, at the time, that the market needed to be reset at offensive tackle in terms of the top salaries. The biggest deals had been two or three years beforehand. That was their perspective. That if you were negotiating based on the top tackle deals, that's an off-base perspective because over the next couple of years, the tackle deals were going to take a dramatic jump up, just because of the timing of when the current top tackles in the league had signed. I think, in my opinion, Eugene determined that the Bills weren't going to be willing to reset the market at tackle, either through early negotiations with them and the Bills' track record in that time period of not really being a team that reset the market. That was going to be the key to the negotiations.
Vincent Taylor, Peters' longtime agent: Respectfully, as a business, what he was as a football player wasn't economically matching up. We just made a decision to not go to camp. We had been trying to get to the point where we could negotiate and we couldn't get to that point. Just trying to minimize injury and things of that nature. We just came to a conclusion that he would withhold services until we could get it worked out.
Banner: There was clearly a problem. My recollection, which may not be 100 percent, was that our first call came after reading a lot of coverage about how he was determined to get a better deal, they weren't really getting along, didn't know if it was going to get worked out or if he was going to hold out. Once he came back on the radar screen, which was really through this contract dispute … once we started to see the percolation of disagreement publicly, we were very much paying attention and strategizing on how we could position ourselves to get him.
Taylor: It was one of those things where the team said they didn't want to negotiate if he wasn't there. So at some point, I mean, he was making money that season that we didn't want to miss out on. It was smart for us to come back and get that accrued season.
Kirk Chambers, Bills OL 2008-09: It was all pretty much business. Everyone knew Jason had to take care of what he had to take care of. I was the one that ended up starting that first game of the year that we ended up winning anyway. He had just barely come back with the team and he needed a week or two to get ready. It was all business. And these things happen in the NFL. Guys are trying to take care of their own. I never looked at it as Jason being selfish, mostly because I was getting a chance to play. But as far as anger within the O-line room with Jason not being committed to the team or that kind of thing, everyone knew that Jason was going to come back and do what he does. And that's exactly what he did.
• • •
Peters returned to the Bills and played in 13 games that 2008 season on his way to a second straight Pro Bowl nod. But it was beginning to seem pretty obvious that Peters wouldn't be back in Buffalo for another season.
Taylor: It was pretty clear. Once the season ended, both parties felt it was good for him to move on and for them to get compensation and for us to get compensation. The Eagles were in immediately. Andy Reid, back then, he said Jason was the best tackle in the NFL. He said that back then. Smart man.
Banner: They (the Bills) indicated some interest immediately, but weren't ready to just sit down and hammer out a deal. They left me some hope that if things didn't improve, they would, in fact, be open to moving him. We had positioned ourselves so that we would be the first or the only call. Then there was some time that passed where we were kind of like, we were prepared for it to not get worked out. They finally called, which led to the preliminary discussion about the trade value and then the permission to talk to the agent and then coming back to them to finalize the trade terms.
Former Eagles OL coach Juan Castillo: I remember it like it was yesterday. I still remember the whole deal. I tell you exactly how it happened on my part. I remember Coach Reid calling me in his office and he said, ‘Hey Juan, why don't you just go take a look at Jason Peters and take a look at his tape.' I went and looked at his tape and, s-, he's a heckuva athlete. I said, ‘Coach, this guy can play, he's a hell of an athlete.' He said, ‘Juan, he gave up 11 1/2 sacks last year.' And if you go back and look at it, he had given up 11 1/2 sacks, now. That's quite a bit. And I said, ‘Coach, it's his technique.' He's turning and they're getting on his edge. That's easy to correct. That's technique. Coach said, ‘Well, you're going to have to change all his technique, Juan.' I said, 'I can do that. That's no problem.' Just like that. Things like that, you don't forget.
Banner: We did a bunch of research, watching the tape, calling people who knew him, calling teammates, calling coaches that had been there, making sure he would fit in. Eventually agreed to a deal.
Andrew Brandt, Eagles salary/cap consultant 2009: I remember Joe telling me that things were in the works with a trade, but it was contingent on getting a contract done. He was going to work on the trade part of it with the Bills and I was going to work with Eugene Parker. Eugene and I, at that point, had a very long relationship. Sometimes, when you're representing a team, just luck of the draw, you deal with some agents more than others. It just so happened, I had dealt with Eugene countless times, countless No. 1 picks, big-time veteran deals like Greg Jennings (while Brandt was in the Packers' front office). I was only too happy to help and it was only a natural fit having worked with Eugene all those years. So we went at it. I really don't remember a lot of specifics. I know there are different metrics for who is the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league, in terms of average and guarantees and two-year cash and three-year cash. I don't know how many of those metrics we hit, but I know Eugene could solidly walk away and say he was the highest-paid offensive lineman at that time.
Taylor: It was a fairly easy process. Us and Buffalo both agreed it had been a great run. They gave him his start, gave him the opportunity to play tackle and everything, which is a lot of why we came back to play that season. … At the end of the year, it was a very respectful, easy thing. Everybody was on the same page.
Banner: I hate to say this, once they reached the point they were willing to trade him, it was actually pretty easy. They started asking for two ones, we started offering one one. I think what ended up happening was sort of in the middle. It wasn't that hard or protracted or heated of a negotiation. We called the agent and said, ‘What are you looking for?' We thought what he was looking for was a little aggressive, but not much, so we just countered with a deal that was below what he was asking but not massively. He agreed pretty easily. The hard part was sweating out whether or not the Bills were really going to move him. Once they did, the negotiation was fairly quick, as was the negotiation with the agent. We made him the highest (paid) left tackle by a fair amount.
• • •
The Eagles officially traded for the 27-year-old Peters on April 17, 2009. In the trade, the Eagles gave up a first-round pick that year (No. 28), a fourth-round pick that year (121) and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2010 (192).
Eagles head coach Andy Reid (in 2009, via ESPN): Jason Peters is the best left tackle in football. He is a powerful and athletic tackle and I have admired his play over the last few years on film. I have always believed that success in the NFL is derived from the strong play of the offensive and defensive lines. This offseason we have added two young, top-flight offensive linemen in Jason and Stacy Andrews.
(Reid and Peters declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Taylor: Man, [Peters] was excited. He was excited because, for one, he got economically taken care of. Two, it was just how they welcomed him. They welcomed him. Big Red said, ‘I've got the best left tackle in the league.' At such a young point in his career to hear that, he was super excited.
Castillo: I was excited because when you get a guy that's that talented and have good techniques, usually that means you're going to have a hell of a player.
Chambers: It was (surprising). You know, the team (Buffalo) was grooming Demetrius Bell. He was the guy that would come in and replace at left tackle. It was a pretty bold move by the Bills. … I don't really know what the numbers issue was. Obviously, Jason is one of the best that's ever played and he probably wasn't getting paid like it. That's what it comes down to.
Jauron: I don't remember exactly who told me, but like everything, it passes through the building quickly within an organization, certainly to a head coach and to the coaching staff. So we got the news very quickly. Obviously, we weren't involved in the details. Understanding that your club is trying to do everything they can do to sign him and it doesn't appear that it's going to happen there, then he needs to go. He clearly was not helping our football team watching, so something has to happen. You have to trust your people to make the best decision they can and we did. We trusted them. They got a package and everybody went their separate way. I'm really happy for Jason. He's just had a great career.
Gaughan: People (in Buffalo) felt like the Bills won the lottery and handed the lottery ticket to the Eagles.
• • •
The key element of the trade was the four-year contract extension reached with the Eagles, which added on to his two remaining years from Buffalo. The $60 million extension gave Peters an APY of $12.86 million, the highest ever at that point for an offensive lineman (and a 3-year APY of $13.9M). Peters hadn't even been the highest-paid offensive lineman in Buffalo; now he was the highest-paid in the league.
Taylor: It was a part of the trade. In order for the trade, he needed to get compensated. That was our issue with the deal he was currently under. Economically, it just didn't match the type of player.
Gaughan: Eugene Parker played it just right. He orchestrated the trade and he got a market-resetting deal at offensive tackle. And that year, it looked like, ‘My God, that's overpaying.' But two years down the road, it was a big deal, but other guys were getting big deals. Eugene was right on.
Banner: Contrary to perception, we were actually very aggressive and willing to pay for positions we thought were crucial, especially with young players that were going to be there a long time. So quarterbacks, left tackles, defensive ends, corners to a slightly lesser degree. It's true, there were other positions where we were a little more thrifty, but when it came to that, we thought we had a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle. … We jumped the market by almost 20 percent, but that wasn't a big deal to us. … And we thought the market was moving to us any way, so we thought in a few years, it was a fair-market deal. At the time it was, ‘Whoah, look what they're paying an offensive lineman!' but we didn't think of it that way. We thought of it as just a little bit ahead of its time but not way out of line with what the market was deemed to be. We viewed him as a perennial Pro Bowl player; I'm not sure everybody did at the time. That might have been a part of the reaction to what we paid him.
Brandt: I think the key for us was get as many years as possible. We're not talking about a running back here. We're talking about an offensive lineman and - of course as it has worked out - you just set him in that spot for 10 years. We wanted a long deal and that's what we got out of it. We got six years. As good as that was going to look for Peters at the beginning, the market was obviously going to pass him by if he played to the level we thought he would. And, of course, he did.
• • •
A couple weeks after the trade, Peters participated in his first OTA practice as a member of the Eagles. That season, he went on to make his third consecutive Pro Bowl and first of seven as an Eagle. Tra Thomas had been the Eagles' starting left tackle for 11 seasons (1998-2008), but he went to Jacksonville as a free agent and Peters was stepping in to replace him.
Todd Herremans, Eagles OL 2005-14: I had watched [Peters] play quite a bit and I knew of his story. I knew more about him than some, just because Shawn Andrews was here playing with us and they played together in college (Arkansas). Kind of got a little bit of the story through Shawn.
Trent Cole, Eagles DE 2005-14: We had no clue. No clue who he was. We didn't have no clue. But once he got here, oh, we found out quickly.
Herremans: When I first met him, he wasn't as tall as I was expecting him to be. But he had a magnificent beard. He always has. He was just very cool, kind of soft-spoken when I met him. Didn't talk a whole lot. But I just remember being out there at practice and seeing how he moves and stuff and being like, ‘Ohh OK. Now I understand why they wanted this guy.'
Jason Avant, Eagles WR 2006-13: We just knew how athletic he was. That was the thing that stood out. When I heard Juan Castillo compare him to Shawn Andrews … Shawn Andrews may have been the most talented lineman that I've ever seen. When I heard Juan compare him to Shawn Andrews, but more mature and more dedicated to the game, I remember that. That's what kind of stood out.
Banner: I don't think we appreciated the quality of person we were getting fully. We wouldn't have traded what we did for him unless we thought we were getting a person who cared and who was going to work hard. But he was fairly quickly a leader by example and word. He worked really, really hard, he cared very much about winning and the team success. I think we got the player we expected, which was a great player and I thought we were getting a good guy and we actually got a great guy.
• • •
Since the trade 10 years ago, Peters has become the longest-tenured player in the Eagles' locker room. He's made seven Pro Bowls, tied for second in franchise history with Reggie White and Brian Dawkins and just one behind Chuck Bednarik. At 37 years old, Peters is coming back for his 15th NFL season (not including the 2012 season he missed) in 2019 after restructuring his contract. In the trade, the Bills did end up getting OL Eric Wood, who was a very good starter for nine seasons, but the Bills have had just two winnings seasons in 10 years. The Eagles have had five double-digit-win seasons in the same span. Peters has been a big key to their success. Even though he didn't play in Super Bowl LII because he was injured, Peters was still an important part of that team.
Cole: This man was the best. He was the best. When he came here, I loved it. Me and him used to go against each other, sparks was going to be flying. That's what we loved. That's how we made each other better.
Castillo: The interesting thing about a kid like that is how important the technique was to him. Jason wanted to learn the technique. You give up 11 1/2 sacks, that's a lot for a Pro Bowl player. Basically, he wanted to learn how to set square so that wouldn't happen again.
Herremans: He's very self-driven. If he wasn't feeling comfortable about something, he would stay after practice and put the work in himself or he would watch film by himself. He just had his own way of doing things, of teaching himself and repping stuff out. I think that's probably why he's where he's at today, because he put that level of concentration in his own technique and his own game.
Chambers: I'd track him. Gosh, I'd turn the TV on and I'd say, ‘Holy cow, Jason Peters is still playing!' It's not like I was Googling him every month to see what would happen, but I'd watch a Monday night game or a Sunday night game and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, he's still out there!' It doesn't even look like he's changed one bit from his Buffalo days. If anything, he's better and he's played in big games.
• • •
Even if 2019 is Peters' last NFL season, he has put together a very strong case to one day be enshrined in Canton. So we asked everyone who gave time for this story one simple question:
Is Jason Peters a Hall of Famer?
Gaughan (a former HOF voter): He is close. He's a real candidate. That's as far as I'll go. I'll also be interested to see who makes the All-Decade team. I mean, if he makes the All-Decade team, he's in. He's a real candidate.
Castillo: There's no doubt. I think his resume shows that. I think when you look at it, here's a guy that can run block and pass protect and has great character.
Jauron: Yeah, he's definitely that talented in my opinion. Now, I haven't tracked every game in his career since Buffalo … but I can remember thinking, just watching him play, watching him work, watching him train, I can remember thinking how difficult it would be for a defensive player to play against him. Initially, you'd look at him and you'd say, well, he's going to be bigger than I am, but I'm going to be quicker. No, you're not. You're not going to be quicker and you're not going to be faster and you're not going to stronger. So it's going to be a long day playing against this man. He's that good. He really is a tremendous player.
Herremans: Without question. Yeah, I mean, he's a Super Bowl champion now. Even without that, his career, the ability he has and just the longevity he's been able to have it throughout his career, playing at such a high level. I think it would be hard for anyone to say that he's not.
Taylor: Yes. Unanimously. First-ballot.
Avant: I believe that Jason will be a Hall of Famer. When you add the Super Bowl ring to it, you look at the perennial Pro Bowls and the times that he's been All-Pro. The only knock on Jason Peters that anybody could say is his penalty count, but most tackles have penalties as far as false starts and things like that. That's the only knock on him you can have. I believe he's going to be a Hall of Famer. And if you ask guys around the league, some of the best pass-rushers in the league, who would you not want to see back in their prime, it would be Jason Peters. He's a tough guy.
Cole: Yes, he is. He is the best offensive lineman in our era. And I mean the best. The No. 1. He's above all.
Chambers: I've played with Hall of Famers and he's definitely up there with them. … A guy that's doing it at that level for that long. … Is he a Hall of Famer? I'd say definitely. He sticks out like that for me. I just don't know of anyone who can do what he did.
Banner: Absolutely. Not even close. Not even close. If he isn't, who is?
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