Crystal Ball: Riley Cooper
The Eagles have eight players that are set to become unrestricted free agents: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Michael Vick, Nate Allen, Donnie Jones, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Clifton Geathers.
Tim and Sheil will look at one free agent per day and give their take on what should and what will happen with these players. Maclin was up first. Now onto Cooper.
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN
McManus: Both parties should recognize that there is a fit here and come to terms on a reasonable deal.
In his first three seasons combined, Cooper posted 46 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns. This year under Chip Kelly he had 47 catches for 835 yards and eight TDs. Cooper believes that the sharp increase in production is largely about opportunity: He got his shot at a main role when Maclin went down and made the most of it. While there might be a little truth there, there’s no question that Kelly’s system played a part in Cooper’s breakout campaign. And his stock really shot up when Nick Foles took over. When Michael Vick started this season, the 26-year-old averaged under two catches per game for 21 yards. With Foles, those numbers ballooned to 3.7 catches and 73 yards per game. There is a comfort level between quarterback and receiver, and that’s worth something.
Kelly values big receivers that can block. Cooper fits the mold. Cooper’s style of play matches what Kelly is looking for, and Kelly’s offense accentuates Cooper’s strengths. The 6-3, 220-pound Florida product should stay put.
Kapadia: At the risk of sounding like a cold-blooded business tycoon, my take is the Eagles should only consider bringing Cooper back at a relatively inexpensive price tag.
The organization has leverage here because of what happened last summer at the Kenny Chesney concert. Does Cooper really want to go into a new locker room with 52 strangers and have to answer questions about that ugly incident once again?
Cooper may try to sell the “I finally got an opportunity” argument, but that’s not really the case. Let’s not forget that in 2012, he played over 70 percent of the snaps in the final seven games because of DeSean Jackson’s injury. The results: 19 catches for 206 yards. That’s an average of 2.7 receptions and 29.4 yards per games.
Granted, Cooper played well in 2013. His two greatest assets are his ball skills and his blocking. He was a fit in Kelly’s system. But if I’m the Eagles, I’m not matching offers on the open market for Cooper. If he wants to come back on a cheap deal, great. If not, move on.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
McManus: Cooper has expressed his desire to stay with the Eagles, and there is reason to think his words are sincere.
If he is to sign elsewhere, he will be faced with two big questions:
1) Will he find the same kind of success under a different coach? Kelly proved in his first year that his offense can be very kind to skill position players (Cooper was one of several Eagles to post career numbers in 2013). Perhaps he believes he can be this productive in any system, but runs the risk of being dead wrong.
2) How will he be received? The Eagles were able to move past the offseason incident in part because Cooper had established relationships inside that locker room and was largely given the benefit of the doubt. There’s no guarantee that he will be welcomed by strangers.
Such factors should keep Cooper’s price tag relatively low, which will help the Eagles secure a team-friendly multi-year deal.
Kapadia: I’m pretty torn on this one. On one hand, I think Cooper will want to come back. The Chesney incident doesn’t get brought up around here much anymore, and my guess is he’s fully aware that he won’t be as productive in a different role and scheme.
I don’t see a huge market for Cooper, but as we’re reminded every March, all it takes is one team falling in love and pulling the trigger.
Remember, Cooper was a fifth-round pick who made $630,000 in base salary last year. He’s 26-years-old and will never have a better opportunity to cash in. As I mentioned yesterday, guaranteed money is tough to turn down, regardless of circumstance.
This is a coin flip to me, but in the end, I’ll predict that another team values Cooper’s size, ball skills and 2013 production and offers him a nice deal. The Eagles decide he’s replaceable and let him walk.