Both Winston Justice and Eagles general manager Tom Heckert indicated Tuesday that Justice's new contract extension -- reportedly worth $18.15 million over four years, with a $6 million signing bonus -- makes Justice the right tackle starter going forward.
Heckert said that with Shawn Andrews essentially sitting out his second successive season with back problems, the "question isn't even relevant right now."
It will be relevant next summer, of course, which was why the question was asked. Another source said the team views the commitment to Justice as very much "a quality starter deal." At this point, sources indicate, the Eagles will view Shawn Andrews' return as a bonus, if it happens, but they certainly aren't counting on it. Shawn Andrews could end up competing with his brother Stacy for the right guard job next year (assuming either of them is healthy/good enough to beat out Nick Cole).
Justice, meanwhile, said the money was less important to him than the faith the organization was showing in him by signing him through 2013. "That actually feels better than the whole financial security part," he said. Asked about being viewed as a starter henceforth, he said: "I think so, but again, I really don't play for money ... I don't play for the next contract ... I just play to glorify God and to go out there and enjoy playing."
Justice had been scheduled to become a free agent following this season. Whether he would have been restricted or unrestricted would have depended upon whether there is a new labor deal, but now that's moot, for Justice, anyway.
Until this summer, Justice was widely considered a huge bust, after being drafted in the second round out of USC in 2006. His lone start, at left tackle in 2007 against the Giants, was a memorable disaster, as New York sacked Donovan McNabb a dozen times, at least four of the sacks charged to Justice, who was nowhere near ready to handle Osi Umenyiora.
But Justice moved back to his more natural right side, where he'd played in college, and when Andrews' bad back flared up at the start of this year's training camp, Justice got a chance few had foreseen him ever earning. He has started every game, and though he hasn't been perfect, he has been solid and unflappable, as most of the components of the line around him have shifted through various injuries and recoveries.