The Philadelphia Eagles announced Friday that star left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his right Achilles tendon while training earlier this week and will have surgery Monday to repair it. This is a crushing blow for an Eagles team that believed its offensive line would be a strength in 2012. The Eagles didn't announce a timetable for recovery, but it's safe to assume that Peters will miss most and possibly all of the 2012 season.
Peters is one of the very best tackles in the NFL and will be nearly impossible to replace. But replace him they must. They re-signed free-agent King Dunlap to a one-year contract Friday, which will help because he's their best backup tackle. But Dunlap doesn't project as a 16-game starter for a team with championship dreams, so they'll have to look at other options.
They have two second-round picks in addition to the 15th overall pick in the first round of next month's draft, so it's possible they could package some picks and move up in the draft to get someone like Iowa's Riley Reiff. The Minnesota Vikings have indicated a desire to trade out of the No. 3 spot in the draft, so if the Eagles wanted to really get crazy, they could trade all the way up there and pick USC's Matt Kalil.
But those are big deals and tough to pull off, and the Eagles' efforts to make such a move likely would be hampered by the fact that everyone now knows they need a tackle. So they're more likely to look at other options. The best remaining tackle on the free-agent market is Demetrius Bell, who's had offers from teams to play right tackle but may have been holding out for a left tackle job (or at least left-tackle money). The Eagles have the cap room to sign someone like Bell, and if Peters were to come back during the season or next year they'd have impressive depth at tackle.
Regardless of what they do, the Eagles will be hurt by this. Peters was one of the few reliable players they had in 2011, and because he's so good and so athletic in a division that features so many great edge pass-rushers, his was a spot that inspired supreme confidence -- not just a lack of concern. The Eagles had planned to return their entire 2011 offensive line intact, and now the other four members of it will have to get used to a new left tackle, and whoever the new left tackle is will have to get used to them and to Howard Mudd's unique blocking schemes. Won't be easy, but it now becomes one of the major offseason issues facing the Eagles.