To the delight of Eagles fans everywhere, future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce formally announced he’ll be back for his 12th NFL season in 2022. He made the announcement the only way he knows how — while drinking a beer.
Prior to this announcement with Kelce’s future up in the air, there was a lot of speculation on how the Eagles would hypothetically fill the vacancy. The name most Eagles fans pointed was Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who has been heralded as one of the best center prospects to enter the draft in some time. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator, Linderbaum has gone to the Eagles in 14 percent of all of their mocks, the second-most of any team.
Linderbaum does a lot of the things that Eagles have grown accustomed to at the center position. He’s an athletic freak who looks like a freight train out in space. As far as zone blockers go, there isn’t anyone in this year’s class who can move and pick up defenders like Linderbaum can. Simply put, he looks like a bigger, stronger version of what Kelce was coming out of college.
There’s no doubt that Linderbaum would be a great heir apparent to Kelce. But now that he’s officially coming back, should the Eagles still consider drafting the Iowa standout?
There’s certainly a cases to be made on both sides.
While he may not play in year one barring injury, the idea of Linderbaum working with a coach like Jeff Stoutland is tantalizing. If Stout could turn Jordan Mailata into a fringe Pro Bowl player in his first year as a full-time starter, imagine what he could do with a talent like Linderbaum.
Additionally, the Eagles’ plan for Kelce’s replacement isn’t really solidified. The original plan was for Landon Dickerson to eventually take that spot, but he played so well at left guard during his rookie year that it seems counterproductive to move him to center and create another hole at guard. Isaac Seumalo has also spent time at center in the past, but now that Brandon Brooks has retired, he’s first in line to start at right guard next year.
With three first-round picks in his arsenal, Howie Roseman can afford to select someone who won’t start right away — though Linderbaum clearly has the talent to be a day one starter.
The way I see it, it’ll all come down to how the board falls come draft night. If Linderbaum slides to 15 and the Eagles’ top guy is gone, there’s no doubt Howie and the Eagles brass will strongly consider drafting him.
Aside from quarterback, the top priority for Howie has always been shoring up his lines. We know the Eagles value center more so than other teams. Signing Kelce to a one-year deal worth $14M earlier Friday afternoon, which makes him the highest paid center in football, speaks to that.
It’s not a foregone conclusion, and I won’t argue with anyone who wants to pass on Linderbaum in order to fill an immediate need, but drafting a guy like Linderbaum is right up Howie’s ally. Regardless of the fact that Kelce will be back in 2022.