Why do the Eagles want to move Hakeem Butler to TE?

NFL: AUG 15 Preseason – Raiders at Cardinals
GLENDALE, AZ – AUGUST 15: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Hakeem Butler (17) walks off the field before the NFL preseason football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals on August 15, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles made an interesting yet slightly puzzling roster move on Monday afternoon. Dallas Goedert was placed on IR, opening up a roster spot that would be filled by WR Hakeem Butler, who was poached from Carolina’s practice squad. What stands out here is that Butler was listed as a Tight End in the announcement.

Who is Hakeem Butler?

The 24-year-old was regarded by many as a top wide receiving prospect in last year’s NFL Draft after a stunning career at Iowa State. In three seasons with the Cyclones, Butler amassed 110 catches for 2,149 yards and 18 touchdowns, going out with a bang by setting a single-season school record with 1,318 receiving yards.

He averaged 22 yards per catch that year and stands at 6’5, 227 lbs. Running an impressive 4.48 40-yard dash time, Butler dazzled everyone at the combine.

When he slid all the way down to the fourth round, the Cardinals laughed their way to the podium, but it was the last Butler-related laugh they’d have. The rookie would miss his entire first season due to a broken hand, but there were whispers prior to the injury that he struggled to transition to the NFL, no longer unable to rely on his freak-athleticism alone.

Without most of the offseason in year two, Butler watched as DeAndre Hopkins walked into the building, and Andy Isabella took a huge step forward. Stacked at wide receiver, they had no excess room for a fourth-round pick who should be firing on all cylinders and decided to cut him prior to the start of the season. He landed on their practice squad, where he was ultimately poached by the Eagles.

What will Hakeem Butler’s role on the Eagles look like?

The move itself is questionable. Replacing Dallas Goedert with a WR yet to play an NFL snap who not only has to learn the playbook, but an entirely new position, is just weird. Richard Rodgers will be the TE2 for now, giving Butler some breathing room, but it just feels unnecessary, especially given that they signed Jason Croom to the practice squad yesterday, a 26-year-old TE who recorded 22 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown in 2018 for the Bills before spending 2019 on IR.

If anything these moves should’ve been switched. It’s not like the Eagles have a great history of cross-training wide receivers. Nelson Agholor’s regression was given the ‘too many hats’ excuse by Carson Walch, while it also attributed to a dreadful rookie season from second-round pick J.J Arcega-Whiteside. While talking about JJAW, it’s interesting that he’s spending most of his time working out of the slot. Maybe the Butler move is linked to the ‘Big slot’ mentality Pederson seems to be toying with.

It would be understandable if Butler was signed as someone who could perform in a pinch for two depleted positional groups, but Quez Watkins is close to full health, Deontay Burnett has proved more than JJAW has, and again, there’s already depth at TE to get through Goedert’s injury.

It’s low-risk, high-reward, but that doesn’t make it a smart move when the Eagles are void of any linebacking prowess and depth is glaringly minimal at cornerback. Add this to the list of confusing moves made by the Eagles this season.

Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire