The free agency five: Which wideouts should the Eagles target?

NFL: AUG 14 Preseason – Dolphins at Bears
CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 14: Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) looks on during a preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins on August 14, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

With three first-round picks and ample cap space at his disposal, Howie Roseman looks primed to attack the upcoming offseason. There are plenty of holes to fill and WR is arguably one of them. But what exactly should the Eagles be looking for?

The current picture is murky at best. DeVonta Smith showed just how high his ceiling is in 2021, while Jalen Reagor, unfortunately, did the opposite. Quez Watkins was somewhere in the middle but spent most of his time working out of the slot.

It’s important for the Eagles to first understand what the corps is going to look like in 2022. Are they going to keep Jalen Reagor and double down on the former first-round pick, or instead look to give DeVonta Smith a dancing partner who can tango just as tidily as he can?

If the future doesn’t involve Reagor, the next step is to work out what kind of receiver would best complement the lean, green, route-running machine. For this, we can look back through Sirianni’s history with wide receivers to see which kind of partnerships have worked best. It’s not a blueprint to take to the bank, but it gives us an idea of the kind of player he may lobby for this offseason.

Offensive coordinator

Colts 2020:

T.Y Hilton (5’10, 183 lbs) 762 yards, 5 touchdowns
Zach Pascal (6’2, 214 lbs) 629 yards, 5 touchdowns
Michael Pittman Jr. (6’4, 223 lbs) 503 yards, 1 touchdown

Colts 2019:

Zach Pascal (6’2, 214 lbs) 607 yards, 5 touchdowns
T.Y Hilton (5’10, 183 lbs) 501 yards 5 touchdowns
Marcus Johnson (6’1, 207 lbs) 277 yards, 2 touchdown

Colts 2018:

T.Y Hilton (5’10, 183 lbs) 1,270 yards, 6 touchdowns
Chester Rogers (6’0, 184 lbs) 485 yards, 2 touchdowns
Ryan Grant (6’0, 195 lbs) 334 yards, 1 touchdown

WR Coach

Chargers: 2017

Keenan Allen (6’2, 211 lbs) 1,393 yards, 6 touchdowns
Tyrell Willliams (6’4, 205 lbs) 728 yards, 4 touchdowns
Travis Benjamin (5’10, 175 lbs) 567 yards, 4 touchdowns

Chargers: 2016

Tyrell Williams (6’4, 205 lbs) 1,059 yards, 7 touchdowns, 48 first downs *career highs
Dontrelle Inman ( 6’3, 205 lbs) 810 yards, 4 touchdowns *career highs
Travis Benjamin (5’10, 175 lbs) 677 yards, 4 touchdowns

The one pattern that emerges here is that along with the teams’ premier receiver, Sirianni has typically surrounded his go-to guy with a bigger-bodied wideout, or a more possession-based receiver. There was no better example than the drafting of Michael Pittman in 2020. The surprising breakout of Zach Pascal gave the Colts a viable weapon who can cut on a dime exactly in the way Sirianni wants, drawing attention and potentially lending favorable matchups to a jump-ball specialist like Pittman.

The committee effort between the trio of Hilton, Pittman, and Pascal, in 2020 is probably the best scenario to work with. The Eagles already have their cornerstone wideout in Smith and Watkins is a pretty strong complementary piece who can stretch the field. What the offense is missing, is that possession-based receiver who can make a tough catch in traffic on 3rd-and-6. It’s amazing that Smitty can do it all, but the Eagles want to be taking weight off of his shoulders, not adding to it.

Jalen Reagor should’ve been used in a similar way to Deebo Samuel, but he wasn’t. He should’ve played a lot more slot reps last year, he didn’t. It’s not hard to facilitate three receivers who are great at launching off the line of scrimmage, but to do so when two lack any real traits outside of speed is definitely a challenge.

The Eagles need an Alshon Jeffery (before the anonymous sources). They need a physical wideout who can contribute in the run-game, make contested catches regularly, and run a solid route tree. It doesn’t need to be perfect, smooth, silky, or crisp…but solid enough to absorb contact without it disrupting the timing of the route.

Who does that leave us with?

The Free agency 5

Allen Robinson

You won’t find a snugger fit than this. A veteran who can help what is a very young room, Robinson brings a ridiculous catch-radius to the table and is arguably one of the safest pairs of hands in football.

T.Y Hilton

The Nick Sirianni relationship might be enough to lure him to Philadelphia. He may not be as great as he once was, but if the Eagles can work Hilton into the slot, it would enable Watkins to become the burner outside.

Mike Williams

Another 50/50 ball machine, Williams might come at a premium, but his smarts to find the soft pockets of space against zonal defenses make him an invaluable weapon. He’s nasty in his routes and is able to accelerate through contact, using his body as leverage to box out opponents.

D.J Chark

Can you write off 2021 due to an ankle injury and Urban Meyer existing? Maybe. But Chark is a big boy who has blazing speed. It’s a niche in today’s NFL, but can the Eagles facilitate it well enough to use it to their advantage? Only if Chark can prove his physicality. But on a cheap contract, it’s worth a punt.

Jakobi Meyers

His breakout in New England was really fun to watch. 866 yards and 2 touchdowns as a possession receiver would be a welcome addition to the Eagles’ offense.

Who do you want the Eagles to sign?

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire