Projected price tags for free agent wide receivers who could interest the Eagles

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As free agency approaches, the Philadelphia Eagles have been linked to just about every wide receiver about to hit the open market. The link is not a difficult one to make. The Eagles have one of the worst wide receiving groups in the league and need to surround their franchise quarterback with offensive weapons.

One option, which came about on Wednesday, would be to acquire that weapon via trade. Reports surfaced that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks was being shopped and the Eagles were among the front runners to make a deal to bring the 23-year-old to Philadelphia. If the Eagles do indeed acquire the speedy receiver, their need to acquire a top tier free agent will vastly decrease. However, until then, the Eagles will continue to weigh their options for players who will become available on March 9th.

The Eagles are currently 29th in the league with just under $11 million in cap space. However, more moves are expected to be made before the March 9th opening of the new league year. With all of these names swirling around and the Eagles still trying to find cap space, it makes one wonder what the price tag might be for the top free agent wide receivers.

Heads up: they aren’t cheap. NFL Insider Mike Garafolo told WIP host and former Eagle Ike Reese that if teams aren’t bringing $10 million to the table, they aren’t playing in this wide receiver market.

 

Alshon Jeffery – $14-$16 million 

Alshon Jeffery is the cream of this year’s crop and is expected to garner huge interest from a number of teams. NFL insider Adam Schefter expects the bidding for the former Chicago Bear to begin at $14.5 million and it could reach as high as $16 million.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just made wide receiver Antonio Brown, arguably the top player in the league at his position, $68 million richer with his new four-year deal. The $17 million per year average makes Brown the highest paid receiver in the league.

Jeffery is nowhere near the wide receiver that Brown is. However, as the top eligible bachelor at his position, Jeffery could command near-Brown money on the open market.

The former Bear caught 52 passes in 2017, totaling 821 yards while missing four games to suspension. In Jeffery’s last four years, he has averaged 1046 yards and nearly six touchdowns on 70 receptions per season.

As a jump ball specialist, Jeffery could solve the Eagles redzone receiving woes. In his five-year career, the 27-year-old has caught 16 redzone touchdowns.

If Jeffery’s price tag is anywhere near $14 million, the Eagles could find themselves priced out. The Eagles could backload the contract, making his cap hit in 2017 work with the Eagles cap space.

Eagles VP of Football Operations, Howie Roseman pretty much closed the door on the Eagles signing top tier free agents, instead opting to build through the draft with VP of Player Personnel Joe Douglas entrenched in his position.

 

Terrelle Pryor – $12-$14 million 

Pryor has made it clear that he wants to return to Cleveland, for whatever reason. The Browns have made it clear that they don’t view Pryor as a top-five wide receiver, foregoing the option to franchise tag the wide receiver. Thus, Pryor is set to hit the open market.

The former Ohio State quarterback could be the highest risk-reward signing of free agency. In Pryor’s first season as a wide receiver, with pedestrian quarterbacking, he totaled 77 receptions for over 1000 yards with four touchdowns. He has established himself as a true wide receiver who has the potential to be great with the correct quarterback and coach combination.

Pryor, 6-6, has fantastic size and has expressed his being impressed with Wentz.

“He’s a baller,” Pryor said of the rookie quarterback following the Eagles opening day rout of the Browns. “They got a good one. He’s awesome. It looks like he’s been doing this a long time.” 

Pryor, a Pennsylvania native who grew up less than an hour from Pittsburgh, now has the opportunity to team up with the quarterback he expects to be a baller for a long time.

Pryor’s price tag is going to be a big one, but he has a chance to be a very, very good wide receiver as he continues to learn the position.

 

DeSean Jackson – $9-$11 million 

Perhaps the most attractive option for the Eagles to sign in 2017 free agency would issue a reunion between Philadelphia and DeSean Jackson. Jackson has played free agency like an absolute pro, leveraging his availability to what is sure to be a big payday.

After being released by the Eagles in 2014, the 27-year-old Jackson signed a four-year deal that averaged $6 million per. So why, at 30 years old, would Jackson command $3-$5 million more? For one thing, the inflation rate in terms of NFL contracts is insane. Also, Jackson has proven to be a consistent threat and hasn’t lost a step at all, placing himself as arguably the second best wide receiver hitting the open market.

In the seven seasons that Jackson has played at least 12 games, he has never had a season with fewer than 900 yards. In two of Jackson’s three seasons with Washington, he led the league in yards per reception.

The former Cal Bear has put together one of the best track records among active wide receivers. He is just 1,181 yards from becoming the 46th player in NFL history to pass the 10000 yard receiving mark.

Jackson would fill an even deeper need than just a wide receiver. Jackson is still a dangerous deep threat and would work wonders for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz, opening up space in the defense. The Eagles haven’t had a deep threat since, well, DeSean Jackson. Jackson hasn’t had a season in the NFL without a touchdown reception of at least 60 yards.

The Eagles would have to pay up for Jackson, though, and would have to do it on a deal that spanned three or fewer years, considering the receiver’s age.

According to Bleacher Report columnist, Mike Freeman, Jackson’s landing spot has been narrowed down to two teams; the Patriots of the Cowboys. Jackson has played free agency well to this point and it wouldn’t surprise me if he and his agent are still leveraging his availability. If it is for real, let’s just hope that he lands in New England.

 

Kenny Stills – $9-$11 million 

Believe it or not, $10 million could be a lowball number for the 24-year-old. Stills, like Jackson, is a deep threat who has averaged 16.7 yards per reception over his four-year career. Only, unlike Jackson, Stills has six fewer years of wear and tear on his body.

Stills was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Miami Dolphins after a 900-yard season in the Saints’ potent offense. Stills is now coming off another career year after leading the Dolphins with nine touchdowns – one for every 4.7 receptions – in his first season starting all 16 games. Stills finished the season with a four-game scoring streak, catapulting the Dolphins into the playoffs.

The former Sooner will have a number of suitors when free agency opens up. Stills made a name for himself with wide receivers DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry leading the group of pass-catchers for the Dolphins.

The Eagles have not been linked to Stills as much as other free agent receivers. If the market dries up, though, the Eagles may look deeper at one of the youngest options hitting the market.

 

Kenny Britt – $6-$8 million 

Britt is being talked about as an under-the-radar potential free agent signing. However, with so many outlets referring to him as an under-the-radar guy, one has to wonder how long he can stay out of the spotlight.

The 28-year-old receiver is coming off of his first season of 1,000 yards and more than 50 receptions. Britt has found new life as a Ram after averaging just 490 yards per season as a Titan. In his three years as a Ram he has nearly equaled his five-year total in receiving yards as a Titan, averaging 810 receiving yards per season.

Britt’s 6-3, 215 lb. frame makes him an attractive option with prototypical size. Additionally, Eagles new wide receivers coach has a connection with Britt, coaching him to his best season as a pro in 2016 as the Rams wide receiver coach.

The former first round pick led the Rams in receptions, yards and touchdown catches in 2016 and Groh will undoubtedly be in the ears of the Eagles brass to make Britt an Eagle. Britt can also help the Eagles in the red zone, similar to another Groh protégé, Alshon Jeffery. Of Britt’s 30 career touchdowns, 16 have come in the red zone.

Britt would immediately be a WR1 in Philadelphia. Britt has never been with a true talent at quarterback like Carson Wentz. Pair Wentz, Britt and Groh and the Eagles could hit a gold mine with this under-the-radar free agent signing.

 

Pierre Garcon – $6-$8 million 

Garcon is 30-years old and coming off of four straight 65-plus reception, 750-yard seasons. He has passed those same milestones in six of his last seven seasons.

While Garcon wouldn’t offer the same traits a DeSean Jackson or Kenny Stills would, Garcon would provide a great addition as a possession receiver for the Eagles. The former Colt would be a perfect option to pair with Brandin Cooks, should the Eagles obtain him in a trade. Additionally, he could be one of the best bang-for-your-buck signings of free agency.

In addition to filling a major need, there is always a little added pleasure in signing a former player of an NFC East foe. Garcon would provide a great veteran presence in a group whose oldest player at the position is just 24 years old. With nine years of NFL experience, Garcon is tied with Jackson as the most experienced wide receiver on this list.

 

Kamar Aiken – $2-$4 million 

Kamar Aiken makes this list due to his connection with Joe Douglas, who was a head scout for Baltimore when Aiken was out of football in 2013. Aiken’s best season came in 2015 when he recorded nearly 1000 yards on 75 receptions as the Ravens’ leading receiver. More recently, Aiken caught 29 passes for 328 yards in a season in which he just played six games.

The addition of Aiken would have to be paired with another move at wide receiver, whether that be through the draft or another free agent on this list.

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The Eagles will have to pay up to get their top wide receiver for 2017. Whether that be in free agency, trading for Cooks or early in the draft, the Eagles are going to be investing in weapons to surround Wentz this offseason.

There are a lot of moves to be made between now and March 9th and we know once the opening bell rings, Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be very active once again.

Follow Brenden on Twitter @brendenp2011.

 

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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