Eagles Offseason Outlook: Wide Receiver
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. We did quarterbacks yesterday. Now it’s onto the wide receivers.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
The big question here is whether the Eagles will be able to re-sign Jeremy Maclin. By all accounts, they want him back, and Maclin wants to return. But he’s not going to be cheap.
Maclin bet on himself going into 2014 and performed brilliantly, finishing with 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs. If he hits the open market, there will most certainly be a lot of interest, and many have already speculated that Andy Reid and the Chiefs could get involved. The Eagles have the franchise tag in their back pocket. Maclin’s leverage? The Eagles’ wide receiver group would be one of the worst in the league without him.
Riley Cooper turned in a disappointing 2014, totaling 55 catches for 577 yards and three scores. According to Pro Football Focus, he averaged 1.02 yards per route run, dead-last among receivers who played 50 percent of their team’s snaps. But $3 million of Cooper’s base salary in 2015 is guaranteed, and the Eagles would have to absorb $6.2 million in dead money if they were to cut him, according to Over the Cap. In other words, Cooper is going to be back.
Jordan Matthews was very good in the slot as a rookie and should see an expanded role. Josh Huff had ups and downs, but showed flashes. Brad Smith and Jeff Maehl are no longer under contract.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
The feeling here is that Maclin will be back. Last offseason, the Eagles had every incentive to allow Cooper to test the market before re-signing him. But they didn’t do that. Kelly saw a player he wanted, the team acted aggressively, and they re-signed him.
If they did that with Cooper, I’ve got to think they’ll take the same approach with Maclin. He’s a hard worker who showed in 2014 that he can be a No. 1 receiver in this offense, and Maclin passes the #culture test. He deserves to get paid, and I think the Eagles will open up their wallet to bring him back.
As I mentioned in the above section, I don’t see Cooper going anywhere. The question is: Will his role change in 2014? As of now, my guess is no. For the past two years, the organization has done everything in its power to defend Cooper and shield him from criticism. I don’t really know why they’ve opted to go that route, but the evidence is there.
I recently made the argument for Matthews to take snaps away from Cooper. He could play outside in 2-WR sets and shift into the slot when the Eagles are in 11 personnel. Huff should also get a chance on the outside.
But Kelly has been pretty consistent in saying that Cooper has done everything the coaching staff has asked. We’ll see if he changes his tune in the spring.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top-15 free-agent WR options, per Rotoworld:
1. Dez Bryant
2. Demaryius Thomas
3. Randall Cobb
4. Jeremy Maclin
5. Torrey Smith
6. Michael Crabtree
7. Kenny Britt
8. Cecil Shorts
9. Eddie Royal
10. Nate Washington
11. Wes Welker
12. Hakeem Nicks
13. Reggie Wayne
14. Denarius Moore
15. Leonard Hankerson
It’s a top-heavy group, but this list could look a lot different by the time free agency starts. For example, there’s pretty much no way Bryant is getting to the open market. He’s either getting an extension or getting tagged.
Cobb is an interesting name, but he’s been a slot receiver with the Packers, a position the Eagles already have filled for now with Matthews. Smith brings the vertical element, but Maclin is the more complete receiver.
The feeling here is that the Eagles will bring Maclin back, and the receiver group won’t see much turnover this offseason. They certainly could draft one or two at some point, but after spending second- and third-round picks on the position last year, the focus will likely be on developing existing talent, not adding new personnel.