The last few days have been a rollercoaster for the Philadelphia Eagles. From a dominant week 8 win over the Niners, to a wave of trade rumors before the deadline, there has simply not been a moment of tranquility for this team. The most poignant headline of all? The reported interest in future hall of famer, Calvin Johnson.
Out of nowhere, reports began to surface stating that the Eagles were one of two teams interested on acquiring the services of the retired 32-year old and while the prospect of having one of the most physically gifted and dominant athletes of all time headlining a wide receiver corps that may, just may be on its way to something special, there is a lot to consider.
To start with, the bigger picture. While retired, Johnson’s rights belong to the Detroit Lions. With a base salary of $16M to be traded for, the Eagles aren’t exactly swimming in cap space to pick up such a heavy tag. Incentives aside, Johnson would immediately be the highest paid Eagle on the roster. More than Fletcher Cox, more than Lane Johnson, more than Alshon Jeffery who’s signed a $9.5M prove it deal with the team earlier this year. Sure, the Eagles could free up some extra room with a flurry of moves…but it’s something that would send huge shocks throughout the franchise.
If the Lions decided to cut Johnson, that’s a slightly different story. The Eagles could then attempt to sign the 32-year old to a lucrative deal that would most likely be of a ‘prove-it’ nature. The issue there is that after this season, the Eagles could potentially lose Jeffery, Smith, and Johnson. It’s a heavy investment for a contract that may not ever have the upside of a long-term deal due to the age of Johnson.
Let’s take the financial aspect out of this idea for a second. Johnson is simply an NFL icon. Finishing his career with 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns, Johnson broke records wherever he went and set the NFL single-season record for receiving with 1,964 yards back in 2012. The attention Johnson would command on Offense would be incredible. There is no way teams would leave Megatron unmanned or unaccounted for….but then that’s another debate entirely.
Hasn’t the entire discussion surrounding Alshon Jeffery this season been about weighing his statistical production against how he opens the offense. One side of the table sees Jeffery as a number one wideout who is responsible for the breakout of Ertz, Agholor and Carson Wentz. The other sees a wideout who decimated in Chicago and hasn’t yet registered a 100-yard game.
The presence of Calvin Johnson would bring the EXACT same discussion. Johnson may not be targeted 12 times per game as he was during his time in Detroit. If he did arrive in the City of Brotherly Love, he would command attention wherever he lined up, something Wentz would take advantage of.
The Eagles quarterback has shown no hesitation in letting his receivers go up for jump-balls and the prospect of him doing the same to Calvin Johnson is enticing, but the Eagles don’t NEED another number one receiver. They have been craving a deep-threat who can double as a redzone target for a number of years now, with Dorial Green-Beckham acting as the failed experiment…but they may have finally found their solution in Mack Hollins.
“I think. It’s got to be the right fit.” Doug Pederson told reporters today when asked about trade deadline activity. ” It can’t just be anybody. From my standpoint, you don’t want to disrupt the chemistry that is going on in the dressing room right now. And those guys are playing with a lot of confidence, and they’re rallying around each other. So it would have to be a pretty special fit to make it work.”
At 6’4, 221 lbs, Hollins brings incredible size and speed to the table. A wideout who is able to mix it up in the redzone and be a force on special teams. Hollins set the the UNC record for yards per reception (20.6 avg.) and led the NCAA in yards per reception (24.8 avg.) as a junior in 2015. His 20 receiving touchdowns see him ranked 3rd in all-time Tar Heels history. Just one week after catching first NFL touchdown pass, Hollins was a factor once again for the Eagles on Sunday against the Niners. Now, I’m not comparing Mack Hollins to the legendary wide receiver, but if it’s a deep-threat the Eagles are looking for, building that role seems far more sustainable with production already pouring in, as opposed to attempting to resurrect the career of a great with a hefty price tag.
The other aspect, and arguably the most important is what it means for the Locker room. The stories of Megatron’s work ethic, humble attitude and influence over the Lions organization during his time as a player are nothing short of magical. But any time you bring in someone of such magnitude, there is going to be an immediate knock-on effect.
Torrey Smith played in his fewest single-game snaps since signing with the Eagles in week 8. If the Eagles then go out and sign one of the greatest receivers of all time, there is no doubt that it would cause a ripple in the locker room. What do the futures of the current Eagles wide receivers then hold? What message does it send to a corps that has been nothing short of impressive as a collective since the moment they first stepped on the field?
This entire process of building from the ball out has served the Eagles well. Bringing in Joe Douglas to help direct Howie Roseman’s direction has pointed the Eagles an exciting direction that’s building for sustainable success. Signing a 32-year old wide receiver who hasn’t played an NFL snap since 2015 goes against that. Completely.
The Eagles are 7-1. “The team will not make any move that will bring unnecessary attention or distractions to the locker room”. A source said of the situation yesterday. Jeopardizing the unique and exciting position the team are in just doesn’t make sense.
Forget how long it would take to learn the playbook so he can contribute in more than just redzone fades, forget age, forget money. This is a move of such heavy magnitude that it would have the power to either send the Eagles and Megatron to immortality, or be one of the most devastating moves in recent memory.
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports