The biggest question on offense is what will happen at WR. Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are free agents. Will the Eagles keep one, both or none? And then there is Jason Avant. He’s a descending player who the team might want to upgrade.
I was hoping to get a better feel for things while down in Mobile, but the WR position is a real mystery. Maclin’s ACL and Cooper’s off-field incident complicate things. The overall situation is tough to read because the free agent receiver class is so thin and the draft class is so deep.
Jeff McLane wrote an article on the situation. This is what he’s hearing.
Free agency is more than six weeks away, though, and a poll of coaches, executives, scouts, and agents suggested the Eagles would likely keep both wide receivers. As one NFC executive put it, “Who else will like Cooper as much as Chip [Kelly]?” And as an AFC coach posited, “Only the Eagles know how healthy Maclin is.”
Both Maclin and Cooper could get surprising offers from other teams. They are young, talented players with a good combination of size and speed. Maclin is the better playmaker. Cooper is more physical and the better blocker. Even with their issues, teams could see the value in signing them.
I tend to think both guys will stick around in 2014. Cooper’s issues are a thing of the past in the Eagles locker room, but wouldn’t be with a new team. Avant stood up for him in Philly. I don’t know that any player on a new team would do the same thing. Maclin is a tough player to get a read on even when he’s healthy. He is pretty much a very good #2 WR. Maclin’s best season came in 2010, when he went 70-964-10. He produces consistent numbers, but isn’t special in any way. Now he’s coming off an ACL tear. Maclin also tore that same ACL while in college so teams can’t just trust he’ll be okay.
– When Maclin addressed the media a day after the Eagles’ loss to the Saints he informed us that he had started running, and that the next step in the process was to begin working on lateral movement. He has since reached that stage, we’re told. He is rehabbing multiple times a day. Per team policy he can only be at the facility during certain hours. When he is finished there he’ll head home to do more work. The knee is said to be responding well.
– Maclin’s agent and Howie Roseman have had some preliminary talks. It has been made clear that the receiver’s first choice is to stay in Philadelphia. That doesn’t mean it’s a lock that he is back. Maclin will probably have several suitors, some of whom might be willing to offer more years and money than the Eagles are. What happens if he receives a multi-year deal from Team X and only a one-year deal from the Eagles? Depends on which team we’re talking about and how much money is on the table. Maclin’s camp will evaluate each scenario from a variety of angles before making a decision.
This doesn’t feel like a “highest dollar” situation. Fit is important. The 25-year-old is open to playing on a one-year deal if need be.
One of the keys to this situation is that I think both players want to return. I could see Cooper being borderline desperate to return. He knows he can play well in this offense and with Nick Foles at QB. That means something after 3 years of inconsistent playing time and production.
Neither Maclin nor Cooper is going to sign cheap. Maclin might settle for a 1-year deal, but he’ll still expect a fair amount. Cooper might be looking at the only chance he’ll have to land a good deal. He will turn 27 in September. If he signs for 3 years, Cooper would be 30 heading into his next deal. Cooper needs to get the best contract possible this time around.
Maclin’s original contract was for 5 years and $12.7M. Cooper made just a bit less. His rookie deal was 4 years and $1.96M. So Cooper has earned $10M less to this point in his career. And he’s the older player.
Under the days of Joe Banner, the Eagles might try to really squeeze both players due to their situations. I expect Howie Roseman and the new Cap people to be a bit more reasonable. The Eagles will not overpay for either Maclin or Cooper, but I think taking the right tone can make a difference with both players.
Complicating matters is that the veteran wideout is scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus, which kicks in the fifth day of the league year (March 15). They will need to either release Avant or restructure his deal before then to avoid incurring that cost.
The day after the loss to the Saints, Avant said that he had yet to speak with Howie Roseman about his future.
“If they deem it important, they’ll reach out. At the same time, they don’t owe me anything. I’ve been here, playing as hard as I can, and that’s all I can ask from them,” said Avant, who has a base salary of $2.25 million in 2014. “I’m an employee, so that’s one of those things that if I am — how can I say it — valued, that will be something they will reach out and do. But at the same time, if they don’t, I’m appreciative for my time. And to all the Eagles fans, I had a ball here no matter what the outcome is.”
The Eagles need to upgrade Avant, but I hate the thought of getting rid of him. He’s smart, tough and a valuable team leader. If only he was a little bit faster. The problem with Avant is that he’s no longer help on STs and he isn’t gifted enough to play outside if a starter gets hurt. He is literally a pure slot receiver. Avant is still good at that role and he’s a great blocker, but I’m just not sure it makes sense to keep him in this offense.
It is going to be interesting to see how the Eagles proceed at WR.
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I’ve posted a few thoughts on the Senior Bowl. I’ve not studied the tape yet. This was just my reaction to the game.