They say grief has seven stages. Andre Dillard has given Eagles fans many more emotional twists and turns than that. After three years of hope, hospitals and Howie Roseman quotes, the former first-rounder faces a defining moment in his career. And it could whip up a final whirlwind of feelings in Philly.
Starting on the wrong foot
Dillard’s career in Philadelphia began under a cloud. The Eagles moved up three spots to draft the 6’5 and 315lb offensive tackle 22nd overall, despite already having a potential Hall-of-Famer at that position in Jason Peters. Howie Roseman announced that Dillard had “a great opportunity to come in and learn from Jason.” But the idea of drafting a first-round player to sit on the bench raised plenty of eyebrows.
#77 appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, but started only four. The Eagles then named Dillard as a starter, but he tore a bicep in preseason and missed his entire second season. Adding insult to injury, a former rugby player snatched the starting left tackle spot last season – and bagged a $64-million contract too.
Depth was a key factor in the Eagles’ fantastic OL in 2021, and Dillard looked solid. He gave up just one sack, one QB hit and 20 pressures in 340 snaps, earning a 69.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Those numbers are certainly nothing to weep about. But they won’t have anyone leaping for joy either.
On the block
2022 is the moment of reckoning for Andre Dillard. The 26-year-old is in his final contracted year, so the Eagles have to choose whether to pick up his fifth-year option before May 2 (one day after the draft ends). If they want to trade Dillard, they need to do it before that deadline so his new team can make their own decision about Year Five. Over the Cap projects Dillard would be guaranteed $11.6 million.
In typical style, Howie Roseman has fired up his propaganda machine. “Andre is working out every day,” he recently told reporters. “He looks great. He’s really determined. He wants to play.”
Points of attack
Roseman likes to “win” trades – and the recent transaction between Indy and Washington will have bolstered his confidence. However, the Eagles don’t need to do anything hasty with Andre Dillard. The front office can afford to sit on their hands through free agency and three rounds of NFL draft. Any team that fails to grab its preferred left tackle may then agree a higher price for Dillard.
The player could also be a useful bargaining chip if the Eagles want to move up in the draft, as they have done for their first selection in three of the past four seasons. And since Philly has ten picks this year, they may look to trade Dillard for a 2023 pick and boost their capital for the ongoing rebuild.
The one thing working against Andre Dillard is his age. He’s 26-years-old and in his three NFL seasons only has minimal starting experience. It’s hard to imagine a team wanting to go above and beyond when there will be so many more appealing options available.
In any case, reporters claimed teams inquired about Dillard last year. Now, rumors of a possible trade with the Bears are gaining volume. That would offer poetic justice, as Dillard would replace Jason Peters.
Dillard or no Dillard?
After three years of ups and downs, it’s likely Andre Dillard will be out and away by May. The man Howie Roseman once called “the best tackle in the draft” has not lived up to that lofty praise. But with a hard deadline looming and some potentially desperate trade partners, don’t rule out a bit of last-minute haggling to generate a final kaleidoscope of emotions before Dilly leaves Philly for a new place to play.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire