Eagles Sign Ex-Alabama Star to Contract, Role Defined for Rookie

Landon Dickerson

Getty Former Alabama center Landon Dickerson could end up being a huge steal for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 draft.

The Philadelphia Eagles wasted no time in getting their top draft picks locked into rookie deals. Second-rounder Landon Dickerson had been the only rookie left unsigned and the franchise put pen to paper on Monday, one day before players report to training camp for COVID-19 testing.

Some were questioning the hold-up in getting Dickerson into the fold, perhaps it had to do with his surgically-repaired knee. The 6-foot-6, 333-pounder is still getting healthy coming off a procedure for a torn left ACL in 2020. He has suffered two ACL tears (one in each knee) in five years while undergoing a “tightrope” procedure for an ankle injury.

While no one views these ailments as long-term issues, it was interesting that it took Dickerson so long to ink a deal in Philly. Eagles All-Pro Lane Johnson, who can relate to tightrope surgery, painted the picture of an explosive player when he saw him at OTAs. He also revealed that Dickerson wasn’t fully cleared to play.

“He’s not fully cleared,” Johnson said. “But he’s extremely explosive, I mean he’s just a big dude. He’s going to be a great player for us, hopefully, sooner than later but we’ll see how his recovery is, his rehab goes, but he’s looking really good so far.”

The pay scale for draft picks is slotted so it was never a matter of Dickerson holding out. The amount of money is going to be the same: a four-year deal worth about $8.6 million. Eight other rookies were also signed: DeVonta Smith, Kenneth Gainwell, Marlon Tuipulotu, Tarran Jackson, Patrick Johnson, JaCoby Stevens, Milton Williams, Zech McPhearson.

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Starting the Year as Jason Kelce’s Backup?

When the Eagles used the 37th overall pick on Dickerson, the obvious assumption was that the college center would eventually replace Jason Kelce. But, considering the rash of injuries on their offensive line, the team may have been looking to throw him in at guard and let him compete for a backup spot with Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta. And maybe even push Isaac Seumalo for a starting spot.

Not anymore. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Eagles are fully committed to playing him at center. The “poison pill” in Kelce’s contract makes it hard to see the (hopefully) future Hall of Famer returning in 2022. Dickerson can learn from one of the best to ever do it and take over when Kelce leaves the nest. It’s a good plan.

Eagles O-Line Coach Describes Dickerson

Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland isn’t one to mince words, especially when it comes to evaluating his players. He was asked to describe Dickerson’s best qualities during his media availability at spring OTAs and didn’t hold back. Stoutland said he already possesses two important factors.

“You have to be able to anchor and keep the pocket extremely firm in protection. So those are two really important factors and he can do that,” Stoutland told reporters. “I saw it on film. I saw him do that as a center at Alabama. I saw him play. I think he has the capability, I don’t think, I know he has the capability of doing those two things.”

Those are Dickerson’s strengths, although the former Alabama standout isn’t without his faults.

“I want to see him accelerate on contact,” Stoutland said. “When contact is made, I want to see his feet going. I think that’s something that he and I talked about immediately, as soon as we drafted him.”

Will Rookie Be Ready for Training Camp?

As Johnson noted, Dickerson hasn’t been fully cleared for contact. It’s unclear whether he’ll be ready to go on July 27 but so far everything appears to be on schedule.

“So my recovery is right where I want it to be. We don’t have an exact time frame,” Dickerson said of his injury timeline. “My ultimate goal is to be able to do whatever I can to make the team better no matter what stage I’m at this summer or when we get into the season.”

The 22-year-old has a legitimate shot to compete for the top interior backup job behind Isaac Seumalo. The other top candidate there is last year’s breakout player Nate Herbig.

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