The Philadelphia Eagles head into the offseason with the desire of upgrading the team’s wide receiver group, which by now is the league’s worst kept secret. The team has been linked to every top wideout that is poised to hit the open market in numerous reports.
Receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Stills, Kenny Britt, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and most recently Brandin Cooks, who is looking to be traded from New Orleans, have been linked to the Eagles. The fact of the matter is, bringing in at least one of those wideouts will prove to be costly for the team.
The Eagles are currently looking at around $12 million dollars in cap space, which simply isn’t enough to be extremely aggressive with. Sure they can get rid of the dead weight in Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin, Ryan Mathews and even long-time starting center Jason Kelce, but even that only gets the team to around $28 million in cap space. According to spotrac.com that would give the Eagles the 20th most cap space out of 32 teams.
ESPN’s NFL insider, Adam Caplan, has repeated multiple times that the Eagles’ plan is to bring in two wide receivers in free agency. Many assume they’ll go all out and acquire two big named receivers, but that honestly isn’t the most realistic scenario.
Current Bears wide receiver Jeffery is poised to make at the very least $15 million per year on the open market. Dolphins wide receiver Stills isn’t that far off either. His reported market has him making anywhere in the $10-12 million a season range. Signing either one of those guys will take a huge chunk of the Eagles’ cap and if the plan is to bring in two receivers it’s most likely a mid-tier player who isn’t getting talked about enough among the free agent class.
Here’s a few names that may interest the Eagles:
Wilson isn’t a big time threat or a guy who offers longevity as a starter at wide receiver, but he has proven to be a sneaky weapon, and a guy Doug Pederson knows well.
Wilson entered the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State. He looks to be heading into his fourth season at the age of 25 in July and with a new organization since the Chiefs replaced his role with their stud fifth-round pick this past season in Tyreek Hill.
Wilson’s stats won’t pop out at you either. He’s only had 82 career catches in 42 games for 990 yards and four touchdowns, but has flashed playmaking ability. Wilson was a huge contributor in the Chiefs divisonal round loss to the Patriots in 2016 hauling in five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson wouldn’t be more than a rotational receiver, but already having knowledge of Pederson and his offense gives him a slight edge. Also you know those bubble-screens that Pederson called almost every offensive drive last season? Yeah, Wilson would actually be the designated receiver to run those plays and be productive in them.
Tate is another name that won’t instill a lot of excitement into fans and wouldn’t be more than a 4th or 5th wide receiver, but his kick return ability is what largely comes into play here.
After the Eagles parted ways with troubled receiver, Josh Huff, the kick returns took a step backwards. Eagles running back, Wendell Smallwood, has shown signs of being a productive returner in his nine returns, most notably his kick return for a touchdown versus the Washington Redskins, but he still hasn’t shown enough to have 100% faith in him. This is where Brandon Tate comes in.
Tate has a total of 219 returns for 5,342 return yards and has gained over 900 return yards three times in his eight seasons in the NFL. Huff never even reached the 500 yard mark in his brief career thus far. Both have the same amount of kick return touchdowns (2), but Tate is a proven kick return commodity and his return yards speaks for itself.
I’m sure Eagles special teams coordinator, Dave Fipp, would love a receiver like Tate returning kicks for him.
Aiken originally entered the NFL in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Central Florida. He bounced around the league until finding a home with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. He finished the 2014 season with the Ravens hauling in 24 receptions on 32 targets for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Aiken’s biggest impact in the league came in 2015. The Ravens were ravished by injuries notably to their top wide receivers in Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, while also having their top tight ends, Crockett Gilmore and Dennis Pitta limited to a combined ten games.
Aiken thrived in his opportunity becoming the number one receiving option for the team. He tallied up 75 receptions for 944 yards and five touchdowns. Aiken’s 2016 season wasn’t nearly as productive due in large part to him becoming an afterthought in the team’s offense after the addition of Mike Wallace and the healthy duo of Smith Sr. and Perriman. Aiken caught 29 passes on 50 targets for 328 yards and one touchdown.
Aiken should come relatively cheap and has shown what he can do with extensive playing time and targets. He’ll be 28 entering the 2017 season, but given his recent production in 2016, he’s worth a shot.
The Eagles main focus of the offseason is looking to add speed to their receiving corps. Goodwin offers just that and at a relatively cheaper price compared to the top speed receivers on the market.
Goodwin wasn’t just a football player at the University of Texas. He was a track star as well. He took part in the United States Olympic Team in 2012 and made the finals in the long jump.
Goodwin is definitely a guy who can take the top off a defense and his 4.27 speed in the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine proves that. The former third-round selection of the 2013 NFL draft hasn’t quite panned out for the Buffalo Bills. He’s only appeared in 39 games during his four NFL seasons, so as you can see injuries have taken a toll on him and his production. He’s coming off his best statistical season to date this past season with 29 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns.
Goodwin is far from consistent so far in his NFL career, but this wouldn’t hurt a cap-strapped team like the Eagles taking a chance on him and betting on his potential to come to form with a change of scenery.
Another injury riddled receiver with a boatload of potential is Rams receiver Brian Quick. Quick was the 33rd pick in the 2012 draft and has been nothing short of a disappointment so far in his NFL career. The Eagles have had enough disappointment among their receiving corps, so Quick might not be the best addition, but he did flash that second-round potential this past season with the Rams.
The Rams passing offense was pitiful to say at the least in 2016. Case Keenum, who proved time and time again he’s not an NFL caliber starting quarterback, started for the Rams for majority of the season until rookie, Jared Goff, took over and didn’t look much better either.
Still Quick was able to have his best season to date playing all 16 games and amassing 41 receptions for 564 yards and three touchdowns.
Yes, the main theme here is elusive/speed receivers and Patterson is just that. Patterson is also another intriguing kick returner option for the Eagles, which helps his overall argument upon signing.
Patterson has been a complete first-round bust for the Minnesota Vikings and it’s unlikely they bring him back. During Patterson’s four seasons with the Vikings he never eclipsed 500 yards and he’s struggled learning how to properly run routes at an NFL caliber rate.
Patterson has been opened to a position change to running back, so it will be intriguing to see if a team takes him on as their project for it, but if the Eagles try him at wide receiver and hope their well known new addition to the staff in receivers coach, Mike Groh, can unleash the former first-round pick’s playmaking ability, he could be a steal for the Eagles.
Patterson could be a great weapon in the Eagles screen game, which Pederson seemed to utilize a lot. He’s most likely looking at a one-year contract at best on the open market, so taking a flier on him won’t affect the Eagles cap situation much at all either.
Believe me, I understand that none of these names above are excited options, but if the Eagles truly plan on adding two wideouts in free agency then the second addition might not be a sexy pick. This still doesn’t rule out the possibility of them adding another wide receiver in the draft too, especially for a corps that could face a complete rebuild to adjust to the Pederson era. Don’t be too shocked if one of these names comes to the Eagles this offseason and remember the little info I offered before you pick the team apart for trying to upgrade the unit as a whole.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports