By Connor Thomas
The Eagles are still in the midst of a compressed NFL Preseason, and have plenty of roster decisions to still go through before the 53 man roster is set for their opening game in Atlanta. One of the biggest moves that could happen prior to the start of the regular season involves former 1st round selection, LT Andre Dillard. According to The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, multiple teams have reached out to the Eagles to inquire about the availability of the 3rd year Tackle out of Washington State. With Jordan Mailata taking the majority of 1st team snaps in practice following a season in which he started 10 games, the birds could potentially move on from Dillard if they so choose. At this point, though, choosing to move on from Dillard would be a complete mistake, and for more reasons than one.
Andre Dillard has started a measly 4 games in his professional football career, having a rough rookie season and a season ending injury last year. Now, heading into his 3rd season, the number 22 pick in the 2019 draft’s value has gone through the floor, through the basement, and into the core of the earth. Just 2 years since spending a premium pick on Dillard, there are questions about whether the Eagles could even receive a 5th or 6th round pick in return if they were to trade him. Unfortunately, that value reflects what his value as a player in midnight green is right now: virtually nothing. For that reason, you cannot move on from Dillard right now. He may never be a starter for the Eagles, but it would be hard for his value as a player to go anywhere but up from here. The benefit of a 5th or 6th round pick is not enough that the Eagles can’t afford to turn it down in favor of giving Dillard more time to improve as a player. If Howie Roseman were to give up on him now, it’s an admittance of a failed draft pick, something that Roseman has not done easily during his time in Philly (see: JJ Arcega-Whiteside). In this instance, though, Roseman’s stubbornness is correct. If you can’t increase Dillard’s value over the next couple seasons, losing a potential late round pick in a trade is not a huge price to pay. For all of his failures in his 2+ years as a professional, it’s hard to believe that Dillard can’t outperform that price tag.
Another reason why Dillard should not be traded is that you still have him under contract through the 2022 season, and for a manageable salary. He’ll make $1.6mil this season and $2.1mil next year, nothing that breaks the bank. He will also be a more attractive trade piece for other teams in the final year of his deal so that if he doesn’t improve as a player, his new team could cut bait at the end of the season without repercussions. And who knows? Maybe Dillard gets extended time this year because of an injury to another lineman and he shows flashes of 1st round talent. Stranger things have certainly happened. It makes significantly more sense to give Dillard this season as a last chance to prove his worth, rather than shipping him off for peanuts in the preseason.
The bottom line is that it is simply too early to give up on an investment as large as a 1st round selection. Partially because of his contract being manageable, partially because of the return in any potential trades being minimal, Dillard should spend his 3rd season in the NFL in Philadelphia. Whether or not he will improve is anybody’s guess, but the risk is absolutely still worth the reward. Dillard has not done anything personally to deserve the organization’s faith, but his situation just does not make it smart to move on from him… yet.