Replacing legends Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce crucial for Eagles

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The most important task facing Roseman this offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There’s nobody like them in the NFL.

Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox have been together for a decade now, Graham arriving in the first round in 2010, Kelce a year later in the sixth round, Cox the next year in the first round.

How rare is that?

They are the only trio of players currently in the NFL that’s played at least 100 games, has been together for at least nine years – the 10th begins in four months – and never played for another team.

In fact, with guys like Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Bobby Wagner and Matt Ryan either changing teams or retiring, there are only 10 other players in the league who’ve been with their current team since 2012, have played 100 games and never wore another team’s jersey.

That includes guys like Aaron Rodgers, T.Y., Hilton, Devin McCourty and Cameron Heyward.

In an age of free agency and players bolting year after year for bigger paydays and better situations, Kelce, Graham and Cox have remained loyal Philadelphia Eagles, the last remaining Andy Reid acquisitions, key figures on the franchise’s first Super Bowl champion, future Eagles Hall of Famers.

Only Chuck Bednarik has played more seasons with the Eagles than Graham. Only those two plus Brian Dawkins, Harold Carmichael, Bucko Kilroy and Vic Sears have spent more seasons here than Kelce. Only Graham has played more games on the defensive line than Cox.

They’re all-timers, and it’s hard to imagine an Eagles team without them.

But that’s coming soon. Quite possibly next year.

MORE: Hurts understands his opportunity entering Year 3

Graham is 34 and has one year left on his contract. Kelce is 35 and considers retirement every offseason. Cox is 31 but has already been released once this offseason in a contract-related move and returned on a one-year contract.

Kelce was the second-oldest starting center in the NFL last year, two years younger than Alex Mack. If B.G. is a regular starter this year, he’ll almost definitely be the oldest starting defensive end in football. Cox will be the Eagles’ oldest starting defensive tackle since 33-year-old Floyd Peters in 1969.

It’s not easy replacing one legend.

These Eagles will have to replace three.

And consider this: The Eagles didn’t have a Pro Bowl cornerback for six years after Eric Allen. They didn’t have a Pro Bowl quarterback for a decade after Randall Cunningham. They didn’t have a Pro Bowl offensive lineman for 20 years after Jerry Sisemore.

So the biggest challenge Howie Roseman faced this offseason was replacing three legends, and the success he has doing it will go a long way toward determining what the next five or even 10 years look like around here.

Going back to Big Red’s early days, the Eagles have built around both lines, and when you consider the unsettled futures of Graham, Kelce and Cox, that’s more important than ever.

So while it drove everybody nuts when the Eagles were quiet in free agency, and while Kyle Hamilton seemed to make sense at No. 13 and ignoring cornerback seemed odd at the time and not drafting Nakobe Dean in the second round drove people crazy (for a couple hours), those moves all make sense in the context of B.G., Kelce and Fletch.

When you think about the Eagles’ biggest moves this offseason, one was a trade with the Saints that made the trade-up from 15 to 13 possible, one was signing pass rusher Haason Reddick, another was drafting defensive tackle Jordan Davis at No. 13 and one was taking Cam Jurgens in the second round. The other, of course, was acquiring A.J. Brown from the Titans.

Roseman knew he had to find replacements for Kelce, Cox and Graham, and now he has them in Jurgens, Davis and Reddick.

But how good will they be?

Will Jurgens be a four-time all-pro like Kelce? Will Davis make six straight Pro Bowls like Cox? Will Reddick become a Super Bowl hero and Pro Bowler like Graham?

That would be nice but probably not. Those are once-in-a-lifetime players.

What’s really important is that they’re not Fireman Danny, Brodrick Bunkley and Jevon Kearse.

What’s important is that they come in and play at a high level and help establish a new era of Eagles football.

An era where three of the greatest to wear Eagles jerseys move on, and the Eagles have to find a way to move on as well.

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