On the eve of training camp, the Eagles finally locked up the final piece of their 2021 draft class when offensive lineman Landon Dickerson agreed to terms on his four-year contract.
The No. 37 overall pick in April’s draft out of Alabama, the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Dickerson was a unanimous first-team All-American for the national champion Crimson Tide and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center despite tearing his ACL late in the campaign.
Dickerson was able to dress for the national championship game against Ohio State and entered for the final snap of Alabama’s 52-24 blowout win.
The Eagles took a calculated risk on the talented Dickerson, who suffered a total of four significant injuries in college that ranged from his time at Florida State to Tuscaloosa - ACL tears in both knees and two significant ankle injuries, including the same kind of tightrope surgery that failed to save the 2020 season for Lane Johnson.
"We want to take chances," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. "When we think about Landon, think about what kind of player we think he is and what kind of player we think he can be in the National Football League."
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger told SI.com Eagle Maven that Dickerson is a "difference-maker."
Baldinger compared him to Colts All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson.
"I always fall in love with a player (in the draft process),” said Baldinger. “I fell in love with (Colts guard) Quenton Nelson three years ago coming out of Notre Dame. He was my favorite player coming into the draft. And I kept coming back to Landon Dickerson. He was my favorite player.
"In fact, (Dickerson) was the best offensive lineman I had seen since Quenton Nelson. Now, I know the injury history is real. And he’s coming off a torn ACL. He did start before the ACL 24 straight games for Alabama and (Tide coach) Nick Saban did he say he’s the single best leader we’ve had in our program.
“And you look at the 24 games at guard and at center, you listen to what Nick Saban said, then you look at how he dominated the SEC. Derrick Brown, now at Carolina (after being a first-round pick out of Auburn in 2020), you look at him against the elite players that are now all in the NFL, and he didn’t have a problem.”
SI.com's Eagle Maven also previously discussed Dickerson's history with Dr. Jessica Flynn, a sports-medicine specialist from the Boston area who has been covering sports injuries for BostonSportsJournal.com.
"I think one good piece of news is that it's two different ACLs so it's not two ACLs on the same knee," Flynn explained. "I think [two tears in the same knee] is something that's a little bit more worrisome so I think that's most likely why it didn't affect his draft stock quite so much."
The biggest concern with ACL tears is arthritis, according to Flynn.
"I think the biggest concern with ACL tears is really the arthritis that happens in almost every knee that has an ACL tear whether it's repaired or not," said Flynn. "... how quickly is arthritis going to set in? Is it going to be in the next five years, the next seven years, or is it going to be in the next 15 and the bigger guys are at increased risk of that happening a little bit sooner."
The one recommendation Flynn has is not rushing things. Although Dickerson is moving well and ahead of his own rehab goals the Eagles should remain cautious, according to the doctor.
"I think the soonest thing fans should really think about is the fact that he might not be ready at the beginning of the season because he just had surgery in I think December you want to give him at least eight months and a bigger guy maybe even a little bit more time to recover," Flynn said. "Let that graft heal because you don't want him to tear it again."
Dickerson was able to participate in the Eagles’ offseason work in a limited capacity and will continue to do so in training camp. It remains to be seen when Dickerson is given the green light for contact but the Eagles are already on record that they don’t expect the 2021 season to be a so-called redshirt year for Dickerson.
A versatile interior player when healthy Dickerson is expected to be a valuable backup at all three interior offensive line positions and push for a starting job by 2022.
As the 37th overall pick, Dickerson’s contract is slotted to be worth nearly $8.7 million over the four years with a signing bonus of around $3.66 million. His 2021 salary-cap figure will be just under $1.6M.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.