The Tennessee Titans decided to stay the course with Dennis Daley at left tackle in Sunday’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Analysts and fans alike spent Tennessee’s bye week wondering if Le’Raven Clark would replace Daley at left tackle. It didn’t happen. Daley didn’t take the step forward the coaching staff probably hoped he would. Daley was credited with giving up four pressures, two hurries and one sack, via Pro Football Focus. Daley’s 33.8 pass-block grade is the NFL’s lowest among tackles with at least 100 snaps, per PFF. Daley has been credited with allowing a sack in three consecutive contests. The answer doesn’t appear to be in-house, so would the Titans consider trading for outside help?
The league’s trade deadline is Nov. 1. One of the more intriguing names available is Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Andre Dillard, according to multiple reports. The Eagles are reportedly willing to part with Dillard in exchange for a third-round selection. The No. 22 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Dillard hasn’t taken a single offensive snap for the Eagles this season. Dillard has been relegated to backup duty after losing the starting job to the heartwarming Jordan Mailata.
Why would the Titans possess interest in trading for another backup left tackle following their offseason trade for Daley? The thing is that Dillard is a quality blindside protector. Mailata won the job as opposed to Dillard losing it. Dillard performed admirably in 2021. Through 337 snaps, he earned a pass-blocking grade of 71.7, a run-blocking grade of 65.4, which equaled an overall grade of 69.6, via PFF. Dillard was credited with giving up just one sack the entire season.
Why would the Super Bowl contending Eagles agree to trade a quality depth piece in the midst of a 6-0 season? Dillard is in the final year of a four-year rookie contract. He’s earning a modest $2.181 million this season, per Spotrac. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman previously declined the fifth-year option on Dillard’s rookie contract. It means he’ll reach unrestricted free agency in March. Roseman already signed Mailata to a lucrative four-year contract extension last August. The chances of Dillard re-signing with the Eagles is extremely slim. They already possess additional quality tackle depth such as swing tackle Jake Driscoll.
Quality offensive tackles are rarely available via trade in October, but Dillard may qualify as a unique exception. We’ve seen Dillard play starting-level football at left tackle at a convincing sample size. At just 27 years of age, Dillard doesn’t have to be viewed as a part-time solution, either. He could help the Titans immediately while also serving as their left tackle in 2023 and beyond. And that should intrigue Titans general manager Jon Robinson.
Robinson understands the difficulty of finding long-term solutions at tackle. He’s poured premium capital into the position to little avail. The Isaiah Wilson and Dillon Radunz errors continue to cost the Titans today. Taylor Lewan suffered his second season-ending injury in three seasons. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL, but Dillard possesses more upside than the unknown of a draft pick (as the Titans know all too well).
The 2022 campaign serves as the final season Dillard will be playing on his cost-controlled, team-friendly deal. Dillard will earn significantly more money on his next contract, but Dillard isn’t in a position to command high-end tackle money, either. He missed the entire 2020 campaign due to injury and isn’t currently a starter.
When analyzing recent contracts handed out at offensive tackle, Dillard is more likely to fall in line with the three-year, $21 million contract La’El Collins received from the Cincinnati Bengals than the five-year, $75 million deal Terron Armstead signed in Miami. For comparative purposes, something along those lines would be significantly cheaper than what the Titans would save by releasing Lewan this offseason (approximately $15 million). Shouldn’t the Titans pay that price for upgraded protection? That would be worthwhile for a Titans offense that’s struggling to protect Ryan Tannehill weekly.
Money and a second contract aren’t the lone factors. The Titans would be parting with a third-or-fourth round selection in order to acquire Dillard immediately. Why would the Titans consider that when they can sign Dillard in free agency next March? For one, the Titans could use Dillard’s services through a crucial stretch. While they don’t find themselves in all-in territory, the 4-2 Titans appear postseason bound. We wouldn’t be advocating for Dillard as a midseason rental. Waiting until free agency means the Titans would be competing against desperate bidders. Acquiring Dillard now would also provide the Titans with an opportunity to evaluate him within the structure of their offense before potentially negotiating a second contract.
Daley hasn’t flashed the required improvement. Clark and newly signed Eric Smith (to the practice squad) aren’t the answers. The team seems hesitant to play Radunz at his natural left tackle position. Acquiring Dillard would immediately upgrade Tennessee’s offensive line while simultaneously potentially providing a much-needed long-term answer at a position that’s often evaded Robinson. That sounds worthwhile.