Are the Eagles worried about Jason Kelce’s future? The All-Pro center has been sending mixed messages about his return.
Kelce, who turns 33 years old in November, has thrown out the possibility of early retirement although all signs point to him returning in 2020. He is under contract through the 2021 season and makes roughly $8 million per year but the Eagles could use the post-June 1 designation to minimize the cap hit if they wanted to part ways with him. That seems highly unlikely considering Kelce’s undisputed influence on the locker room. Plus, Kelce just qualified for his third consecutive All-Pro team.
But never say never. According to 6abc’s Jeff Skervsky, the Eagles have been showing an increased interest in the top center in this year’s draft. Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz is a Camden, NJ native who grew up as an Eagles fan and was a second-team all-conference selection for the Wolverines in 2019. The 6-foot-3, 306-pounder projects as a late first-round pick or early second-rounder, with a few mock drafts putting him in Kansas City at pick No. 32.
Ruiz told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that he’s betting on himself. He believes he possesses first-round talent.
“Because if you look at the film, if you look at how I dominate people, if you look at my character, how smart I am, I have everything for a first-rounder,” Ruiz said, via the Reading Eagle.
Ruiz’s Heart-Wrenching Path to the Draft
Cesar Ruiz’s work ethic has been applauded by both NFL scouts and coaches. He is a sure-fire starter at the pro level.
But the heart-wrenching tale of his deceased dad makes him the feel-good story of the year. Ruiz lost his father, Cesar, when he was just 8 years old after he was hit by a car on the side of the highway near Camden, NJ. His dad was reportedly helping another driver change a flat tire at the time. He was 26. Cesar Jr. has dedicated his life and NFL journey to making Cesar Sr. proud.
“This whole entire experience is dedicated to that whole situation, that tragedy,” Ruiz said at the NFL Scouting Combine, via the Reading Eagle. “If my dad was here to see what I’m doing right now, he would be mind-blown. So I’m still playing for my dad, I still play through my dad, my dad still lives through me. And that’s how it’s always going to be.”
Scouting Report: ‘Good Pro with Guard/Center Flexibility’
The best center in the NFL draft grew up in the Philadelphia area, so naturally, there is speculation of him landing in the Eagles’ nest. Cesar Ruiz checks all the boxes and could be a valuable insurance policy for Jason Kelce. Remember, the Eagles cut ties with long-time center Jamaal Jackson in 2011 and replaced him with Kelce. The backup plan was in place.
Ruiz’s tape jumps off the screen, too. He has been praised for his “snap-to-step quickness” and “lateral slide.” More importantly, he projects as a Day 1 starter in the NFL. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote the following in his scouting report:
Athletic and tenacious with the combination of skills and technique to fit into a variety of blocking schemes on the next level. Ruiz wins early with initial quickness and fast hands into first contact. He works to convert early advantages into wins. He’s consistent in securing down-blocks and has the athletic traits to become a second-level factor. He’ll give some ground to power rushers and needs help against wide-bodies, but the tape checks out. Ruiz has early starting potential and should develop into a good pro with guard/center flexibility.
It seems unlikely the Eagles would pull the trigger on a center in the first round but it is something to keep an eye on. Stay tuned.
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