Didinger: Chance Warmack could rediscover dominant form with Eagles

Didinger: Chance Warmack could rediscover dominant form with Eagles

Give Howie Roseman high marks for his moves on Day One of free agency. He did some pretty slick maneuvering for a guy who didn't have a lot of money to spend and multiple holes to fill.

Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are the talk of the town today and justly so. It is abundantly clear the Eagles' mission this offseason is to build around quarterback Carson Wentz and with the acquisition of Jeffery, the best receiver on the market, and Smith, a legitimate deep threat, they have begun the process.

But don't overlook the other signing. Chance Warmack could be an impact player as well.

When Warmack played at the University of Alabama, he was a dominant force. At 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, he was the best guard in college football and it wasn't even close. I had him graded highest -- 9.53 on a 10-point scale -- among all offensive linemen in the 2013 draft. That included three tackles -- Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson -- who were among the top four picks overall.

Guards are seldom drafted high but Warmack was. He was selected 10th by Tennessee and, to be frank, his four seasons with the Titans were disappointing. Perhaps it was moving from left guard, where he excelled in college, to right guard in the NFL. But when I saw him with the Titans he didn't look like the same player. Maybe it was the system, maybe he was slow adjusting to the pro game. Whatever, he wasn't the same confident mauler I saw at Alabama.

But there is reason to believe Warmack can recapture his old form with the Eagles. That's because Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles' offensive line coach and if anyone knows Warmack's strengths it is Stoutland, an excellent teacher who coached the O-line at Alabama. My guess is since the Eagles have Brandon Brooks at right guard, they will move Warmack to left guard, his natural position, and hope that by reuniting him with his former college coach it will unlock his potential.

When Warmack was at Alabama, I spoke to a long-time fan of the Crimson Tide. He said, "Chance Warmack is the best lineman we've had here since John Hannah." Hannah, you'll recall, was a 10-time All-Pro with the New England Patriots. Sports Illustrated once put him on the cover with the title "The Best Offensive Lineman of All-Time." Guards rarely achieve such acclaim but Hannah did. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1991.

That's not to say Warmack's career will follow the same trajectory. It certainly didn't in Tennessee. But it is clear he needed a change and it would seem the Eagles represent a great opportunity for a 25-year-old lineman with such a formidable skill set.

I went back to my 2013 scouting report on Warmack and reviewed my notes.

Thick build, natural power...

Dominates at the point of attack...

Strong base, heavyweight punch...

Can pull and block on the second level...

Surprisingly agile for a big man...

Intimidator...

I had 25 pluses in all and only a few negatives, most of them the nit-picking variety. I noted Warmack seemed to tire late in warm weather games so I thought he might need to work harder on conditioning. He was fooled every so often on a line stunt or delayed blitz but mostly it was correctable stuff. Everything else on his college tape was impressive.

To me, several things stood out. One, he finished plays. He didn't just screen off defenders; he put them on the ground. He kept his hands inside, not extended so he was rarely penalized. It was an indication of a well-coached player, something that reflects on Stoutland as well. Warmack was never on the ground. He was always on his feet. He wasn't lunging or diving at shoetops. He had great balance and moved better than his 40-yard dash time (5.49) would suggest.

Signing Warmack one year after signing Brooks indicates a new philosophy for the Eagles' offense. This coaching staff wants more power up front. By retaining Jason Peters (330 pounds), signing Brooks (335) and Warmack (325) to go along with Lane Johnson (320), the Eagles are clearly going to a more physical O-line which raises the question of how soon will center Jason Kelce be giving way to Isaac Seumalo? (My guess is pretty soon.)

For a while now the Eagles have struggled in short yardage. Their O-line couldn't knock the other team off the ball. Adding muscle in the trenches is the quickest way to rectify that.

This was the final entry in my 2013 scouting report on Chance Warmack: Has Pro Bowl tools.

We'll see now if that's still true.

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

NFL Notes: Raiders reward Derek Carr with record $125 million deal

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Derek Carr and general manager Reggie McKenzie never doubted the two sides could reach a long-term contract agreement to keep the quarterback with the Raiders before Carr's self-imposed training camp deadline.

Carr was open about how much he wanted to spend his entire career with the organization and after a decade searching for a franchise quarterback the Raiders weren't about to let a player they drafted and developed leave just as he was becoming a star.

So the two sides were able to agree on a five-year, $125 million extension that makes Carr the NFL's richest player, at least temporarily, and won't hinder the team's ability to give its other young stars like AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and guard Gabe Jackson new contracts before they hit free agency.

"I think that both sides wanted it to get done," Carr said Friday. "It was two family members just figuring out how to get along, and we did. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not just to take every single dime that we could."

Carr will still get plenty. The $25 million per year in new money is the richest contract ever in the NFL, beating out the $24.8 million a year Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis. That could be surpassed with Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Kirk Cousins in line for new deals soon.

But Carr is not worried about that and the Raiders are pleased to have the face of their franchise under contract through 2022 as they prepare to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

"From the outset, both sides wanted the deal done, and I felt our guys did a great job getting together and hammering it out," McKenzie said. "We both wanted the same thing. That part was easy. We could tell that Derek wanted to be here. And we let him know, without a doubt, that we wanted him here" (see full story).

NFL: Prosecutors appeal Hernandez's voided murder conviction
BOSTON -- Massachusetts prosecutors on Friday appealed a court ruling that erased former NFL star Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction in the 2013 killing of a semi-professional football player.

Hernandez's conviction in the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd was voided after the former New England Patriots player killed himself in prison. Under a long-held Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III filed an appeal with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday. He called the rule "archaic" and said it "does not serve the public interest."

"A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life," Quinn said.

Hernandez's appellate attorneys, John Thompson and Linda Thompson, could not immediately be reached for comment. A message was left at their office in Springfield.

Hernandez took his own life in April days after he was acquitted in a separate, 2012 double slaying in Boston.

The legal principle known as abatement ab initio, or "from the beginning," holds that a conviction should not be considered final until an appeal in the criminal case can determine whether mistakes were made that deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

In their appeal Friday, prosecutors argue that some states have moved away from automatically erasing convictions when defendants die before appeals can be heard. More than a dozen states allow appeals to continue even after death and only dismiss convictions when the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted.

Prosecutors said courts should strike a balance between the rights of defendants and the rights of victims. Lloyd's mother fought back tears after a judge voided Hernandez's conviction in her son's killing.