Free agency is approaching and excitement surrounding this year’s draft class is only building as the weeks go by. The Eagles took their first step in preparing their roster for Doug Pederson’s second season as a Head Coach by releasing Leodis McKelvin, but what should their priorities be moving forward? This series will address each position on the roster and just how far up on the list of Howie Roseman’s priorities it needs to be.
Priority Level: Very High – Numero Uno!
The Eagles have to address the wide receiver position in the offseason and that will likely come via free agency and the draft. The wide receivers who saw the field for the Eagles in 2016 were Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.
The Eagles already made their first move at wide receiver by cutting ties with rookie position coach Greg Lewis. After a season of dropped passes, players failing to get open and overall lousy play by the wide receiver corps, the team felt that it would be best to go in a new direction.
Matthews led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while Nelson Agholor caught just 36 passes despite playing the highest percentage of offensive snaps among receivers. Newcomer Dorial Green-Beckham caught the same number of passes as Agholor..and the two UDFA’s, Treggs and Turner, combined for just twelve receptions.
Matthews is one of the top receivers in the league in the category of hard work. However, if he were to be put on any other NFC East team, the talent level sees such a meteoric rise in both depth and production that he may not see the same rate of attention he does in Philly.
Now, we have all heard the rumors about DeSean Jackson making his return to Philadelphia as soon as he hits free agency. While there has been nothing from the Eagles to support these rumors, a reunion would make sense. The Eagles are in desperate need of a deep threat and Jackson is open to returning to Philadelphia..not to mention that he has worked with Pederson in the past. Additionally, defensive end Brandon Graham told Breakfast on Broad that Jackson to the Eagles is all but officially a done deal.
Jackson would give the Eagles the deep threat they desperately lack. The offense has become one dimensional without a player to keep the defense honest. No Eagle with ten or more receptions on the season averages more than 11.2 yards per catch. Jackson has averaged 17.7 yards per catch over his career and has shown no signs of slowing down with 17.9 yards per reception in 2016. With just Jackson’s five games between weeks 12 and 16, he would be the second-leading receiver on the Eagles with 504 yards.
Since being released and signing with Washington, Jackson has averaged four receptions and 88 yards per game against the Eagles including a 4-1 record and a pair of 80-plus yard touchdowns. The longest reception by an Eagles receiver this season is just 58 yards.
If this is all a stunt to drive up the 30-year-old receiver’s price, there is no shortage of free agent options outside of Jackson.
The Eagles have been linked to Alshon Jeffery for some time now. Based on Vegas odds, Jeffery’s most likely landing spot, outside of Chicago is actually Philadelphia. And Vegas usually has the right idea. However, given the recent suspension of right tackle Lane Johnson the Eagles may be weary of another player one stupid decision away from a long suspension. Jeffery also guaranteed a Super Bowl berth next season for Chicago, leading me to believe he will be sticking around in the windy city. I don’t think Jeffery and the Eagles will become everyone’s dream couple.
Torrey Smith has also expressed his desires to leave San Francisco and was linked to the Eagles leading up to the trade deadline this season. That may change with Kyle Shanahan taking over in San Francisco. Shanahan has come from working with Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu. Smith may be wise to stick around and soak up some of the knowledge Shanahan has to offer. Smith is due nearly $10 million in 2017 and it could be in the 49ers best interest to part ways with Smith if he is not willing to restructure. The 27-year-old has averaged 17 yards per reception over his six-year career and has never had a season without a reception of at least 50 yards. Smith and the Eagles could be a match if the price is right. And the right price is nowhere close to the $9.6M he is scheduled to make as a 49er.
Finally, an intriguing option for the Eagles would be Cordarrelle Patterson who will be testing free agency this year after the Vikings decided to forgo the 25-year-old’s fifth year option. Patterson has never been a huge threat on the offensive side of the ball but has played a solid role and has been excellent on special teams. Patterson was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season as a kick returner. He has led the league in yards per return in three of the last four seasons, returning five kicks for touchdowns along the way. The Eagles current special teams unit leads the league in yards per kick return. Plug Patterson into this group and it could be a match made in heaven.
However, unless a drastic change in offensive role came with his signing here, he would not be the answer to the Eagles lack-of-receiver woes.
The Eagles will also need to address the position in the draft. If the Eagles decide to try their luck early again as they did with Agholor, Clemson WR Mike Williams and Western Michigan WR Corey Davis could be available when the Eagles pick.
Either Williams or Davis could come in and be the Eagles top guy day one. Williams and Davis, along with Washington WR John Ross are flip-flopping each other for the top receiving prospect in the draft. Pro days and the NFL combine will most certainly lock in who the top guy is.
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports