Short-Term Injury Windows Complicate Eagles' Roster Decisions

Why players like Rodney McLeod, Landon Dickerson, and Tyree Jackson could be on the Eagles' original 53-man roster
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Rodney McLeod has to be included on the Eagles' 53-man roster when final cuts are due by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

The veteran safety is still rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in December of last year and hasn't participated in training camp to date, instead working diligently on a side field for when the all-clear is finally given by the team's medical staff.

That said, while the Sept. 12 opener in Atlanta is somewhat iffy for McLeod, he should be ready to go far before Week 7, meaning starting the season on the PUP [Physically Unable to Perform] list is out the window.

Once on the original 53, the Eagles would then have some wiggle room to manipulate the less-restrictive COVID-19 roster rules that have been carried over into the 2021 season when it comes to McLeod, who is expected to be the starting safety opposite Anthony Harris for Jonathan Gannon's defensive unit.

The worst-case scenario for a player like McLeod would be short-term injured reserve after the original cutdown if he's unable to meet his own self-professed goal of Week 1.

In that type of circumstance, a player like Andrew Adams, a vested veteran, could be released at the 53-man cutdown for two reasons: the desire to have more versatility to wait for McLeod and more financial flexibility.

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If vested players like Adams, running back Jordan Howard and tight end Richard Rodgers are on the Week 1 roster, their entire 2021 salaries are guaranteed. However, if you release any of those players and bring them back for Week 2, the money due is piecemealed on a weekly basis.

Rookie second-round pick Landon Dickerson is another potential issue as he recovers from his own ACL injury suffered late last season while in college at Alabama.

Like McLeod, Dickerson was injured in December but at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds with a history of injuries and a prior ACL tear his rehab is a little more complicated.

The Eagles are on record as saying that they don't expect the 2021 season to be a redshirt campaign for Dickerson but there is more of a possibility that could keep him on the NFI [Non-Football Injury] list to start the season with the expectation of a Week 7 return.

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Philadelphia has tried to get Nate Herbig up to speed to be the backup center until Dickerson is ready to go, but the results have been a mixed bag and Herbig is clearly more comfortable playing guard.

Keeping Dickerson on the first 53 could mean a player who deserves to make the team like Brett Toth has to be waived unless a trade can be worked out for players like Andre Dillard or Matt Pryor.

Barring a deal, the hope would then be Toth clears waivers so he can be brought back to the practice squad or the 53-man roster once Dickerson heads to short-term IR.

Developmental tight end Tyree Jackson is out two months with a fracture in his back so the Eagles have a decision to make there as well.

If they shut down Jackson and place him on IR before the cutdown, that means the former quarterback will not be able to practice with the team all season even when deemed healthy, not exactly the way you would want to go with a young player making a difficult transition.

Like McLeod and Dickerson, the Eagles could carry Jackson at the final 53 and put him on IR after the cutdown, something that would allow the organization to activate the lengthy tight end anytime after three games.

That could be accomplished by releasing Rodgers at the final cut next Tuesday and bringing him back in Week 2 when his salary would no longer be guaranteed. The insurance policy to that plan could also be undrafted rookie Jack Stoll, who is likely earmarked for the PS if the Eagles get him through waivers.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagle Maven 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 jmcmullen44@gmail.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 or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.