It has been a madcap start to free agency.The Eagles now look very different from a week ago, and have some very large areas of need.The biggest of these, still leftunaddressedafter the free agent and trade frenzy of last weekis the replacing of Jeremy Maclin and his 1,318 receiving yards.
After Maclin was allowed to reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City, the players returning at wide receiver have limited experience.Riley Cooper caught 55 passes for 577 yards in 2014, down significantly from his breakout year in 2013.
Jordan Matthews, the Birds’ second round pick last year, had a promising rookie season with 67 catches for 872 yards.The team has said they have high expectations for third round pick Josh Huff, who was only able to contribute eight receptions as a rookie.
Most of the top free agents, including Andre Johnson and Torrey Smith, have signed elsewhere. Michael Crabtree, probably the biggest name remaining on the market, has not been connected to the Eagles.
There are a pair of former NFC East receivers who will be familiar to Eagles fans still available.Miles Austin and Hakeem Nicks have parted ways with Cleveland and Indianapolis, respectively.Austin had 568 yards on 47 catches last season.The memory of the Austin who played for Dallas is enticing, but on the wrong side of 30 and with 15 games missed over the last four seasons, this is probably one stone better left unturned.
Nicks also had a poor season, with 38 receptions for 405 yards.He has never recaptured the start of his career in New York when he had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2010-11.He is still just 27-years-old however, and in 2014 played a full 16 game season for the first time.
Greg Jennings, cut by the Vikings after their trade for Mike Wallace, is a new arrival on the free agent market who should warrant some interest.
Jennings seemingly doesn’t fit the Eagles blueprint, at 6-foot-0 and 31years of age.But he managed to maintain a level of production, 127 receptions for 1,546 yards and 10 touchdowns in two seasons, while exiled to quarterback hell in Minnesota.
Jennings thrived with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, with three 1,100 yard seasons bookended by two 900 yard ones, and one Super Bowl.Jennings relied more on excellent route-running than blazing speed as well, which may help him remain productive in the latter stages of his career.
It is likely the team will look to draft a receiver.Like the 2014 class, this year’s crop of receivers is excellent, and ten could go off the board within the first two rounds.
Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Missouri’s 6-foot-5 Dorial Green-Beckham, and Ohio State burner Devin Smith could go somewhere around the Eagles’ 20th overall selection, though it might be preferable to draft help at another position there and look for a receiver later.
Whatever the Eagles do, with most of their once seemingly inexhaustible cap space gone already, they will have to do it cheap.