Bringing back Richard Rodgers made sense for Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s official. The Philadelphia Eagles have brought back veteran tight end Richard Rodgers. Assuming that Zach Ertz is not here for the 2021 season or gets traded midseason, this move makes a lot of sense. Behind Dallas Goedert, there is a lot of youth, but all of those young tight ends are unknowns heading into 2021. We will find out more about each of them now that there will once again be preseason but it’s safe to say none of them are ready to take on the TE2 role.
While some may argue that signing Rodgers will take away opportunities for those young tight ends, it could end up being beneficial for them. This coaching staff is not like Doug Pederson’s: the young guys will play more this season and the Eagles front office has shown that by their roster construction.
At tight end, the young guys just aren’t ready though. The only one that might survive in a bigger role is Jason Croom who has some athleticism and has past experience as a featured tight end. It’s hard to even argue that considering that his only significant snaps came back in 2018 with the 6-10 Buffalo Bills.
Along with Croom, the Birds also have Tyree Jackson who is trying to transition from quarterback to tight end like Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas did. In 2020, Thomas was productive as Washington’s starter but that did not happen overnight. Jackson will need time before he is ready to even take on a role as TE3.
The Philadelphia Eagles needed stability at TE2.
Jackson’s teammate, Hakeem Butler, will be making an easier transition from wide receiver to tight end but it is still not an easy one. Outside of playing gunner on punts, we barely saw Butler. His only offensive snap came on fourth and goal versus the New York Giants where he failed to position himself for a contested catch despite having a major size advantage on Logan Ryan.
That is proof that measurables and athleticism can only take you so far. Technique and fundamentals always win at the end of the day.
24-year-old Caleb Wilson only played nine snaps on offense and 48 snaps on special teams. Like Croom, Jackson, and Butler, the Eagles have shown that they don’t quite trust him yet.
Undrafted free agent Jack Stoll might be the most talented of the group behind Goedert but he has to earn his spot first. Signing Rodgers not only gives the Eagles a safety blanket behind Goedert but also gives Wilson and his teammates more time to develop. Rodgers has plenty of experience and can continue to mentor them.
Last year, we saw Rodgers play the most snaps of his Eagles career and contribute in the receiving game whether he was the first or second option at tight end. He found the open space against zone coverage and exploited it. On the season, he posted 24 catches, 345 yards, and two touchdowns in 14 games.
The major concern with Rodgers is his blocking ability both in the run game and in pass protection. He can’t be trusted with those duties. At this point in his career, that is likely not going to change. He is going to make his money as a receiving tight end.
That might be where Jack Stoll comes in as the third option at tight end. Not only can he produce as a receiver but he’ll also provide excellent value as a blocker if he plays to his potential. Rodgers returning to the team does not mean that the young guys will be kept out of the lineup all year long. If someone like Stoll plays well enough, they could certainly surpass Rodgers as TE2 by the end of the season especially since Rodgers is just a short-term option.