The offseason has officially stormed in with the NFL Scouting Combine kicking off in Indianapolis this week. The whirlwind of negotiations, transactions and acquisitions to come in the next few months will shape rosters around the league until September hits and football gets back into full swing.
The Philadelphia Eagles have their work cut out for them. The front office has made it clear that their goal is to build a sufficient army of talent around new franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who they traded up for in last year’s draft. Ironically, the team’s biggest need is wide receiver, and revamping that unit will surely start this process. The Eagles need immediate impact, however, so most of their top targets will be proven NFL players.
Who is available for the Eagles to acquire and what are the drawbacks?
1) Alshon Jeffery, FA
He could be the top free agent on the market, and free agents like this don’t come along often. The 27-year old Jeffery is entering his prime and will likely play his first season without a Chicago Bears uniform on. After 5 seasons in the NFL, Jeffery has seen his fair share of ups and downs, but some of the downs could be due to the Bears’ quarterback depreciation. There is also a common misconception that Jeffery is injury prone, but he’s only missed 7 games due to injury in his career. The 6’5 wideout will likely make his new team very happy.
The Catch: Alshon Jeffery is going to cost a lot of money. Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown just received an extension worth near $18m/year, so you’d have to assume that Jeffery’s will fall somewhere close to that. Will it match Brown’s total? No. Could it be somewhere north of $12m/year? Yes. In addition, Jeffery served a 4-game suspension last season after testing positive for PEDs. One more slip up and Jeffery will be on a 10-game fishing trip, in the same boat as Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson.
2) Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
If you can remember back to 2014 draft, Cooks was on the Eagles’ radar as a first round target. The Saints jumped the Eagles in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals to snag Cooks. The dynamic playmaker has since been limited due to the emergence of wideouts Willie Snead and Michael Thomas. Cooks is set to become a free agent following 2018, and the Saints want to cash in on return value while they still can. It’s odd to see a team move on from a proven weapon just three years after trading up to select him in the 1st round, but the Saints have a plan and they’re sticking to it. Cooks will likely be in a new city come March 9th, the beginning of the new league year.
The Catch: Cooks is under contract, so it’d take the purging of assets to acquire him. Rumor has it that the Tennessee Titans are the frontrunner, but the Eagles aren’t far behind. The Titans have two 1st round picks this year, but they don’t have a 2nd. The Eagles have picks to dangle, but also have linebacker Mychal Kendricks to offer a struggling Saints’ defense. The question is, how much value are the Eagles willing to give up in order to land the 23-year old dynamo?
3) DeSean Jackson, FA
This would bring back all the feels. Jackson is just a few years removed from being abruptly released by Chip Kelly, and the Eagles have been searching for a big play threat ever since. The former Eagle spent the past three seasons with the Washington Redskins, so bringing him back would hurt a division rival as much as it’d help the Eagles. It seems like a no-brainer, and he’s been teasing fans about the possibility for months. Even some of the current Eagles think he could be on his way back to Philly. Whether or not he actually ends up back in midnight green is yet to be seen, but there is certainly a chance.
The Catch: Jackson isn’t the 24-year old cheetah that he once was. He turned 30 in December, and he’s dealt with hamstring injuries over the past two seasons. He’s still a burner, but who knows when he’ll significantly lose a step? His price tag could be fairly high, too.
4) Kenny Stills, FA
A few years back, the Eagles were interested in trading for Stills when New Orleans placed him on the block. How much interest? Nobody knows for sure. He was eventually dealt to the Miami Dolphins, but it seems that they will let him test the waters of free agency now that his deal has expired. He served as a big play threat for the Dolphins, and could be looked at as a younger version of the aforementioned DeSean Jackson. At the tender age of 24, Stills has a lot of growing ahead of him and could be worth a look.
The Catch: While Stills could link up with Wentz for a long time, there are questions about his ceiling. The early indication is that he’ll be seeking a deal worth up to $12m/year, and that’s a lot of money to spend on a wideout who hasn’t proven to be a legit top option. Is Stills going to get much better? Experience should pay dividends, but his stature could hinder his ability to do much more than go deep.
5) Rookie Class
There is a laundry list of extremely talented wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft. The Eagles could turn to the rookie class to supplement their current group, but there are many factors that will dictate their thought process here. From Mike Williams and Corey Davis to Cooper Kupp and DeDe Westbrook, there are receivers throughout the draft that the Eagles could keep an eye on. Which round should they address the position in? It will most likely depend on how the free agent acquisition process turns out.
The Catch: The Eagles are looking for impact immediately at the wide receiver position. They’ve recently drafted receivers in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds, and none of them have panned out as legitimate threats at the pro level. Youth and inexperience has been glaring, and adding more rookies to solve that may not be the greatest idea. Generally, rookies take a few years to develop into consummate professionals. The Eagles may not have the time to wait.