Jalen Carter was arguably one of the best players in the NFL Draft, believed to be one of the top picks to come off the board during the college football season. Carter was arguably one of the best players -- if not the best player -- on a Georgia defense that was responsible for back-to-back national championships.
Then January 15, 2023 occurred. Carter was present at the scene of a car crash that killed two people in Athens, teammate Devin Willock and Georgia staffer Chandler LeCroy. The Athens Police Department issued an arrest warrant, charging Carter a misdemeanor of reckless driving and racing as a result of his involvement in the fatal car crash.
Carter left the NFL combine in March to turn himself in, pleading no contest. The off-field incident caused Carter's draft stock to fall, which the Philadelphia Eagles pounced. Philadelphia traded up just one spot, only giving up a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears, to get Carter at No. 9.
The Eagles were impressed enough with Carter's pre-draft visit to move up and select him -- the player they wanted all along.
"We understand that there's a reason that he was available at 9," Eagles' general manager Howie Roseman said Thursday night. "I think everyone will tell you this is one of the most talented players in the draft. This is one of the most talented players to come out of college football in a long time."
Carter didn't discuss the off-field incident in a short Zoom call with the media Thursday, which prompted Roseman to defend what they saw in Carter from his visit. The Eagles do extensive work on players they wish to bring in, led by the team's Vice President of Team Security/Chief Security Officer Dom DiSandro -- Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie's eyes and ears on players.
Carter checked out. That prompted the Eagles to trust the people in their building to make sure Carter is on the right path.
"Obviously, that's part of what we're talking about. We've got to develop the people. We've got to develop the player," Roseman said. "I think for us, we take that part seriously. We think that it's important that not only are we caring about people as players, but we want to care about the people.
"We're going to wrap our arms around him and do the best we can to help him and understand -- that was a tragic night. It was a tragic night, and we're sorry for the loss to those families, and we're not trying to downplay that situation, but obviously we've got to get to work."
When Carter was drafted, Eagles players Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis were with him and immediately hugged their former -- now new -- teammate as Philadelphia selected him. Carter is with people he trusts, which the Eagles took into account. Of course, that's not the end-all, be-all.
"I don't think it's fair for us to put the responsibility on those two guys," Roseman said. "It's our responsibility to manage this team and to make sure that we have the right pieces around, and I look around, our people who are here tonight who are in our organization and I have tremendous confidence in our people.
"At the end of the day I'll bet on the people in this building. That's on the field and that's off the field. That's what we're doing here."
The Eagles are banking on their culture and their organization can find the right player, and develop that player on and off the field. This was an opportunity for Philadelphia to flex its muscle as an organization.
The end result is Carter joining a defensive line that already has Haason Reddick, Jordan Davis, Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, and Milton Williams -- a group that finished with the third-most sacks in a season in NFL history with 70. The Eagles also added Nolan Smith later in the first round -- another one of Carter's teammates.
The rich just got richer.
"I think when we got to know Jalen, we just felt like here's a kid that he does love football. Obviously, he's a winner. He won in high school, he won in college," Roseman said. "We feel like we have really good people in this building. We have really good support staff.
"We have really good players who are good people. We have really good coaches. We felt like it was a good fit for us."