Eagles trade up, pick Georgia DT Jalen Carter in NFL draft

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles traded up with the Bears for the ninth overall pick and selected Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter on Thursday.

The Eagles sent the 10th overall pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Bears for the No. 9 pick.

The Bears then selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 pick.

With the No. 30 pick, the Eagles picked outside linebacker Nolan Smith, Carter's teammate at Georgia.

Carter was the No. 1 player on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's board, but his draft status was clouded after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing last month in connection with a fatal crash in January. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service and will attend a state-approved defensive driving course. His attorney, Kim Stephens, said that, by resolving the matter, the state of Georgia is forever barred from bringing additional charges against Carter.

In a statement to ESPN, Stephens said Carter did not cause a car wreck on Jan. 15, in which Georgia football player Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy were killed. Police alleged that LeCroy was driving an SUV that was racing Carter's SUV before the wreck. According to police, LeCroy's SUV was going 104 mph when it left the road and hit two power poles and several trees. Police said her blood alcohol concentration was .197, about 2½ times the legal limit in Georgia.

According to Stephens, Carter had not been drinking alcohol and was not under the influence of alcohol or any illegal substances.

"We understand that all these players, they need to be developed, they're coming into the league at a very young age, they're not finished products," said general manager Howie Roseman. "You just want to really get to know the person and what's in their heart. When we got to know Jalen, we just felt like here's a kid that does love football, obviously he's a winner -- he won in high school, he won in college -- and we felt like we have really good people in this building: We have a really good support staff, we have really good players who are good people, we have really good coaches, and we felt like it was a good fit for us."

Bears general manager Ryan Poles was asked by reporters if character played a role in his decision not to stay put and draft Carter himself.

"Yeah, I won't comment specifically on him but character's always going to be important for us," he said.

Carter went to the NFL combine but left after an arrest warrant was issued. He showed up to Georgia's pro day in mid-March nine pounds heavier than he was at the combine and did not finish position drills due to apparent cramping and breathing issues.

"I felt conditioned, but I guess I wasn't," he said during a conference call with Philadelphia media Thursday night. "That was just me, I should have conditioned a little bit more, a lot more, before the pro day."

Carter said the Eagles didn't ask much about the accident or the pro day during his visit with the team, saying the focus was more on getting to know him. He called his interactions with the Eagles "all good vibes."

The Eagles did extensive homework on Carter to get comfortable with the idea of drafting him. He will be surrounded by a strong group of veteran leaders, including defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, which factored into the team's thinking. And he'll also have former Georgia teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean to lean on.

"Coming back and playing with former teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, that's an exciting moment for me," said Carter, who grew emotional after his name was called by commissioner Roger Goodell.

"Those guys were the leaders on that 2021 team and I just know that if I've got any questions, I can ask them."

Carter, 22, was a key player on Georgia's back-to-back national championship team, earning 2022 first-team All-American honors while being named a Lombardi Award finalist after posting three sacks and seven tackles for loss in 13 games.

Carter is expected to be an immediate contributor on a defensive front that lost Javon Hargrave to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.

"My general expectations were whoever drafts me are going to get the best player in the draft," he said. "I had high hopes for Philly because I had a good visit with them. I felt like it was a good team to go to and play for."

Smith projects as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Sean Desai's scheme, not unlike Haason Reddick. He had three sacks and seven tackles for loss in eight games last year before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury. Roseman wouldn't speculate as to why Smith dropped -- he was largely projected to go in the first half of the first round -- but said his pec checked out fine medically.

ESPN's Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.