The Philadelphia Eagles might be a step closer to settling on a replacement for injured left tackle Jason Peters. The team's official website reported Saturday that King Dunlap is starting to work with the first-team offensive line ahead of free-agent addition Demetress Bell, who had a forgettable performance in the preseason opener.
"It's fair to King to do that," head coach Andy Reid told the site. "He came back here under the assumption that he'd have the opportunity to compete and he's done well. He'll get an opportunity. There's not a lot of separation between those guys right at this minute. King deserves that opportunity."
Peters, who tore his Achilles tendon twice this offseason, is on the "non-football injury" list and is not expected to play in 2012. In the wake of Peters' injury, the Eagles signed Bell, who has started 30 games during his four-year career with the Buffalo Bills, to a five-year, $34.5 million contract.
Just $3.15 million of Bell's contract -- a $2 million roster bonus and $1.15 million base salary -- is guaranteed, leaving the door open for Dunlap to earn the starting job opposite Todd Herremans this summer. It would not be a surprise if that happened.
According to a source with knowledge of both players' contracts, Bell and Dunlap each have financial incentives to start. Dunlap, who has started three games at left tackle during his career, can earn up to $600,000 in playing-time incentives, while Bell can earn an additional $500,000, depending on his playing time. Bell will also have to play -- and play well -- to get the Eagles to pick up the final four years and $31.25 million of his contract, which optimistically includes up to $2.5 million in escalators tied to Pro Bowl appearances.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a left-handed starting quarterback in Mike Vick, so left tackle is not as important as it is to teams with a right-handed quarterback. But this is still a positional battle worth watching.