The Eagles received terrible news earlier this week when Jason Peters tore his Achilles tendon while working out. The injury occurred on Tuesday, March 27, but was announced Friday afternoon.
Peters will have surgery. He's out for the 2012 season, and his 2013 campaign could be in jeopardy, depending on the severity of the injury. Peters has been criticized of being lethargic and not living up to his potential in the past, but he was outstanding in 2011. He surrendered only three sacks in 14 games and was a force as a run-blocker. His absence will obviously be huge.
What will the Eagles do now? They can't exactly be idle, given that King Dunlap is their next-best option. Dunlap started five games in 2010 and allowed four sacks. Given its quarterback's decreasing mobility, having Dunlap as a starter would be extremely detrimental to Philadelphia's playoff chances.
Here are the options:
Sign Demetrius Bell: Bell, who happens to be Karl Malone's son, has been a solid left tackle for the Bills over the past couple of seasons. I have him as a three-star player in my free agent offensive tackle rankings.
Bell is still on the market because he has reportedly priced himself out of teams' ranges. However, the Eagles might be willing to overpay considering the circumstances. They definitely have the cap room to do so. They like to save for a rainy day, and there's a torrential downpour right now in Philadelphia.
Sign Marcus McNeill: I actually have McNeill rated one slot higher than Bell in my free agent rankings, but I think I'm in the minority in that regard. McNeill is talented, but he's missed 12 games in the past two seasons. He's had two knee surgeries and a neck injury recently.
Bringing McNeill in on a cheap, short-term, prove-it contract would be a decent idea, but the Eagles would be in the same position if (or rather, when) McNeill gets hurt.
Trade Up for Matt Kalil: Kalil is the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas (2007). He's probably not falling past No. 3, so the Eagles would have to give up way too much to move up for him.
Trade Up for Riley Reiff: The Eagles would have to move ahead of the Bills (No. 10 overall) to have a good chance at Iowa's Reiff, the No. 2 tackle prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft. To be sure, they should probably also leapfrog the Dolphins, who would definitely consider Reiff if they don't like (or can't land) Ryan Tannehill. The Jaguars at No. 7 will be more than willing to trade down if Justin Blackmon doesn't fall to them.
This might be a bit of a panic move. Philadelphia typically likes to move up, but if Peters will be out for only one season, why dedicate so many resources in an attempt to snag Reiff? Again, it all depends on how serious this injury is. I could see the Eagles make the move for Reiff though if Andy Reid wants to try and go "all in" again.
Draft Jonathan Martin: Martin, a Stanford product, was once considered a top-10 prospect before a mediocre 2011 campaign. I currently have him at No. 22 to Cleveland in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft.
Martin might be a slight reach at No. 15 at this point, but it would be risky for the Eagles to move back, since the Bears could grab him at No. 19 (Todd McShay has Martin going to the Bears in his mock draft.) If Reid likes him enough, he'll stand pat and select him.
What I Would Do: I'd obviously select Reiff if he somehow fell to me at No. 15 - he has short arms, so teams may pass on him - but that's not realistic. I wouldn't go for Martin either unless I loved him on film.
If I were Reid, I would attempt to sign McNeill to a short-term contract (assuming Bell is too expensive) and then use one of my three Day 2 selections on a tackle like Bobby Massie, Zebrie Sanders or Mitchell Schwartz. A draft pick is necessary in this scenario because McNeill is always hurt, and I'd like to have some competition for Dunlap in the wake of another injury. Plus, Peters may never be the same player again, so having a possible long-term solution would be a good idea.
Now that the combine is over and the free agent frenzy has died down (still quality free agents out there, though), I'll do another mock. Four rounds with trades. It's pretty likely that I have some players that are both too high and too low in regards to where they are being projected, but I did the best I could based on need, best player available, where I'd take these players, character concerns and where I think they'll be taken.