With free agency set to kick off three weeks from today, one thing seems certain: It’s going to be fascinating to see how the market plays out for Riley Cooper.
The 26-year-old wide receiver is coming off a 47-catch, 835-yard, 8-TD season, and according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, there will be “significant demand” for his services:
Per a league source, the man who slid into the starting lineup after Jeremy Maclin tore an ACL in the preseason, will have a significant demand for his services if/when he hits the market.
Tim and I discussed Cooper’s future last month. From where I sit, this should be a relatively simple process for the Eagles.
If they can bring him back at a relatively inexpensive price, go ahead and do it. Disregarding Jeremy Maclin for a moment, Cooper provides a starting-caliber receiver (in Chip Kelly's system, at least). If Maclin comes back too, or if they draft a wide receiver early, Cooper provides some much needed depth.
However, if there is indeed a significant market for Cooper, Howie Roseman should bow out and move on. Cooper was a nice contributor in 2013, but overpaying him would be a mistake. If the Eagles do their homework on mid-level free agents and draft prospects, they should be able to replace Cooper's production.
On offense, the team has significant money committed to LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jason Peters. Nick Foles could be in line for a significant payday with a strong performance in 2014. Paying big money to Cooper just doesn't make sense, especially when you consider he averaged just 29.4 yards per game playing starter snaps in 2012.
As for actual numbers, it's tough to come up with a similar comp. One name I came across was Laurent Robinson. He hadn't done anything his first four seasons in the league before landing with the Cowboys. In 2012, Robinson caught 54 balls for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was about to turn 27 when free agency began the following offseason and signed a five-year, $32.5M deal ($14M guaranteed) with the Jaguars.
Robinson was considered a higher upside player than Cooper, but he also had an injury history. Cooper didn't do much his first three seasons, but had 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He'll turn 27 next offseason.
As always, it only takes one team to pay up. In the end, it will come down to what Cooper's looking for.
If he wants to maximize his earnings, he could be headed elsewhere. If he would rather not step into a locker room with 52 strangers who know him only from a short video clip at last summer's Kenny Chesney concert, and if he likes playing in Kelly's system, he'll opt to return.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Brian Baldinger identifies three free agents who could fit the Eagles' needs.
An All-22 look at free agent safety T.J. Ward.
Jason Avant advises Roger Goodell on locker room culture.
Kelly is searching for brains to go along with brawn.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com likes OLB Marcus Bernard as a potential Eagles target:
Marcus Benard is similar to Butler in that regard. In four seasons with the Browns and Cardinals, Benard has registered a sack every 32.2 times he has had an opportunity to rush the passer, which is outstanding. In addition to his 3.5 sacks in 2013, Benard also knocked the QB down 10 times, according to ProFootballFocus. That was tied for 8th in the league among 3-4 OLBs, which is extra impressive considering the low number of opportunities Benard received.
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz chimes in on Brandon Graham's future:
If the Eagles asked my advice, I’d tell them to trade Graham to a 4-3 team. The guy can play. No one disputes that. But he just doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Eagles anymore. Graham lacks the size that Chip Kelly prefers. Graham is awkward when he’s got to drop back, which is part of playing OLB in the 3-4. And he’s going to be a free agent at the end of 2014. Does it seem likely that the Eagles would re-sign him?
We'll continue to look at free agents and get ready for the combine.