Arbitrator upholds 10-game ban for Eagles' Lane Johnson: 5 things to know
The Eagles will be missing their right tackle for a long stretch
The Eagles are about to embark on a tough stretch of the season -- they're coming off their first loss, have three divisional opponents on the road and are going to be without their starting right tackle for the next 10 games.
Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension, which has been floating in limbo for what feels like months, was upheld by an arbitrator according to a statement from his attorney on Tuesday.
"We are disappointed with Arbitrator James Carter's summary ruling," Steve Zashin, Johnson's attorney said in a statement, via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. "We will wait for his formal opinion. After we review that decision, we will consider all available legal options."
The Eagles, in a statement, admonished Johnson, saying his 10-game ban has "affected the entire organization."
"We're very disappointed that Lane Johnson has been suspended 10 games. His actions have affected the entire organization. We are all working under a clearly-defined set of rules and regulations set forth by the NFL in the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA. Moving forward, he has no choice but to hold himself accountable to Jeffrey Lurie, Coach Pederson and his staff, his teammates, and to the entire organization and our fans. When he returns from suspension, we will continue to support him and welcome him back to the team. We are moving on with our preparations for this week's game in Washington."[10:46] He will be eligible to return to the Eagles' active roster on Monday, December 19 following the team's December 18 game against the Baltimore Ravens."
Here are five things to know about Johnson's suspension:
1. Bizarre process
Even as far as NFL suspensions go, this has been a weird one. Back in August, reports of a 10-game suspension for the former first-round pick emerged. Johnson denied those reports, but later backed off the denial. The Eagles didn't sound sure about his status, but were clearly just trying to plow ahead and get as much out of the tackle as they can. He spent the first five weeks of the season playing while awaiting an appeal, which was heard before an arbitrator on Oct. 4.
When Johnson finally spoke after that appeal, it didn't sound like things went well.
"It was eight hours of bickering back and forth and discussing league policy," Johnson said. "It just felt good going in there and taking it head on. It was mainly just a conversation on the policy in place. It didn't have to do with any substances, mainly just changing the testing procedures."
2. How it hurts the team
This is a big hit for the Eagles. Johnson's starting at right tackle, with Jason Peters at left tackle. If Peters were to get hurt, Johnson would be the guy shifting over.
Instead, the Eagles are now hoping Peters, now 34, can stay healthy over the course of the season. They've got to do that while also replacing Johnson.
The plan appears to either a) move Allen Barbre from left guard or b) simply torture beat writers by inserting first-year lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
Eagles plan had been to move Allen Barbre from LG to RT to replace Lane Johnson but also considering rookie Halpoulavaati Vaitai.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 11, 2016
Regardless of what they choose, they'll either be dealing with a starting rookie at right tackle trying to block for a starting rookie at quarterback or they'll be dealing with a loss of talent at guard because a guard is moving to tackle.
This is a team with a bit of a tight-rope situation, because of the depth at running back (Ryan Mathews has been injury prone and Darren Sproles is smaller and older) and Carson Wentz under center. Things could go sideways for the offense if the offensive line started to crumble.
3. Brutal schedule
The Eagles stunned the world when they got out to a hot start and began the season 3-0, but they took their first loss on Sunday, a tough one on the road to the Lions after their very early bye week.
Things are about to get rough:
The Bengals look worse than we expected and the Giants might very well be terrible. But three divisional games on the road in the next four weeks is brutal. And it's followed up by home matchups against the very good Falcons, very good Packers and road games in Seattle and Cincinnati.
That is a very, very difficult eight-game stretch for a rookie quarterback who just lost a starting tackle.
4. Follow the money
Remember this offseason when the Eagles signed Johnson to a five-year contract extension with more than $35 million guaranteed? Well that extension might look totally different now, because he had language in it that would void the guaranteed money if he was suspended.
Worth noting re: Lane Johnson, per his contract, a suspension would void the guaranteed money in the 5-year extension he signed in January.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 9, 2016
So Johnson lost really big here, both in terms of playing time and in terms of cash he's due. The Eagles aren't happy about the situation, obviously, but they probably feel a little bit better about inserting that clause.
5. When will he be back?
Ten games is a long time. And Johnson's suspension will begin right away, kicking in at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. He won't be eligible to return until the next-to-last week of the season, eligible for Philadelphia's Week 16 "Thursday Night Football" game against the Giants.
His season is wiped out.
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