This week, we’ll offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up was quarterback. And we covered running backs yesterday. Now onto wide receivers.
PRESSING QUESTION: How different will this group look in 2014?
Kapadia: Of all the position groups we’ll cover, none has more uncertainty than wide receiver. That seems crazy to say, considering the Eagles had a top-five passing offense and led the league in pass plays of 20+ yards, but it’s true.
Here’s what we know: DeSean Jackson will be back and featured prominently after a career year in 2013. But beyond that, it’s foggy. The Eagles have to make a decision on Jason Avant before March 15 when a roster bonus kicks in. Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
The key question here is: What is Chip Kelly looking for? My guess, based on what I saw at Oregon and what I observed during his first year in the NFL, is that he doesn’t think the Eagles need to invest big dollars in the No. 2 wide receiver spot. And given that Cooper had never produced prior to playing in this scheme in 2013, it’s tough to argue with that assessment.
So to answer the initial pressing question, I think this group is going to look pretty different. I’ll say only one of the Maclin-Cooper-Avant group is on the roster to start the season in 2014.
McManus: Let’s bet a beer on it: I’ll say more than one returns.
The sense I get is that Maclin really wants to stay in Philly, so if the Eagles come close to what other suitors are offering, I believe he’s back. If any team (Kansas City?) makes a big push for him, that’s another story. But chances are, the kind of long-term deal he is looking for won’t come until he proves that he’s fully recovered from a second ACL tear. This is a potential low-risk, high-reward play for the Eagles.
They may be able to re-sign Cooper at a decent number as well. It’s unknown 1) how he would be received in another locker room and 2) how much of his success in 2013 was a product of Kelly’s system. These uncertainties should keep his price point down.
I think there is value in holding onto players who are already familiar with Kelly’s offense and methods. All things considered, I’m not sure they will find better overall options on the open market.
I’ll guess that Avant won’t see that $1 million roster bonus, but wouldn’t be shocked if he came back on a more team-friendly deal.
I believe the receiving corps will be tweaked, but I’m not convinced that it will be overhauled.
PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5
* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.
Kapadia: This one gets a 5 from me. The Eagles have to make decisions on three of their own guys and figure out which pieces they want to add in the draft and free agency.
Cooper, to me, is the most intriguing situation. Will any other team like him as much as Kelly? Will Cooper want to go into a locker room with 52 strangers, given what happened last summer at the Kenny Chesney concert? I asked Howie Roseman that question last week.
“Talk about someone who responded to adversity,” Roseman said. “That was a lot of adversity for him and for our football team. Our football team coming together deserves a lot of credit for that and our coaches for holding it together. But it’s hard for me to kind of predict what another locker room… how they’d handle anyone. But I know what kind of guy Riley is to be around. …He’s a very up-front guy and he knows that he made a big mistake. He’s a guy that we drafted and had a good year for us, works really hard and he’s a young guy, so he’s got a bright future.”
There are clear signs that the Eagles have interest in bringing both Maclin and Cooper back. But as always, the price has to be right.
McManus: I’ll give it a 5 as well.
One thing the Eagles need to figure out is who is going to play the slot. If Maclin and Cooper both return, who would slide inside? Is Avant a good enough option? Do they bring someone in via the draft or free agency?
There are so many questions surrounding the receiver position right now, and many of the answers won’t reveal themselves until the league year begins and the market comes into focus. This is a fluid situation, which makes it an interesting one to follow.