Philadelphia Eagles: The Hakeem Butler experiment just took a turn

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Hakeem Butler was one of the more polarizing players in the 2019 NFL Draft.

To some, the Iowa State product looked like the next great super-sized X receiver, a seriously impressive weapon on the outside capable of winning 50-50 balls and dominating in the red zone.

But to others? Well, Butler projected as a pretty big, um, project who may be better suited playing tight end at the game’s highest level.

That debate, whether Butler is a wide receiver, a tight end, or neither, has unfortunately followed him from the NCAA ranks to the NFL and from the Arizona Cardinals to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he signed after being waived midway through his sophomore season.

Does Butler have a better chance to stick around in South Philly as a tight end, or is he better suited to switch back to his native wide receiver and compete for a spot a little further off the line?

Well, if initial reports from camp are of any indication, it would appear the Philadelphia Eagles have made their choice.

Hakeem Butler’s position with the Philadelphia Eagles may have switched again.

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In the NFL, when one player shocks the world and flies up a depth chart, it almost always comes at the expense of someone else.

Take, for example, the recent emergence of Zech McPhearson, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick who, by all accounts, is off to a fantastic summer and would probably be the team’s first starter off the bench if either Darius Slay or Steven Nelson suffered an injury. While his impressive play is obviously fantastic for both the player and the team, it comes at the expense of both Michael Jacquet and Craig James, who are both competing for a depth role on the outside.

The same, fortunately, or not could be said for the emergence of out-of-nowhere tight end prospect Tyree Jackson, who went from (University of) Buffalo quarterback, to Buffalo (Bills) quarterback, to XFL quarterback, before finally landing with the Philadelphia Eagles in an attempt to switch positions and try his hand at a skills position.

Assuming Jackson is with the Eagles this fall, either from beating Richard Rodgers outright for the TE3 spot, as a bottom-of-the roster stash, or on the practice squad, that doesn’t leave room for Hakeem Butler, another tight end project who isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Potential solution? Switch him back to wide receiver.

I know, crazy, right? With four viable tight ends fighting for at most four spots, Butler may actually have a better chance of finding one home or another as a member of the wide receiver corps, even if there are far more bodies fighting for at most eight spots split between the active roster and the practice squad.

Not, like, a whole lot better, mind you, as the Eagles have drafted five wide receivers in the last three years and have a total of six pass-catchers who are more or less locked into spots on the roster this fall – assuming the team keeps six receivers total.

But after those six? Things open up pretty spectacularly.

As cynical as it may sound, Butler isn’t competing with Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, or even JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a spot with the Eagles this fall. Okay, technically, he is, but not really. No, Butler is actually competing with players like Jhamon Ausbom, Andre Patton, and Michael Walker for the team’s seventh receiver spot.

Considering his position versatility and unique offensive profile, something tells me Butler should be a favorite for that practice squad wide receiver spot.

Heck, Butler doesn’t even have to change his number, as 89 is totally acceptable for either position. Talk about a perfectly seamless switch that isn’t actually a switch at all; more of an unswitch, if you will.

Sidebar: You may ask why I came to the number six instead of seven. Well, if John Hightowter, Quez Watkins, or JJ Arcega-Whiteside fails to make the active roster, I imagine they will be snatched up by some wide receiver-needy team looking to take a flyer, much like the Eagles did with both Boston Scott and Kerryon Johnson.

Next. Jalen Reagor is making waves this summer. dark

Will Hakeem Butler ever become an Alshon Jeffery-esque game changer on the outside? *squints eyes* maybee, but at this point in his career, that shouldn’t be his biggest concern. No, for Butler to eventually become a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles, he actually had to make the Philadelphia Eagles roster in one way or another. If the chances of clearing that first hurdle are better as a wide receiver than tight end, then so be it, especially with Tyree Jackson rapidly rising up the ranks at TE.