McLane: What Jason Peters' possible return would mean

Jason Peters has said that he wants to return to the Eagles next season. Doug Pederson said that he would love to have the Pro Bowl tackle back. While there may be obstacles to that happening, mutual agreement between player and coach could be enough to pencil in Peters for 2017.

"I love him. I want him on the team," Pederson said Wednesday. "I don't want him to go anywhere. I want him to be an Eagle for the rest of his career. We [need to] get through these next two games. We'll have to address all that in the offseason."

Pederson said he had yet to talk with Peters about his future, but the 34-year-old offensive lineman, who was voted to his ninth Pro Bowl on Tuesday, said last week after the Redskins loss that quarterback Carson Wentz's potential made him more inclined to want to return for a 15th NFL season.

If . . .

"If we get the right pieces in here to help him a little bit - not saying that we don't have them. But we don't have the firepower we normally have every year," Peters said on Dec. 11. "That just is what it is. But at the end of the day [Wentz has] a lot of upside and I would definitely come back to try to protect his blindside again."

To acquire skill-position firepower, the Eagles may have to dive into free agency and dig deep into their salary cap. Peters, as the roster is currently constructed, is slated to have the highest cap figure ($11.2 million) next season. The Eagles would save $9.2 million if they were to release him.

While that is a lot of dough for an aging offensive lineman - Peters turns 35 in January - his $9.575 million average annual salary is only the 11th-highest at his position. Peters was one of six tackles - all of them left tackles - to be chosen for the Pro Bowl. Tyron Smith (Cowboys), Trent Williams (Redskins), Joe Thomas (Browns), Donald Penn (Raiders), and Taylor Lewan (Titans) were the others.

"I think he's very capable of another couple of seasons," Pederson said. "He's really done a great job with the health standpoint, his weight and managing all that."

If Peters were to return, it would delay Lane Johnson's move to left tackle. The Eagles signed their right tackle to a five-year, $56.25 million contract in January that made him the highest-paid at his position, but the deal was clearly constructed to anticipate an eventual switch.

Johnson, of course, forfeited nearly 60 percent of his base salary this season when he was suspended 10 games for using a banned substance. But his $7.75 million salary and $10 million cap number for 2017 are more than $2 million more than the next right tackle.

"I hope [Peters] does come back," said Johnson, who returned to the Eagles on Monday and will start in Thursday night's game against the New York Giants. "I'm fine with it. I'll probably be training at both sides, so in the future when it does come, I'll be prepared for it."

Johnson, 26, was playing arguably some of his best football before his suspension. The Eagles were clearly upset about his second offense, but there is little reason to believe that they would move on from their No. 1 pick from 2013 in this offseason.

Protecting Wentz should be paramount in terms of the team's plans this offseason. Peters isn't as mobile as he was in his prime, but if he maintains a similar level of play and can stay healthy - relatively significant "ifs" - the Eagles should have two of the better bookends on their offensive line.

Brandon Brooks' anxiety bears monitoring, but he is slated to be back at right guard. Center Jason Kelce should return, even if his play has plateaued. And rookie Isaac Seumalo could get first crack at left guard next year. If there's a silver lining in Johnson's suspension, it's that Seumalo and fellow rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai got to play extensively.

Still, it doesn't compensate for the affect Johnson's absence had on Wentz, who played more like an inconsistent rookie after an impressive four-game start. Johnson said that the quarterback had a message for him - partly said in jest - when he returned from his suspension.

"He said, 'Don't let it happen again or I'm going to have to kick your [butt],' " Johnson said.

Free Birds

The Eagles don't have a large number of players headed to free agency this offseason, but they do have decisions to make on six unrestricted free agents and two who are restricted.

The most pressing decision will be whether to re-sign defensive tackle Bennie Logan or allow him to enter the market when the new league year starts in early March. Eagles executive Howie Roseman said last month that Logan was the type of the homegrown player the team wants to retain.

But Logan, who has been a reliable if not flashy presence up front over the last four seasons, should draw significant interest from other teams and the Eagles have already heavily invested in their line. He has 29 tackles, 21/2 sacks, nine hurries and two forced fumbles in 11 games this season.

"He's been consistent against the run," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. "He hasn't got a ton of sacks, but he's been effective against the pass. But I've been most impressed with his effort and toughness."

Logan was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft. He won the starting nose tackle job midway through his rookie season and made a successful transition to the 4-3 this season. His versatility should make him attractive to either odd-man or even fronts.

The five other remaining unrestricted free agents, if they do return, aren't likely to receive long-term contracts. Cornerback Nolan Carroll was steady early in the season, but his play tailed off considerably. He may have lost a half step after suffering a broken ankle last season.

Stefen Wisniewski has ably filled in at left guard for most of the last eight games, but the Eagles should have enough young depth to let him walk. Veteran Stephen Tulloch has played just 53 snaps as the backup middle linebacker, but zero on special teams.

Bryan Braman has been a solid special-teams performer over the last three seasons, but he hasn't been as productive this year. Najee Goode is second on the team in special-teams tackles with 10 and could be brought back.

Tight end Trey Burton is restricted, meaning the Eagles can retain his rights by tendering him a stipulated contract. Other teams could match the offer, but they would have to surrender compensation. Burton has been more of a focal point on the offense, and has 31 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown.

Kenjon Barner is also restricted. The running back was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a hamstring strain. He averaged 4.8 yards a carry on 27 rushes and 30.8 yards on nine kick returns. The Eagles could tender him at the lowest value.

No guarantees

The Eagles have possible decisions to make on nine prominent players who have contracts at least through 2017, but no further guaranteed money, meaning they could either trade or release the players without a significant salary-cap hit.

Jason Peters, as noted above, has the highest cap number ($11.2 million) next season of the players on the roster. The Eagles would save $9.2 million if they were to move on from the left tackle. The feeling here is that he returns if he opts not to retire.

Defensive end Connor Barwin ($8.35 million) may need to take a pay cut if he's to be back. He should have other options, particularly from teams with 3-4 defenses, if the Eagles choose to release him (saving $7.75 million).

Jason Kelce ($6.2 million) has had an up-and-down season, but the Eagles would save only $3.8 million if they were to waive the 29-year-old center. Defensive end Brandon Graham had arguably the best season of his career, and has an economical $7.5 million cap figure. The Eagles would trim $5.5 million from the cap by dumping him.

Ryan Mathews ($5 million) has been decent when healthy, but staying healthy remains an issue. Darren Sproles ($4 million) received a one-year contract extension during the summer, but he could call it career. The Eagles would save $4 million times two if they were to part with both running backs.

The Eagles will keep $3.2 million by cutting cornerback Leodis McKelvin ($3.45 million), which they are likely to do. The same could be said for cornerback Ron Brooks ($1.6 million of $2.1 million) and possibly guard Allen Barbre ($1.8 million of $1.95 million).

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks could be dangled on the market, but the Eagles would save only $1.8 million of his $6.6 million cap number. He has been healthy all season but has played only a third of the time on defense.

Five questions: Jordan Matthews

1. What's your best football memory? My first touchdown at [Vanderbilt]. I caught it one-handed.

2. Who was your football hero growing up? [Matthews' cousin] Jerry Rice.

3. Who is the toughest opponent you ever faced? [New York Jets cornerback] Darrelle Revis.

4. Who is the best teammate you ever had? [Former Eagles and Vanderbilt receiver] Jonathan Krause.

5. What's your least favorite piece of football equipment? I want to say shoulder pads, but I need those. So knee pads.

Inside the game

When Deshazor Everett knocked Darren Sproles out last week, the hit angered the Eagles and many of their fans and cost the Redskins safety $24,309 in fines. But Sproles, who suffered a concussion and missed a game, said the unnecessary-roughness penalty was just "part of the game."

"He's got to give me time to catch it," Sproles said of Everett, who pummeled him before he fielded a punt, "but that stuff happens."

Sproles returned to practice Monday and is expected to play Thursday night. The 33-year-old running back said the concussion was the second of his career and the first since 2007.

Inside the locker room

Eagles players were asked over the last week to select one teammate for the Pro Bowl. Here are the results: Jason Peters 11, Brandon Graham 10, Rodney McLeod 9, Fletcher Cox 7, Jordan Hicks 5, Darren Sproles 5, Malcolm Jenkins 4, Nigel Bradham 1, Trey Burton 1, Chris Maragos 1, Caleb Sturgis 1, Carson Wentz 1.

The NFL announced the Pro Bowl teams Tuesday and Peters and Cox were selected. Graham was a first alternate, McLeod, Maragos, and Jason Kelcer were second alternates, and Sproles and Jenkins were third alternates.

By the numbers

32: Number of pass attempts Carson Wentz needs in the final two games to set the Eagles' franchise mark (Donovan McNabb, 571 in 2008).

8: Number of completions Wentz needs in the final two games to set the Eagles' franchise mark (Sam Bradford, 346 in 2015).

532: Number of passing yards Wentz needs in the final two games to set the Eagles' franchise mark (McNabb, 3,916 in 2008).