The Philadelphia Eagles started off the new league year with a bang. The team signed three free agents on the first day of free agency in wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and offensive guard Chance Warmack.
The upgrades the team made, especially to the wide receiver corps, show how much of an impact the Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel, Joe Douglas, has on the team’s decision making in his first full offseason as a memeber of the front office.
The Eagles hired Douglas, along with his right hand man, Andy Weidl, late into the 2016 offseason. Both were members of the Baltimore Ravens front office (Douglas from 2000-2015; Weidl from 2005-2016). This is how 28-year-old Torrey Smith comes into play. Weidl served as the Ravens’ West area scout prior to the 2011 NFL draft when the team selected Smith in the second-round. He’s the one the Ravens gave credit to with his addition to the team.
During Smith’s four seasons in Baltimore, he never missed a game appearing in all 64 contests while catching 213 receptions for 3,591 yards, 16.9 yards per catch and 30 touchdowns. Smith cashed in on a weak free agent wide receiver market during the 2015 offseason that saw former Eagles wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, receive a deal from the Kansas City Chiefs for $11 million per season coming off his first 1,000 yard receiving season, while Smith opted to follow the money rather than stay in Baltimore and signed with the San Francisco 49ers for $8 million per season.
Ultimately Smith’s business decision ended up affecting his career tremendously as his production plummeted in his first two seasons with the 49ers (53 receptions for 930 yards, 17.5 yards per catch and seven touchdowns) in offensive coordinator, Geep Chryst, and former head coach, Chip Kelly, offensive systems.
If there’s anyone who knows Smith and his skill set best, it’s Douglas and Weidl. Both deem him as a fit for the Eagles’ offense, which is very encouraging as both envisioned how he’d be utilized in Baltimore and their evaluations paid off. Smith’s most productive scoring seasons (2011-2012: 15 receiving touchdowns combined) were when he was the second-fiddle to Anquan Boldin in Baltimore. Now Smith will have the luxury of doing so for Alshon Jeffery and that’s exactly what Douglas and Weidl think he can do best.
Jeffery gives the Eagles a true No.1 wide receiver, which the team has lacked since Maclin’s departure. Coincidentally Douglas too has familiarity with Jeffery as both were in Chicago together in 2015-2016. Douglas has seen Jeffery up close and knows what he brings to the table and with a strong player evaluation background, that’s just more good news for the Eagles.
Jeffery’s familiarity with Eagles new wide receivers coach, Mike Groh, definitely is an under the radar factor into his signing with the Eagles. Groh coached Jeffery for three seasons from 2013-2015, which led to Jeffery having 228 receptions for 3,361 yards and 21 touchdowns in 41 games.
Jeffery was a rookie in 2012 and the huge leap in production from his rookie season (10 games, 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns) to his sophomore season in 2013 (16 games, 14 starts, 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns) came in Groh’s first year on the job, which speaks volumes to Groh’s developmental process of young wide receivers.
The ties Douglas has in the upgrades to the team’s horrendous wide receiver corps just shows how much of an impact he has on the team’s decision making going forward. His strong evaluations from the Ravens and Bears past drafts should instill confidence among the Eagles fanbase as the team clearly has shown early signs of trusting their newest front office addition. Douglas has already quickly put his stamp on the Eagles and the draft is still to come.
Mandatory photo credits: Jessica Griffin of Philly.com