Despite Nick Sirianni’s reluctance to officially name Jordan Mailata as the starter at left tackle, his name is all but written in ink at the position, and has been for awhile. That leaves the question of what to do with Andre Dillard, the Eagles first round pick from just two seasons ago.
Dillard entered this offseason with a legitimate opportunity to win the starting job at left tackle, but the battle between he and Mailata was supposedly over from the moment it began. Reporting out of training camp labels Dillard as one of the team’s consistently worst performers, and nagging injuries haven’t helped his cause throughout the preseason.
League sources have indicated that teams around the NFL have begun to inquire about the availability of the former first round pick. We can expect those trade rumors to pick up with rosters set to be cut down to 53 at the start of next week.
There’s a strong sentiment throughout the media that Dillard’s days as an Eagle are in fact numbered. Given his age (25) and athletic traits he’s an obvious reclamation project in a new environment, and the fact that he plays a premium position makes such a gamble more than worthwhile for any organization desperate for help at tackle.
Though a Dillard trade makes plenty of sense—for both parties—how likely is it that one actually gets completed before Sunday (cut-down day)? While it may feel like a foregone conclusion, the Eagles coaching staff and front office shouldn’t be blamed for practicing patience in this situation.
For starters, Jordan Mailata is still relatively unproven as a long-term option at left tackle (despite the positive reps we have seen from him). Assessments on Dillard aside, it might be premature to start selling off assets (however depreciated) at a position that is still a relative question mark.
Additionally, if the team doesn’t have a backup in tow whom they view in equal standing as Dillard, they shouldn’t be quick to kneecap their depth at the position. While the signing of Le’Raven Clark obviously gives the coaching staff a semi-reliable and experienced swing tackle to back up Mailata, if he’s unable to show enough progress coming off injury then Dillard may need to stick around another few weeks by default.
The other dynamic at play here that ought to be considered is Howie Roseman. General managers are more slow in admitting defeat on their own high draft picks than they are for lower picks, or for picks of another regime; and we’ve seen Howie allow that to influence his decision-making in the past. Despite ownership’s clear confidence in Roseman, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that he’s more willing to stick with Dillard than he otherwise would be given the assets he himself put into him.
Ultimately, Dillard’s fate will be decided in the coming days (and likely in the hours following the Eagles final preseason game on Friday). Given the financial implications of being on the hook for his guaranteed base salary ($3.8 million), don’t expect the front office to simply cut Dillard (as has errantly been suggested). Instead, it’s trade-or-roster spot—or rather, roster spot with the intent of shopping him throughout the regular season.
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