Philadelphia Eagles: Where does Andre Dillard go from here?

(Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

In sports, there are winners, and there are losers.

When one team wins, it’s because another came up short. When a dark horse defies the odds to make the roster, usually it comes at the expense of a more veteran player. And when an underdog defies the odds, earns a starting spot, and gets a massive contract, it’s usually at the expense of the player they replaced, whether due to injury, poor play, or a combination of the two.

Why, you may ask, is this relevant? On the eve of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ first game of the 2021 NFL season? Well, because Jordan Mailata did just that; signing a massive extension worth up to $80 million over the next four years (more on that here).

This, obviously, is great news for Mailata, but what does it mean for the player he beat out, 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard? Does the pride of Washington State still have a spot in the Philadelphia Eagles’ plans, or are his days in the City of Brotherly Love numbered?

The Philadelphia Eagles have a choice to make about Andre Dillard’s future.

When the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to draft Andre Dillard 22nd overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, it was to play left tackle.

Dillard played left tackle all his life, played it at an incredibly high level at Washington State, and received praise – and universal first-round grades – for his ability to be a day one plug and play tackle in a zone-blocking scheme.

Had Dillard been afforded that opportunity as a rookie, instead of being stuck behind the last good year of Jason Peters’ career, maybe he’d still have that role now. Maybe his representatives would be negotiating a new deal for the 2022 offseason, and his future in our fair city would be secured.

That obviously didn’t happen.

From playing poorly on the right side during his rookie season to having his sophomore campaign stolen away by a training camp trip to IR, Dillard has only appeared in 16 games for the Eagles over his first two seasons and now looks to be used sparingly in his third professional campaign as a one position backup for Jordan Mailata.

Is this where Dillard likely saw his career going when he was drafted in the first round two springs ago? No, I sincerely doubt it is. Dillard surely expected to be starting by now and likely has had conversations with his agent to find a situation to do just that. But at this point in the season, is that likely to happen? Probably not.

Barring some team losing their left tackle to a season-ending injury tomorrow, which would artificially inflate Dillard’s value considerably, there likely isn’t a robust trade market for his services heading into the first week of the NFL season.

Sure, some team might throw a fifth-rounder for a former first-round left tackle, but that surely isn’t enough to get Howie Roseman’s interest peaked. Unless some evaluation trusting general manager comes in hot and is willing to surrender serious draft capital for Dillard’s services, something in the Day 2 range, the Eagles would likely be better off keeping him as a backup for Mailata in one of the game’s most valuable positions.

That, unfortunately, may be Dillard’s ceiling in South Philly, as his other paths to the field are incredibly limited.

Mind you, there are still a few scenarios that could end with Dillard becoming a starter for the Eagles. Maybe Lane Johnson abruptly retires, Mailata gets kicked to the right side, and Dillard takes his rightful place as the team’s left tackle, but at $16 million a year, Mailata isn’t being paid right tackle money. No, even if that may present a decent enough replacement for Johnson, it’s clear the Eagles view Mailata as their left tackle of the future, and just paid him handsomely for that honor.

Unless Dillard is willing to learn to play right tackle, his best chance to find a starting spot is likely elsewhere.

With two years left on his contract, plus a fifth-year option for the 2023 NFL season, Dillard is still very much an intriguing trade option for a team looking to bolster their left tackle spot. Who knows, maybe the Chicago Bears will realize Jason Peters is washed and trade something substantiation for Dillard’s services. How ironic would that be, for a team to once again use draft capital to replace Peters with Dillard? I would certainly love to see it, especially if David Montgomery is on the other end of the deal.

Next. Jordan Mailata proves anything is possible. dark

There’s no doubt about it; the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to extend Jordan Mailata long-term is detrimental to Andre Dillard’s career trajectory. Once drafted to become the team’s left tackle of the future, Dillard now has no clear path to the field and may find himself a backup for the first time in his football playing career since his sophomore year at Washington State. But just because Dillard’s path to the starting lineup in Philly has been effectively blocked doesn’t mean his career is suddenly in jeopardy. When the right deal comes along, likely next spring, expect Howie Roseman to find Dillard a nice new home where he can finally compete for a starting role while providing the team with some additional assets in the process.