It wasn’t much of a surprise when Khalil Tate failed to have his name called during the 2020 NFL Draft last month, not the way his Arizona Wildcats career finished compared to how it looked at its high point.
Still, someone was going to take a flier on the talented athlete, and the Philadelphia Eagles were the ones to ink Tate to a rookie free agent deal. But when announcing that signing they listed the former quarterback as a wide receiver, adding further intrigue to a career that has never been dull.
To better understand what Tate is facing with the Eagles, we reached out to Brandon Gowton of SB Nation sister site Bleeding Green Nation for his insight.
It sounds like Khalil Tate will be converting to wide receiver, so what kind of role do you see him having with the Eagles?
Indeed, Tate is listed at “WR” on the Eagles’ official roster page. He’s one of 14 players at that position and considering his lack of experience there I’d have to rank him last. His role as a developmental project is to learn his new position and provide the team with an extra practice body … if/when practice resumes at some point.
What will Tate have to do to earn a spot on the roster or practice squad?
The odds are stacked against Tate. He’s switching positions during an offseason where practice time is going to be much more scarce than it usually is. There’s zero chance he makes the roster. He’ll need to catch on quick and show some kind of flashes just to make the practice squad, unless the Eagles are really just enamored by his raw potential. I don’t think that’s the case, though, because the Eagles didn’t pay Tate a signing bonus and gave him the lowest guaranteed money figure ($10,000) out of all their undrafted rookie free agent signings.
What makes you think the Eagles coaching staff can get the most out of Tate?
Well, about that. The Eagles haven’t had a wide receiver coach remain in his role for more than one season since 2015. The Eagles hired Aaron Moorehead earlier this year and they’re hoping he can finally be the solution. Moorehead’s background inspires some level of optimism but he could just as easily be another one-and-done.
Greg Ward’s development offers some hope for Tate. The Eagles originally signed the former Houston quarterback and converted him to receiver during the 2017 offseason. He spent time on the practice squad and then in the AAF before ultimately returning to Philly’s practice squad. Injuries forced the Eagles to call up Ward to the roster last year and he made the most of his opportunity by performing like a competent slot receiver. Tate should be looking to Ward for advice on how to handle the transition. If Tate is patient and gets lucky, he could earn a chance down the road.
Who are Tate’s main competitors for a roster spot?
I have six receivers making the Eagles’ roster: DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward and John Hightower. I have Alshon Jeffery on PUP (assuming he’s not cut or traded). I have 2020 sixth-round pick Quez Watkins and 2019 late-season signing Deontay Burnett on the practice squad. Tate is realistically with the likes of Watkins and Burnett in addition to former practice members Robert Davis and Marcus Green, plus fellow UDFA signing Manasseh Bailey. He’s got his work cut out for him.
What are Tate’s chances of making the team?
No real chance of making the roster with so many receivers ahead of him. There’s a chance he could make the practice squad. But even if he doesn’t, the Eagles could look to bring him back on their 2021 offseason roster. They could hope to develop him over time like they did with Ward.