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Should Eagles focus draft on offensive line?

PHILADELPHIA – Analysis of the Philadelphia Eagles’ needs in the 2015 NFL draft tends to go one of two ways:

Either the Eagles make a blockbuster trade to move up in the first round and take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or the Eagles select a defensive back with the 20th pick.

Both of those scenarios make sense. Jimmy Kempski of phillyvoice.com took a different tack, though. Kempski went with the eyebrow-raising headline, “The offensive line, not the secondary, is the Eagles’ most pressing need in the draft.”

You could quibble with that. By any definition, the Eagles’ “most pressing need” would have to be the one where they were second-worst in the league and half of their starters are headed for free agency. That would be the secondary. All five starting offensive linemen are under contract and figure to be back in 2015.

But the catch is the end of the sentence: “in the draft.” If you buy into the philosophy that teams should build through the draft and then plug holes in free agency, the Eagles are in a position to plug holes in their secondary. They should be looking to replace safety Nate Allen and cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

They can draft replacements, but then they would be stuck waiting for rookies to find their way in the NFL at vital positions.

So it makes sense for the Eagles to address the secondary in free agency. When the draft rolls around, they can focus on getting the best players available, without having to concentrate on certain positions.

That is the best time to address the future of their offensive line. Left tackle Jason Peters turned 33 last month. Left guard Evan Mathis is 33. Right guard Todd Herremans is 32. The time to start preparing their replacements is now.

The Eagles raised eyebrows in 2002. They had a very strong secondary at that point, including safety Brian Dawkins and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But the Eagles draft Lito Sheppard in the first round and added Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis in the second round. It took two years for all three of them to be fulltime starters, but the Eagles avoided having to replace the older guys piecemeal.

Lane Johnson, last year’s first-round pick, can be seen as the first piece of a gradual rebuilding of the line. The Eagles didn’t draft any offensive linemen last year. They can get back to that process in this year’s draft.

That is, unless they toss all of that out the window to trade for Mariota.