ATLANTA -- The Eagles on Saturday announced a four-year contract extension for Jordan Mailata, making him their left tackle of now and the future.
So it begs the question: What happens to Andre Dillard?
The Eagles’ first-round pick from 2019 was already sent to the bench after Mailata ran away with the left tackle competition this summer. And on Saturday, any chance Dillard had of ever regaining that spot evaporated with Mailata’s extension.
Dillard, 25, still has two years left on his rookie contract as a first-round pick, which really leaves the Eagles with two options:
1. Keep him as a backup and try to expand his versatility
2. Trade him
In the short-term, Dillard is on the team and it would behoove the Eagles to start training him at a few different spots. Playing Dillard at right tackle in a pinch during his rookie season was a disaster from the time he approached that mission with a defeatist attitude. But now there’s not much choice for the former first-rounder. He’s a backup and the Eagles don’t want backups who play just one spot.
It’s a shame that Dillard got hurt in training camp because while it gave the Eagles an out from the competition, it also took away time they could have used to begin cross-training Dillard when there were plenty of reps to go around. The Eagles should start to train Dillard now at both right tackle and at guard to see if he has the ability to slide inside.
As the Eagles go into this season with Jack Driscoll on IR, it’s unclear who would play right tackle if Lane Johnson had to come out of a game or miss a start. Mailata has played right tackle but the Eagles typically don’t like changing two positions on the line. So would they play Dillard on the right side, insert Brett Toth or maybe even elevate rookie Kayode Awosika, bring up Le’Raven Clark? If Dillard showed something, anything at right tackle, that would be the obvious move.
But since Dillard is a first-round pick on the bench, the possibility of a trade will always be there too. And anytime a left tackle goes down in the NFL, Eagles fans are going to be wondering if Dillard will be dealt.
It’s hard to figure out what kind of value Dillard really has. He was obviously a big prospect a couple years ago but played minimally in his rookie year, missed his entire second year and then got blown out of the water in a competition in Year 3. He had an OK training camp and played well against the Jets, but how much is that really worth?
Based on how we’ve seen Howie Roseman handle negotiations this offseason — think about the trade of Carson Wentz and the non-trade of Zach Ertz — we know he’s not going to be forced into a deal where he gets less than the value he wants. So would he trade away Dillard for a Day 3 pick? It’s possible but Roseman might think Dillard still has more value than that and he might be determined to keep him unless he gets what he has in mind.
There’s also the embarrassment factor of trading away a first-round pick a few years later for a much lesser pick.
Still, getting something back for a player who has been disappointing would still make sense. And it would also save the Eagles a little bit of cap space.
Maybe there’s a team out there who thinks a change of scenery would do Dillard good. And the thing Dillard has going for him is that he’s still cheap for a left tackle with a salary of $1.6 million in 2021 and $2.2 million in 2022. And any team that were to trade for him would have the ability to exercise his fifth-year option.
Earlier this week, Roseman was on 94WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi if he was rooting for Dillard over Mailata in that competition because Dillard was a first-round pick.
Roseman’s answer was an interesting one because he brought up the 2011 draft on his own.
“Is anyone talking about the fact that we drafted Jason Kelce in the sixth round and Danny Watkins in the first round?” Roseman said. “Gotta get good players and they come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all parts of the draft.”
Back in 2011, the pick of Kelce in the sixth round out of Cincinnati saved a draft class that saw the Eagles pick Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh with their first three picks.
Mailata was picked late in the 2018 draft and Dillard was chosen in 2019, but the point remains. You can knock Roseman and the Eagles for drafting Dillard but they deserve credit for Mailata. Ideally, the guy they drafted in the first round to replace Jason Peters would have done it, but that’s just not the way this worked out.
“I think that Andre hasn’t really gotten a fair rap,” Roseman said. “I really do. I think that he is playing well and he continues to get better. He missed all last year. But Jordan won the job and Jordan’s got amazing tools in his body. And so, I think we gotta get the best players on the field. It doesn’t matter where they’re drafted. As long as we get them here.
“If we sat here and we didn’t have a young left tackle or a left tackle wasn’t playing well, I’d be sick about it. But we got a great problem. We’ve got two young left tackles that we drafted that we have going forward into this season.”
But only one is here to stay. The other’s future is up in the air.
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