Eagles Wake-Up Call: Will Birds Seek WR/TE Help?

Continuing our look at Eagles’ free agency needs, today we address wide receiver and tight end.

It’s safe to say that one of Chip Kelly’s goals will be to make the most out of DeSean Jackson’s speed and skill set. But beyond that, his plans are a bit of a mystery.

Jeremy Maclin is going into the final year of his contract. Jason Avant turns 30 next month. Riley Cooper got a chance for extended playing time in 2012, but averaged just 29.4 yards per game in the final seven. And while Damaris Johnson had some nice moments, he’ll likely be competing for a roster spot in 2013.

So where does that leave the Eagles with their offseason plans?

The key is what the organization’s opinion is of Maclin. And that’s obviously tough to gauge, considering Kelly hasn’t been able to coach him yet. Their options are to let Maclin’s deal play out and decide on him at the end of 2013; extend him this offseason; or try to trade him if he doesn’t fit into their future plans. My sense is the most likely scenario is the first one – keeping Maclin in 2013 and then figuring things out.

If that’s the case, don’t expect much of a splash at wide receiver in free agency. But the one area where the Eagles could look to make a move is with Avant in the slot. He doesn’t have great size or great speed, but Avant’s made the most of his talents with great hands. Last year, he didn’t have a single drop, according to Pro Football Focus, and Avant made several eye-popping grabs.

While it didn’t always seem like it, he had a solid year. Only Wes Welker, Randall Cobb and Victor Cruz had more catches in the slot, per PFF. But if Kelly spots a players with a more desirable skill set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles make a move.

I don’t expect that to happen in free agency though. Some have asked about Welker, but he turns 32 in May and will command a high paycheck. Signing him doesn’t make sense for this team.

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reported Sunday night that the Eagles will pursue Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola is a nice player, but he strikes me as a bit of a strange fit – under 6 feet with good, but not great, speed and an injury history. Before Mosher’s report, I didn’t see him as a fit, but maybe Kelly and Howie Roseman feel differently. Amendola is 27 years old.

If we get creative, the Eagles’ best option for a slot receiver might be at tight end. Jared Cook’s name has come up a lot, and for good reason. At 6-5, 248, with 4.5 speed, he would provide a matchup problem for opposing defenses and add an element that the Eagles don’t currently have.

Cook should be viewed more as an additional slot receiver than Brent Celek’s replacement. He could be especially attractive to Kelly if the Birds’ new coach plans to run a lot of spread looks with four receivers.

Of course, if the bidding on Cook gets out of hand, the Eagles could look to add a tight end from the talented group that will be available in April’s draft.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Quintin Mikell was released by the Rams. Should the Eagles take a look at bringing him back? Also worth noting: Cullen Jenkins signed with the Giants.

The Eagles are reportedly interested in 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. Plus, some thoughts on Darrelle Revis potentially coming to Philadelphia.

T-Mac has the latest free agency buzz on James Harrison, Mike Wallace and others.

A look at some of the Eagles’ free-agent options at linebacker and defensive line.

Florida State QB E.J. Manuel will be doing a draft diary series for us. Here is his first installment.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Eagles guard Evan Mathis talks to Clark Judge of CBSSports.com about his free agency experience last year:

“It was still something I needed to think about, as it was early in free agency, and I hadn’t spoken to any other team. I knew that the Ravens’ organization was a class act and a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but I also truly felt the same way about Philadelphia at the time.

“So, after returning from the Ravens’ trip, Howie Roseman calls and offers a strong deal. With me viewing the two teams as nearly equal, I chose to go to the team where I already played a year, knew the team and the scheme and could make a little closer to what I was worth.”

According to the National Football Post, Kelly had a lot to do with the Eagles landing Tom Gamble:

One of the reasons Tom Gamble left the 49ers to become the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel is his respect for Chip Kelly. Little known fact: when he was in San Francisco, Gamble scouted Oregon. So he got to know Kelly and the Oregon program well.

COMING UP

This is going to be a busy week with the start of free agency on Tuesday. We’ve got some special features planned, so be sure to keep checking back.

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  • Eoin Cunningham

    If Amendola wasn’t so injury prone I’d love to have him. Easily one of the most underrated guys in the league, if it wasn’t for some idiot lining up the wrong way he’d have more or less beaten the 49ers by himself.
    He may not have 4.3 speed but he always gets open and he very rarely drops the ball. Again if he wasn’t injury prone he’d be one of the most reliable guys in the league in my opinion.

    • Bdawk20

      I wonder why Andy Reid let him go in the first place. Such a dumb move.

      • Eoin Cunningham

        Why no team has kept him is beyond me, dude gets no credit from any team even though he’s clearly a great receiver and dynamic returner.

        • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

          Injuries.

          • Eoin Cunningham

            I’ve seen guys no where near as good as Damny and more injury prone getting deals

      • TXEaglesFan

        If I remember correctly, they kept Reggie Brown instead. Not the best decision in hind sight!!

    • JofreyRice

      ugh, not my cup of tea. Very low-ceiling, WYSIWYG player–undersized, 3rd read dumpster. For my money, I’d rather have Avant, who has an insane catching radius and some size. Speed has never been a part of Avant’s game, so I don’t see a major problem with him getting older.

      • Token

        Amendola is basically just a smaller Avant who is more injury prone. Time to get away from the tiny WRs. I thought Kelly was said to value size?

        • Bdawkbdawk

          I’m not going to sit around and pretend that Amendola is a great player, or that he fits a need, but he runs terrific routes and he has Chip Kelly Speed. Kelly says that if a guy runs a 4.6 and he has 4.6 gamespeed, its more valuable than a track star who throws on pads and suffers in game. Is there any beter example of a 4.6 guy than Amendola?

      • jabostick

        Agreed. I’ll admit to not know the ins and outs of Amendola’s game but Avant is usually a terrific blocker too.

      • CJ

        There was a time when the same could’ve been said about Wes Welker: Just a good return guy who put up good numbers on a bad team, with a below average QB because there was no one else to throw to. There are some scenarios where you might want Avant over Amendola. Avant can only make insane catches when he’s open enough to get the ball thrown his way, and that’s not as often as it should be as a slot WR. They’re usually up against the slower corners, even safeties, and shouldn’t struggle to get open as much as Avant does. Sure, he’s consistent when he does get open, and sure, his build is more conducive to run blocking, which is a plus but if you’d rather have Avant than Amendola, you’re just delusional when you might be able to have both.

        I like Avant in his role, and maybe they’re thinking long term and would prefer Amendola to Maclin. IF the ball’s coming out quick and accurate like it should in this system, ( yes, I know we’re talking about Vick here, stop laughing…), Avant’s skills don’t matter so much. He’s not quick enough to get open in 7 strides or less, catching radius or not. Notwithstanding that this could be a long term move to replace Maclin. A trio of Jackson, Amendola and Johnson would be nasty (especially if Cook is added to the mix), every one of them can take a slant to the house. And you’d still have Avant, Celek, and Cooper for size when it’s needed.

        • JofreyRice

          Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of Welker, either. He may put up numbers that look good, but his value is limited to a system like NE runs, where he uses route-running and quickness to get open for short gains, and keep the chains moving. I think that’s why NE has never really ponied up a long-term big money deal for him. I see Amendola pretty much exactly the same way–I don’t see him as a guy with the speed or elusiveness to take a slant to the endzone on any play. I don’t think he’s all that great after the catch. I see him as a guy that fits a system using short pass plays as a substitute for the running game–a true WCO, not the slow developing vert. routes Reid and Morninwheg ran in Philly that is always referred to as a WCO. I could see him in NE, or Detroit, or as a wrinkle aspect for Atlanta. Teams that matriculate the ball down the field methodically, with that kind of quick read thing. From my understanding of Kelly’s system, he believes in a new twist of the traditional run game, for the most part.

          If they really wanted to add a small slot receiver, those guys always fall in the draft. Ace Sanders from S. Car might be a nice pickup, or Ryan Swope, from aTm, who I think gives you more explosiveness than Amendola. I think Denard Robinson in the 5th or 6th gives you better value than paying Amendola 6 mil a year, which multiple sources are saying is what he’s likely to command, b/c of Brian Hartline’s deal in Miami.

          • CJ

            They fall in the draft but are also unproven commodities. Kelly’s keenly aware of NE’s personnel and scheme, and helped implement parts of his up there. You think he’s not aware of what a Welker-type would do in his system. This could be a change to get a younger, cheaper version of him here. (Also, don’t count out NE chasing him to replace Welker).

            We may disagree on how a piece like that may fit here, but Kelly’s opinion really is the only one that matters. He also knows that while there are questions about Amendola’s injuries proneness, there’s no question about his production. You’d face both questions with anyone of that build coming out of college, and with only 8 picks and a slew of holes on D, their picks are better spent on that side of the ball.

          • JofreyRice

            Hey, I’m not arrogant enough to suggest I know Kelly’s offense better than he does. If he needs Amendola to make the system work, then, that’s cool with me. I’m talking about my understanding of his system, and my take on Amendola’s traits and skills, that’s all.

            Is Amendola’s production even all that great, tho? I don’t think he’s ever had more than 700 yards in a season, right? I can’t agree that he’s got 6 mil a year production. I think you can get a similar guy in the draft.

          • peteike

            “He may put up numbers that look good, but his value is limited” seriously dude, I like your takes and you know your stuff but cmon. Welker is phenomenal, not sure what youre watching. Moving the chains is kind of important for an offense and year in and out they run similar things with Welker and defenses cant stop it. He has huge games every year and on top of it even gets TDs at times because hes so elusive. Now grant it, its the whole system but hes a huge part of their success and most teams would want to emulate that. I agree this team needs a serious big threat for the red zone, no denying there. Id take a Welker for possessions over a Djax for stretching the field all day. Its a matter of pairing them all up in the right scheme of course.

          • JofreyRice

            Thanks (I guess?). Let me ask you this: Do you think Wes Welker gives any defensive coordinators nightmares? Do you think anybody says “We gotta stop Welker”, and creates a gameplan to do so? I don’t. I’m not the biggest fan of DJacc, but I can guarantee he’s a lot more feared by DCs than Welker. Why do you think the Pats are ready to let him walk, and never sought to extend him long term? He’s a replaceable piece of that offense, his greatest value is right there. Amendola is Welker-lite, not what I’d call 6mil a year material.

            The Giants, in the SB, showed you what they thought of Welker. Welker had a “huge game” numbers-wise, but the Giants didn’t care. They took away Moss and the deep ball, and let Welker move the ball underneath for his little 5-6 yard completions. That was kind of the blueprint for them, and I think it’s a big reason why they’ve had to add the TE element to their attack since the SB loss.

          • peteike

            I do think Welker gives D coord fits, they cant seem to contain him, at least in the reg season. Good points about containing the deep threat and the giants gameplan. Some of that was excellent pressure on Brady by the D line and the right scheme to limit his ability after the catch. He gets space quite often and turns up big gains at times when I watch them I just think he is crucial to their success. Not to say they cant replace some of that, but 100 plus receptions a season is nothing to scoff at. Also could be why Brady did his deal the way he did, so they would resign welker, yet to be seen.

    • peteike

      I like it if they want to use him as a wes welker type and model the Pats. You cant deny that kind of production, but yes, thats a bug jump. Otherwise its more important to get a red zone threat. Id love a new TE to start and have Celek as a #2, I think that would be ideal and one of the smart places to spend in FA.

  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    Some people might not like this potential signing because it still doesn’t give us a big guy.I say it’s competition, and bring it on. For the past few years with Andy its always been assumed it’s going to be DeSean, Maclin, Avant and Cooper. It’s time to shake things up and light some fires under these guys.

    May the best man win.

    • Joe

      Word is he’s looking for between $6 and $8 million a year. That’s not bringing someone in for competition.

      • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

        And I told my boss this morning I’m looking for a 150k salary a year with a months vacation. Not a chance in hell I’m gonna get it.

        They’re making an offer, doesn’t mean he’s coming here. He’s an upgrade over Avant (3-4 mil) so they’ll offer him around 4-5 mil..

  • GGeagle

    Screw Danny! we have bgger fish to fry! use that amendola money to win the bidding War for Cook..I cant go another year without a big endzone target

    • nicksaenz1

      Come on, dude, we have Riley Cooper! I couldn’t type that with a straight face. I agree 100%. Throw it at Cook.

  • JofreyRice

    The Eagles really need a big, talented red-zone efficient WR that can block. If they could somehow get and extra pick in the 2nd or 3rd round, it would be awesome to grab Da’Rick Rogers. Before he failed the drug test at Tennessee, he was the best receiver in the SEC, and had a bit of Terrell Owens to his game.

    Kelly likes WRs that can block for his run game. Right now, neither of the presumptive starters on the outside have shown much interest or skill in that category. It would be great to split the slot between Avant and Maclin, and add a bigger guy out there, not named Riley Cooper (Howie’s pet pick).

  • dmancine9

    I would take Amendola, but only if the price was right. Keep Avant and let Riley Cooper go, he had his opportunity and did not take advantage of it.

    Chip Kelly loves to use 4 WR spread looks. I think Jackson, Maclin, Avant, and Amendola would be a solid group.

    • MAC

      Solid group of midget injury prone WR. No thanks! Have we not learned about using all small WR ? Especially since Kelly likes to run ball so much and these guys are not great blocking WR. Also Vick is short and can barely see over the line so getting another 5’11 guy is a bad option. Hopefully Vick is gone ASAP anyways so this point may not matter, but either way I think we need to get more physical WR’s and use Jackson or Maclin in slot.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottJ610 Scott J

    How about Mike Wallace? He’s an upgrade over Maclin.

  • MAC

    I understand the idea, but I think we have enough small WR’s. We need a red zone target and a guy that if the QB is pressured he can just throw a jump ball to here and there. Jackson is a good player and I know what he brings as far as his impact on how defense has to play. I just am not a big Desean fan at all with his antics and his limits on what kind of routes can use him in bc of his size. Welker and Amendola to me make no sense now bc of size and also we are not a legit playoff team now so why sign a 32 yr old or 27 year old.

    The more I read this site and the articles as well as comments recently the more I think many posters on here are not understanding that the Eagles are in rebuilding mode. I understand why they write the articles bc it’s free agency and the off season so makes sense. However Revis, Harrison, Welker, & Amendola make little sense in my opinion. We need to accept we are rebuilding and fill in some needs, but not overspend on aging guys. Seems like more fans than I thought believe we are trying to compete for a super bowl or even playoffs this year. We have Vick at QB and not 1 starter in the secondary. We have an o line with many questions and a new system that we are not even sure how it will look next year. With these issues, especially the lack of a legit QB, we are REBUILDING! It’s ok bc in NFL you can turn it around quick, but we need to go through the growing pains to ever have a chance to really compete. Trading draft pick’s for Reevis or getting Welker makes little to no sense to me and I thought that most Eagle fans understood we were rebuilding.