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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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