Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both unrestricted free agents in a thin wide receiver market (Image Courtesy CSNPhilly.com).
Over the next couple of weeks, Eagledelphia will be addressing the Eagles free agents needs while evaluating producing a position-by-position analysis.
The today’s area to be addressed: Wide Receiver.
Break out year was the name of the game for Eagles wide outs DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. Jackson led the Eagles with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Although Jackson came short of setting the Eagles record for receiving yards in a season, he had a career year in both receptions and yards and found himself in his third Pro Bowl.
On the other side, Riley Cooper hauled in 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, all career highs for the former Florida Gator. Cooper’s opportunity came at the expense of an injured Jeremy Maclin, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL during training camp.
Slot man Jason Avant had a down year in terms of numbers, registering just 38 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns. Avant is due to roster bonus of one million dollars on March 15. The bonus could decide his fate on the Eagles roster.
The other receivers on the roster failed to make an impression as Jeff Maehl, Brad Smith, and Damaris Johnson combined for just eight catches and 14 yards.
The Eagles face a conundrum during the free agency period, as they will have tough decisions to make. Both Cooper and Maclin are unrestricted free agents when free agency begins March 11. The Eagles also face contract difficulties with Jackson, who would like an increase in salary after his career year, despite only recently receiving a new contract.
It has been reported that the New York Jets are interested in Maclin’s services. Although the Missouri product had indicated that he would like to return to Philadelphia, so much so that he’s willing to take a one-year “prove it” deal, a multi-year offer from another team could entice the rehabbing receiver to leave the Birds’ nest.
With the free agent market short on talent, the draft could be one way that the Eagles address their wide receiver issues, as the draft is flooded with impressive prospects. There could be upwards of six receivers taken in the first round. Some names that could be available when the Eagles pick 22nd overall are Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, and Penn State’s Allen Robinson.
With Eagles general manager Howie Roseman saying that the team will be “careful” in free agency, here is a group of wide outs that could interest the team, outside of re-signing their own free agents.
1. Emmanuel Sanders. The Pittsburgh Steeler hit the restricted free agent market, only to stay with the Steelers after signing a one-year, two million dollar offer with the New England Patriots. Sanders, a former third-round pick from SMU, had a career high 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns. Sanders also has experience returning both punts and kickoffs, which could be an added bonus to an Eagles team looking for legitimate return man.
2. Eric Decker. Although the Denver Bronco will probably be too expensive for the Eagles, he would be the perfect compliment to DeSean Jackson. The 6’3” wide out posted career highs with 87 receptions and 1,288 yards. He also caught 11 touchdowns, which included a game where he had four-touchdown performance. The Minnesota alumnus also has experience returning punts. Although he has said he’d like to return to Denver, he could command top dollar on a lackluster free agent market.
3. Anquan Boldin. The veteran receiver does not have breakaway speed nor does he get much separation from defenders; all he does is play consistent week and week while making tough catches in traffic. Bringing in a player of Boldin’s ilk would let the team know that they are serious about competing for a Super Bowl sooner rather than later. Boldin won a championship with Baltimore in 2012 and enters free agency for the first time in his career.
Keep an eye on: Dexter McCluster. McCluster is a Swiss army knife player, as he could be used in the backfield, slot, or split out wide. The former second-round pick set career highs across the board in receptions (53), yards (511) and touchdowns (2). McCluster could create matchup problems all over the field as well as provide the Eagles with productive return man.
Hal Greenblatt covers the Eagles for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter: @HMGreenblatt