The Eagles made a blockbuster move earlier today, defying the odds and cap space limitations, landing the most prominent wide receiver in this year’s free agency class, Alshon Jeffery. The Birds signed Jeffery to a one-year deal worth $14M and as exciting as his presence is to the roster, what does it mean for the Eagles moving forward?
Jeffery is betting on himself:
Perhaps the biggest thing to take away from the Alshon Jeffery signing, is the fact that the receiver who carried the highest price tag entering the window, actually turned down more money in order to play with the Eagles..and more importantly, Carson Wentz.
Alshon Jeffery turned down a multi-year deal with more security from Vikings, but he is betting himself long term with the Eagles and Wentz
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2017
This is crucial for the Eagles, who are striving to build continuity and surround their franchise quarterback with weapons. Signing Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal was always a long shot, especially since the Eagles cap space is so restricted. Of course, there will be existing contracts, and damaging ones at that, that are lifted from this hefty weight..but the fact is that the Eagles have nine players signed through 2020..that number is among the most in the NFL, while their cap space is among the least.
By signing Jeffery to a short-term deal, they’re not only paying him the money that he and his agent believe he deserves, but they’re not forcing themselves into a potentially damaging contract, like that of DeMarco Murray or Byron Maxwell just two years ago.
If Jeffery were to soar as an Eagle, Howie Roseman have options available. Whether it’s using the franchise tag or even negotiating an extension which at that point may be a lot more attainable, the Eagles are also betting on themselves..and if they win, they earn themselves a platform to retain one of the league’s most explosive receivers and ensure he remains an Eagle for the duration of Wentz’s rookie contract.
It also means that Jeffery is out to prove a point. Coming off a suspension, the price was believed to have dropped slightly, giving the Eagles a window to take a chance, just as they did in trading up to draft Carson Wentz. If it backfires, there are no long-term consequences..but for Jeffery, there is every incentive to put up a career year.
Reuniting with the wide receiver coach whom he enjoyed his most successful year’s under, Jeffery will be in an environment of leadership and drive. With a young corps loaded with potential, a franchise quarterback..it’s a new beginning for one of the most talented wide receivers in the league..and he’s in a situation that is priming both him and the team for a 2017 statement that screams “we’re here..and we’re not going anywhere.”
4,549 yards and 26 touchdowns. That’s all the information you really need about the 27-year old. Jeffery, combined with the addition of low-risk, high-reward receiver, Torrey Smith, form an immediate upgrade to the Eagles Offense. If you’re still unsure, just say it out loud:
The signing of Alshon Jeffery doesn’t just put them in a position to develop..it puts them in a position to win..and go toe-to-toe with the Dallas Cowboys for NFC East supremacy.
The domino effect:
Every action has a reaction however..and for the Eagles, it’s one of potential urgency. The Eagles are officially now over the salary cap limit..which if we refer to the fact that they were 29th in the league after signing Torrey Smith, isn’t exactly great. What it does mean is that they simply HAVE to free up cap space.
Releasing Connor Barwin freed up $7.75M, but the team are still in negative cap space. From running back Ryan Mathews, to the likes of Jason Kelce and Mychal Kendricks there are likely to be plenty of potential changes to the Eagles roster soon. Although the pieces are in place, the suffocation of salary funds continues to linger.
Patience was a virtue:
After a Combine interview in which Howie Roseman preached patience and a reluctance to make any short-sighted moves, the wild pursuit for a star on the outside was a little surprising..or was it?
The market was wildly unpredictable. One moment, Kenny Stills was expected to be the highest paid free agent wide receiver..and the next, his value dropped to $8M per year. One minute, the Eagles were favorites to land Terrelle Pryor..and the next, DeSean Jackson was signing a three-year deal worth $35M.
The Eagles couldn’t make the same “mistake” as they did with Fletcher Cox, in setting the tone for the rest of the market. The remaining 31 teams were well aware of how desperately the Eagles needed a receiver, forcing their hands to move quickly and secure the services of the likes of Kenny Britt and Pierre Garcon.
By playing the waiting game and keeping their fingers in several pies, the Eagles were able to keep Alshon Jeffery on a tangent, waiting for the market to settle, before offering him the perfect middle-ground deal that benefits both parties.
It may not have been the long-term patience that Roseman implied, but it would have been extremely easy to pull the trigger early..and by not doing so, the Eagles went from looking at potentially trading a first rounder to the Saints for Brandin Cooks, to landing the most esteemed wideout in free agency.
The draft landscape changes:
The speculation around the Eagles first round pick has often involved wide receivers. After John Ross blistered the 40-yard dash, that only increased as the battle between Corey Davis, Mike Williams and Ross, filled just about every water-cooler discussion concerning Eagles fans.
The one need that the team are yet to address, with a severe lack of funds to work with, is cornerback. It just so happens that this draft is said to be historically deep at the position, with second round talents projected to go in the mid rounds.
Whether the Eagles will still take the “best player available” or not as previously implied will be up for debate in the build up to the Philadelphia hosted event, but one thing is for sure, they can now afford to bring in a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and begin to stack out that side of the ball, now that the Offense is all but ready to go to war.
It’s all on Wentz in year two:
With the Eagles stacked in talent, there’s no excuse for Carson Wentz in year two. The NDSU star had a phenomenal opening few games, before hitting the rookie wall..which he then smashed through, flashing plenty of potential and ending the year with 3,782 yards and 16 touchdowns.
His mechanics were called in to question at times during his rookie year, as was his decision making. But with a solid offseason plan in place to work on the aforementioned, it’s all on Wentz to take full advantage of the weapons surrounding him..and lead the Eagles to glory, like he flashed the potential to do each and every week in 2016.
Just how competitive the Eagles will be in 2016 remains to be seen, but their franchise quarterback now has an arsenal around him and a relentless defense behind him. It all starts now.
Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports