The additions of Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery provide an instant upgrade to the Eagles receiving corps. After the unit amassed just 1,716 yards in 2016, with Jordan Matthews alone racking up 804, the new tandem brings a career total of 9,070 yards and 63 touchdowns to the table, star potential, and the ability to truly take the top of the Defense. But what does this mean for the remaining nine receivers currently assigned to the Eagles roster?
The depth chart heading into 2017, barring any surprises or further changes, could potentially look like this:
WR1 Alshon Jeffery
WR2 Torrey Smith
WR3 Jordan Matthews
WR4 Nelson Agholor
That unit looks far more competitive than what the Eagles rolled out with during the rookie season of Carson Wentz, but it’s also vasty different. The signings have a huge knock-on effect to the rest of the Eagles receiving corps. Here is how each wideout could be impacted by the arrival of the Eagles free agency signings.
The Vanderbilt product has been the Eagles leading receiver in two of the three year’s he’s been in the league..falling second to only Jeremy Maclin in his rookie year. For the first time since then however, Matthews has a number one receiver to work with. The role of the 6’3, 212 lbs, receiver, has become a perennial slot threat. With a lack of consistent help on the outside, Matthews has clearly emerged as the team’s top receiving threat..meaning that there’s extra attention paid to him over the middle, therefore making life difficult for both Wentz and his favorite target.
With a dominant threat one side, and a potential star on the other, Matthews is now surrounded by explosiveness. Smith is a proven deep threat, while Jeffery simply commands defensive attention. This not only gives Wentz a multitude of options, but removes the pressure from the shoulders of a receiver entering his contract year.
Matthews should be in a position to shine, just as Jarvis Landry did for the Dolphins last year when surrounded by explosive talent. When you factor Zach Ertz into the equation, Matthews may see a drop in targets now that his workload will be shared around..but he could see a rise in efficiency, production and overall play due to Defenses being forced to account for a truly multi-dimensional offense.
It’s a big year for Jordan Matthews, who could be on a stage campaigning for his Eagles future if an extension isn’t worked out prior to the opening game of the season. If that is the case, he may actually be in the best position to play his way to such an extension, contrary to popular opinion.
After a year of overcoming personal hurdles, Nelson Agholor is entering a critical year. The former first round pick is yet to play to the level many had hoped he would reach..and consistency is still a trait that alludes him. But now that the team have an intimidating lineup on the outside, it revokes the pressure from the USC star and could enable him to carry a Chris Hogan effect.
In his two years in the league, Agholor has flashed potential and proven that he has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL..but those moments have been shrouded in drops, inconsistencies and mental mistakes, all leading to a tricky jump into the deep end. The Eagles can’t shift Agholor due to the cap hit and trading him would be extremely difficult. However with a loaded position corps, he may be able to fly under-the-radar, unaccounted for, and ready to hit complacent defenses with a burst of speed and route-running that he has become renowned for bringing to the table.
Torrey Smith’s contract is also an interesting one. Only the first year is fully guaranteed, which means if the Eagles didn’t like what they saw from the former Niners wideout, they could part ways after the opening year without any kind of cap implication. This will serve as extra motivation for Nelson Agholor to maybe pip Smith to the WR2 spot and battle for it during training camp. Doug Pederson is a big fan of competition after all..and it wouldn’t be the first time a potential star loses an offseason battle. (Cough, Reuben Randle).
If Agholor is ever going to prove he can still develop into a top receiving talent, he simply has to produce under new WR Coach Mike Groh and some strong veteran leadership. The pressure may be on in some ways, but in others it has been lifted entirely, leaving Agholor to sting Defenses and prove a point next year.
DGB is in an interesting position. Dave Fipp’s special teams unit has been one of the most prolific in the NFL in recent year’s, but last season lacked contributing wide receivers. Seyi Ajirotutu was released, who was previously the prominent WR special teamer..and it would be rare for the Eagles to carry five receivers into the year, without a single one playing on Fipp’s unit.
With that said, DGB was the ultumate low-risk, high-reward player..and still is. He cost the Eagles a backup offensive lineman and has showcased his ability to become a true redzone threat.T he problem is that in mdinight green, those flashes were all too rate. With questions over his effort emerging, Green-Beckham is in a strange spot.
He didn’t show the Eagles much in the way of production during 2016..but when he did, his potential exploded into view. It’s a tall order, but the battle for the fifth and final wide receiver spot is set to become one of the most intense on the roster. Green-Beckham’s future is by no means secure, especially for a team looking to conserve what minimal cap space they have.
If Dorial Green-Beckham is to make the roster in 2017, he simply needs to have a Trey Burton esque’ training camp and make a statement to the Eagles that he’s absolutely the right fit for this team, and someone who can still produce as a redzone target. If he can’t, there are six receivers beneath him all chomping at the bit to steal that spot.
Also a former Niner himself, Treggs finds himself in a nearly identical boat to DGB, only now the Eagles have a proven deep threat..something they had hoped to develop Treggs into.
Still a perfect fit for the practice squad, Treggs burst onto the scene with his first reception..but he would only go on to catch two more for a combined total of 80 yards in 2016. He faces an uphill battle to make the final 53-man roster, especially given that the Eagles are still likely to add talent through the draft. But if he can meet the challenge with a positive attitude, he has the blistering speed to take the top off of a defense that the Eagles still covet. The future may be uncertain, but don’t write Treggs off just yet.
Last year’s preseason standout went on to steal the hearts of the Philadelphia faithful, catching 9 passes for 126 yards in his rookie year. At 5’10, 193 lbs, Turner’s size works against him..but his strong work ethic and possession based style was critical to the Eagles sustaining any kind of offense momentum once Jordan Matthews had been sidelined with injury.
The Eagles really like Turner..and it’s easy to see why. He led the NFL in preseason receiving yards and proved he could do it in the thick of the regular season. Turner could be seen as a backup slot receiver to Jordan Matthews and someone, who like Agholor, could well utilize his under-the-radar reputation to put up some big plays in clutch situations for the Eagles.
Of the remaining Eagles receivers on the roster, Turner may be one of the favorites to make the cut, or at least stick onto the practice squad. But he will absolutely be competing for that final roster spot that may be open and it’s going to take a lot to change those winds.
Rasheed Bailey, Dom Williams, David Watford, Marcus Johnson:
The four rookies who were signed to the Eagles roster at the end of last season will all be hoping to play their way to a secure NFL future. Three of them have had previous experience with the Eagles, while Dom Williams has the size and speed to transition to the next level.
Rasheed Bailey was 2015’s Paul Turner. The fan favorite who shined in preseason and now returns to try and seal his future. How Eagles fans will cope with two preseason heroes on the same roster will be interesting, but more importantly, how the battle itself unfolds.
If there are only to be five roster spots available, the Eagles could see as many as six wide receivers campaigning for that fifth and final one. It would be an enticing competition to watch..but an intense one. The Eagles could still add talent in the draft and then of course there are undrafted free agents to account for.
The 2017 wide receiver battle will closely resemble that of last year’s cornerback scrap. One that saw Eric Rowe traded and Jalen Mills rise up the depth chart. The impact of Jeffery and Smith goes far beyond the regular season production..especially for the remaining receivers whose offseason just became even more pivotal.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports