Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2023, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.
We already looked at cornerbacks, receivers, linebackers, running backs, defensive tackles and interior offensive linemen.
Up today: Offensive tackles and edge rushers.
Roob: This one’s not quite as easy as you might think. Dillard has definitely increased his value by learning guard – and playing fine in a handful of reps (33 of his 37 snaps this year came at guard). So you figure he’ll go out and find a starting job as a left tackle or a guard. But even though he’s a former 1st-round pick and has acquitted himself well when he’s gotten chances, it’s not a lock he’ll get a big-time offer to be a starter. At 27 and with nine career starts, you don't know how teams are going to view Dillard. If Jason Kelce retires, the Eagles need a right guard, and if Dillard doesn’t get the free agency offers he’s looking for, I’d bring him back on a one-year bet-on-yourself deal. He knows the offense, he’s played next to these guys for years, he’s got Stout here. I’d be fine with Dillard at right guard. If he wants a fresh start or can make more money somewhere else, good for him. But I’m going with a hunch here.
Dave: The Eagles drafted Dillard in the first round back in 2019 to be Jason Peters’ replacement as the left tackle of the future. Maybe there’s some alternate reality where that happened. But we’ll never really know if Dillard would have been the left tackle of the future if he didn’t tear his biceps before the 2020 season. That’s when the Eagles moved Peters back to left tackle but eventually put Jordan Mailata out there. The next summer Mailata crushed Dillard in a competition and became the left tackle of the future, leaving Dillard as a backup. To Dillard’s credit, he grew in his backup role and eventually learned how to play guard. But he’s 27 now and he’s not going to be a starter in Philly. So he should take any opportunity that’s out there to leave and try to find a starting spot in the NFL.
Roob: Not sure he’ll ever be a full-time starter, but Driscoll is a valuable and versatile backup and as he goes into the final year of a 4th-round rookie deal, he’s a bargain, too, with a cap figure just over a million bucks. With the possibility that 40 percent of the Eagles’ offensive line might change next year, having a guy who can play four of five positions and will never complain about his role is important.
Dave: One of Nick Sirianni’s big messages to his team every year is that he wants players to embrace their roles. No one did a better job of that than Driscoll. Need him to play tackle in a pinch? No problem. Need him to start at guard? No problem. Driscoll is a legitimate backup option at four of the five spots on the line and he even taught himself how to snap the football during his pre-draft process a few years ago. He might never become a starter in the NFL but Driscoll is an extremely valuable member of the Eagles’ offensive line and it’s hard to believe he’s entering Year 4 in the league.
Roob: It was nice to see Johnson finally get some acclaim this year as one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles. It’s a shame it took playing with a torn core muscle injury for some people to notice just how good he is, but Johnson keeps stacking quality year after quality year and he was as good as ever this year. He made his fourth Pro Bowl and his second all-pro team and had the second-highest offensive tackle grade in the NFL this year, according to Pro Football Focus (behind Laremy Tunsil) and the No. 1 pass blocking grade. Johnson will be 33 this spring, and who knows how long he’ll continue putting his body through the daily rigors of life as an NFL offensive lineman. But with nearly $40 million coming his way through 2025, there’s plenty of motivation to keep going.
Dave: What Johnson did in the 2022 playoffs was incredible. Playing through a torn adductor that needed surgery and still playing at the same dominant level is the stuff of legend. At 32, Johnson was named to his second All-Pro team this past season and his first since the 2017 season. But his dominance has been going on for quite some time. That ankle injury is finally in his rearview and Johnson has seemingly found a good balance with his mental health struggles. And the product on the field is undeniable. Johnson was one of the best tackles in the NFL in 2022 and the Eagles will need that for at least a couple more seasons.
Roob: This isn’t just some undrafted rookie street free agent. Johnson is going into his fifth NFL season, although he’s only 25. He’s played in 28 games and started eight for the Bengals. Johnson can play guard or tackle and at 6-7, 325 pounds, you can see why Jeff Stoutland likes him. Dude is a mountain. Good guy to have around in camp and the practice squad.
Dave: The one thing I know about Fred Johnson from seeing him in the locker room is the dude is huge. The Eagles list him at 6-7, 326 and he looks every bit of it. The 25-year-old went undrafted out of Florida in 2019 and has played and started games in the NFL at tackle and guard. That versatility and the fact that he played in five games with the Bucs in 2022 gives him a slight edge over the other unknown Johnson but it’s not enough for now.
Roob: Another veteran who’ll be in camp trying to win a back-of-the-roster spot. Johnson, 27, was the Browns’ 5th-round pick in 2017 and has also had stints with the Texans and Chiefs. He’s played in 29 games and started six. Like Johnson, he’s a big dude (6-6, 305) with some experience who’ll be trying to impress people in camp. If Dillard leaves, there will be a roster spot for a backup tackle, and the Eagles have some intriguing candidates.
Dave: This Johnson also has NFL experience but hasn’t played in a regular season NFL game since 2020. He also appears to not have the guard-tackle flexibility the Eagles might be looking for in their backup offensive linemen. Johnson spent some time on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2022.
Roob: I thought Mailata played better last year than this year, but if his play dropped off during the regular season he was fantastic in the postseason. Hard to believe he’s going into his sixth season now and fourth as a starter. Mailata is at a pivotal point in his career. Is he going to be a very good left tackle or can he be one of the best in the NFL? Everything is there physically and mentally for him to be a Pro Bowler, it’s just a matter of finding more consistency in his game, and there’s no reason he can’t do that.
Dave: After that shoulder injury really seemed to hurt Mailata early in the 2022 season, he was very good down the stretch and looked like himself again. The Eagles signed Mailata to a four-year contract extension before the start of last season so he’s under contract through 2025. The question is about how good Mailata can be. Remember, he’s still just 25 and is relatively new to the sport. He still has Pro Bowl/All-Pro potential in the NFL.
Roob: Another camp body, Williams has been on and off the practice squad for much of the last two years and was also briefly with the Lions this year. He’s an older guy – he’ll be 26 when training camp starts – but like Fred Johnson and Roderick Johnson he’s got good size and the best o-line coach in the game to learn from. Howie Roseman loves trying to find offensive linemen off the beaten path, and he'll have a few of those intriguing longshot guys in camp this summer.
Dave: A rookie from last season, Williams signed with the Eagles after going undrafted out of Miami. But he started his college career at the University of Houston. Williams (6-6, 325) has the size to be an NFL tackle but is still a project. He was on the Eagles’ practice squad and then hit the p-squad IR before eventually being released. He joined the Lions’ practice squad for the end of the year and then returned to Philly on a futures contract. He could be on the practice squad again in 2023.
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