Eagles mailbag: Why even bother moving J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to tight end?

·8 min read

Eagles mailbag: Why even bother moving JJAW to TE? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles are reporting for their voluntary offseason program in a couple days and the NFL Draft is right behind that.

So we’re on the brink of another busy section of the NFL offseason.

And you guys had plenty of questions. We got so many that we broke up the mailbag into multiple parts. We won’t get to all of them but if you don’t see your question today … check tomorrow:

We got a bunch of questions about J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, which isn’t surprising because the news that he is switching from receiver to tight end was pretty fresh when I asked for questions. So I’ll use this space to give some thoughts on JJAW, his career and this move.

Forget about him being a second-round pick. That ship has sailed. Drafting him with the No. 57 overall pick in the 2019 draft class was an absolute swing-and-miss and moving him to tight end isn’t about trying to get him to realize his potential as a second-round pick. For the Eagles, it’s about trying to find some value for him. And for JJAW, it’s about trying to save his career. Feel free to kill the Eagles for this pick because it didn’t work out. But I still can’t fault them for the JJAW pick as much as, say, Jalen Reagor or Marcus Smith. At least Arcega-Whiteside was considered a good value for where they drafted him. Still, his career has been an absolute disaster. No way around it.

The Eagles’ moving JJAW to tight end certainly doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot either. In fact, he still faces an uphill climb. And if the Eagles end up cutting him after training camp, they’ll save over $1 million in cap space. But there’s really no downside to bringing him into camp and at least seeing what he can do at his new position, especially because he’ll get to learn from a pretty good position coach in Jason Michael.

And he probably has a better shot of making the team as a tight end than a receiver considering what’s on the roster in front of him. The Eagles have Dallas Goedert as their TE1 but undrafted Jack Stoll was their top backup in the second half of last season. And their TE3 Tyree Jackson is rehabbing a torn ACL. They also have Richard Rodgers and Noah Togiai. But Arcega-Whiteside did some things last year that make you think it isn’t crazy to move him to tight end. He turned himself into a good special teamer and was a really physical blocker in the run game. If he continues to grow as a blocker, maybe he can be a decent tight end.

He’s listed at 6-2, 225 but Arcega-Whiteside has been putting on weight because that’s too small to play tight end in the NFL.The Eagles view JJAW as an “F” tight end, move tight end. He won’t be an inline player. Instead, the Eagles will try to move him around and benefit from matchups. And as long as he can improve as a blocker, it’s an intriguing concept. And I’ve been told he’s really embraced the position change.

At this point, it’s extremely unlikely Arcega-Whiteside will ever live up to his draft status. But if he can turn into a functional backup/rotational tight end? It’s worth a shot.

This is possible, but the important thing to remember is that the Eagles would need to have trade partners. Howie Roseman explained this week how he has a bunch of trades already outlined before the draft starts. That helps him be prepared to pounce on a move, but then you’re still reliant on the board falling in a certain way.

If one of a few targeted players falls into the Eagles’ range, I expect them to be aggressive, much like they were last year when they jumped up from 12 to 10 to land DeVonta Smith. With 10 total picks entering this draft, Roseman has the ammo to move up and down as he pleases. In a way, these two things sort of go together because the Eagles’ picks are so close at 15 and 18. If they don’t like the players in that range to stay there at 15, then theres’s a chance they don’t like those players enough to stay at 18.

So the idea of sending away a third-round pick and then possibly recouping a third or, say, a fourth-rounder in a trade back, is very appealing. The Eagles would be listening to offers, especially if there’s a QB on the board at 18 and a team wants to jump in front of the Saints and Steelers (two QB hungry teams) then the Eagles would pick up the phone. But they’ll need the phone to ring.

It’s a tough question because the Eagles better not view it like this, thinking they need to get X position in Round 1 and then X position in round two. But if we’re strictly talking most likely, then I’d say WR and CB. I’m not sure the value at DT will line up with where they’re picking at 15 and 18. And the safety in Round 1 is a tough sell for me unless it’s Kyle Hamilton, whereas the second round should offer some pretty good value options.

It was pretty clear the Eagles didn’t want to be as run-heavy in 2021 as they ended up. That was a product of a stagnant offense realizing it needed to do that. But they look back at last season and know they have to be a better passing offense. That’s why so many fans are rightfully anxious about the lack of a big addition to help them get there.

The Eagles were the 25th-ranked passing offense in the NFL last season. That’s not good enough. The seven teams worse than them last year? None of them made the playoffs and just two had winning records.

Going even deeper, if you split the league into two parts, of the 16 teams in the lower half of the league in passing, just five had winning records and just one (the Titans with 12) had double digit wins. Can you win by running the ball? Sure. But the easier way to win is by having a good passing attack. The Eagles know that.

I’m a big fan of Jameson Williams from Alabama. Those who have been following my draft coverage are well aware of this and are probably tired of hearing it. I know he’s coming off a torn ACL, but that doesn’t bother me. He’s an absolute stud. He was a monster in 2021 at Alabama and I think they win the National Championship Game if he doesn’t get hurt. He’s that good. He would give the Eagles a legitimate level of explosion that they’ve been missing and could make a huge difference even without taking a bunch of targets from DeVonta Smith or Dallas Goedert. Sign me up.

I guess. But I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of teams lining up to trade for Jalen Reagor. I’m not trying to knock him too much but his career hasn’t just been bad; he’s been a negative player. He’s hurt the team. Maybe if there’s a team that really loved him in the pre-draft process a couple years ago, they’d be willing to bring him in and give him a shot. But you’re really desperate if you need a receiver to help you this year and think Reagor is the answer.

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