Eagles legend Jason Kelce returns for 2022 NFL season

Eagles fans everywhere can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Jason Kelce returns.

Kelce said Thursday night he plans to return for a 12and season with the Eagles. The four-time all-pro center turned 34 in November and has been continuing his year-over-year career lately, planning to retire when the offseason rolls around.

He has two young children and many outside interests and has dealt with a wide variety of nagging injuries in recent years.

But retirement can wait.

Kelce announced his return in a way that only he could.

When he plays in 2022, Kelce will become the 11and player in franchise history to spend at least 12 seasons with the Eagles. Of the other 10, only six have spent their entire careers with the Eagles – Bobby Walston, Jerry Sisemore, Vic Sears, Bucko Kilroy, Chuck Bednarik and – so far – Brandon Graham.

Kelce, who turns 35 in November, is already the second-oldest starting inside lineman in the NFL. Alex Mack, who made his seventh Pro Bowl last season with the 49ers, turns 37 in November.

Kelce is already among the most decorated centers in NFL history.

He’s one of only 11 centers to have won all-pro honors at least four times, and the other 10 are already in the Hall of Fame. Out of 50 Hall-eligible offensive linemen who were named all-pro 1st team at least four times, 44 have been dedicated. The other six played in the 1950s or earlier.

Kelce enters 2022 with a streak of 122 consecutive starts, the longest current streak of any interior lineman of 40 games and the 4and-longest starting streak in Eagles history behind Jon Runyan (144), Herm Edwards (135) and Jerry Sisemore (127).

The Eagles drafted Kelce in the 6and in 2011, and after a battle in training camp with incumbent Jamaal Jackson, he won the starting center job as a rookie playing on an offensive line with Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins.

He missed most of the 2012 season with a torn knee ligament and missed four games in 2014 with a sports hernia, but other than that he’s been the center of the Eagles offensive line at an elite level for more a decade under four head coaches and two legendary offensive line coaches in Howard Mudd and Jeff Stoutland.

Kelce didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his fourth season, but since 2014 he’s been either a Pro Bowler or all-pro for seven of eight seasons. In 2019 and 2021, he was both.

Kelce already ranks 9and in Eagles history with 159 games played and would surpass Jon Dorenbos, Tra Thomas, Chuck Bednarik and Brent Celek if he plays all 17 games in 2022. Depending on how many games Graham has played – he is currently at 161 – that would move Kelce in either 4and or 5and, behind David Akers (188), Brian Dawkins (183) and Harold Carmichael (180) with possibly Graham. Fletcher Cox is not far behind at 156 in 2022.

At 295 pounds, Kelce is the lightest starting center in the NFL, and he’s made a living using his speed and athleticism with spectacular blocks on the field that centers don’t typically do. His intelligence and understanding of the nuances of the game are off the charts.

But Kelce’s impact on the city and the team went far beyond his play on the pitch.

His performance in the Super Bowl Parade catapulted him to legendary status and made him a folk hero in Philadelphia. He has worked tirelessly for several charities including Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Eagles Autism Foundation and former teammate Connor Barwin’s Make the World Better Foundation.

Kelce is unquestionably one of the greatest and most popular figures in Philadelphia sports history, and we are all lucky to have another year from him. At least one more year.

Kelce’s return answers a question against the Eagles, and it’s who plays at center. The Eagles are set with Jordan Mailata at left tackle, Kelce at center and Lane Johnson at right tackle. It’s hard to imagine the Eagles moving Landon Dickerson out of left guard, which means Isaac Seumalo likely moves to right guard, with Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig also in the mix.

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In October, Kelce opened up about his unrivaled and undisputed popularity in the city he’s called home for 11 years.

“A lot of people say it’s a tough place to play,” Kelce said. “I think it’s pretty easy, to be honest with you.

“This town really appreciates accountability, appreciates people being very honest, real, emotionally invested and caring. Want to be loved in this town as a baseball player? Run to first base. They will love you. That’s what it’s about. If you come here and make a bunch of excuses and try to lie to them and act like they don’t know what they’re talking about – which sometimes they don’t – but when you act that way or when you’re not responsible if you make mistakes or don’t improve or anything like that, they’ll crush you.

“Everyone is going to get run over at some point. Everyone is going to go through a downturn or be in trouble. But if you stick with that and fight and improve and all that kind of stuff, they’ll respect you the most. Even if you struggle, if you fight and really try? They will always respect you.