Philadelphia Eagles Get 2 Wide Receivers One of Them Being Top Free Agent Alshon Jeffrey

March 10, 2017

 

No NFL team wins championships in March. In fact, except for in a few instances, spending extravagantly during free agency has often only patched up holes from years of poor drafting and resulted in high-priced mercenaries never fulfilling lofty expectations.

 

The Eagles didn't expend a lavish amount of money on the first day of free agency, at least nowhere near the profligate amount they spent in 2011 and 2015, or even as much as they dropped during the 2013, 2014, and 2016 offseasons. But they did make Alshon Jeffery one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league on Thursday.

Jeffrey's contract, however, is only for one year and $14 million. While that fulfills Howie Roseman's recent prophecy about not getting bogged down in long-term deals that handicap future dealings, it does stand in contrast to his comments about the Eagles' commitment to building for the long haul.

 

The Eagles may have an opportunity to work out a long-term contract with Jeffery next offseason, and they'll also have the franchise tag as a luxury, but the 27-year-old receiver's salary-cap figure instantly became the highest on the roster for 2017. If the Eagles were one or two players away from a title run, you could understand the investment. But they are not.

 

That doesn't mean the Jeffery addition was a poor one. On paper, it makes solid sense. The Eagles addressed their greatest need, and in doing so acquired arguably the best available receiver.

 

But if Jeffery was so coveted, why didn't he nab a long-term, big money deal when so many other free agents benefited from an unprecedented amount of cap space? Why did the Bears, who tagged him at $14.6 million last year, let him walk?

 

Like most free agents, Jeffery has some baggage. He missed 11 games to injury during the first five years of his career and was suspended for four games last season after he was caught using a performance-enhancing substance. Clearly, those strikes hampered Jeffery in negotiations, and clearly he is betting on himself.

Three years ago, Jeffery was considered one of the best young receivers in the NFL. After an injury-shortened rookie season, he caught more than 85 passes for more than 1,100 yards in back-to-back seasons. At 6-foot-3, 218-pounds, he was the prototype for outside receivers that could win contested balls in man-to-man coverage.

 

 

Jeffery was still that receiver the next two seasons despite the Bears' misfortunes. But various injuries curtailed his 2015 campaign, and he sat out the four games of the suspension in the middle of 2016.

 

Even those abbreviated seasons were far better than the production the Eagles have gotten from their outside receivers over the last two years, particularly last year with Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham. With the addition of Jeffery and Torrey Smith, who is also looking for a little of redemption after two subpar years with the 49ers, Roseman significantly upgraded the receiving corps.

 

Jeffery gives the Eagles size and Smith gives them speed on the outside. Paired with slot receiver Jordan Matthews, the Eagles have a group that doesn't quite match the Cowboys or New York Giants in the NFC East, but at least can now be mentioned in the same category.

 

The Eagles couldn't afford to waste another of Carson Wentz's early years on waiting for Agholor or Green-Beckham to develop, especially when evidence suggests they won't be anything more than backups.

 

Jeffery's one-year deal and Smith's one-year, $5 million deal - the Eagles have options on the latter for 2018 and 2019 - also don't prevent the Eagles from investing in the receiver position in the draft. But their signings, particularly Jeffery's, will come at a cost.

 

The Eagles will likely need to clear some additional cap space because they didn't ink Jeffery to a long-term, back-loaded deal. Releasing defensive end Connor Barwin ($7.75 million cap number) on Thursday made some room, and running back Ryan Mathews and cornerback Ron Brooks are expected to be waived once they're healthy, but center Jason Kelce and linebacker Mychal Kendricks could also be casualties.

 

Some may applaud those moves, but they're losses nonetheless, and the Eagles still have many holes on the roster. If Kendricks goes, and defensive tackle Bennie Logan walks in free agency, the Eagles will have five starting positions to replace on defense. Investing deeply at receiver will likely prevent them from addressing those needs in the rest of free agency.

 

But the draft is deep at cornerback and running back - two areas of need - and offers Roseman the opportunity to continue to stock the roster with young talent.

 

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear to his lieutenants early this offseason that getting Wentz capable receivers should be a priority, according to team sources. Did his zest for improvement at the position - one source called it an "obsession" - force Roseman to be overaggressive in free agency?

 

Time will only tell. But Jeffery, at the least, potentially becomes the best receiver the Eagles have had since Terrell Owens. He hasn't been as dominating, particularly in the red zone, and he's not as fast, but he's a classic go-up-and-get-it receiver. He had only one drop in 94 targets last season.

 

Described by former teammates and coaches as quiet, humble and laid back, Jeffery isn't your typical brash No. 1 receiver. But he'll have a familiar face in former Bears receiver coach Mike Groh, whom the Eagles hired in January, to help ease him into Philadelphia.

 

The city can be rough on high-priced free agents, but Jeffery should be motivated. There's a lot to like about the signing. But it's hard not to be skeptical after years of victorious Marches and unsuccessful seasons.

 

The Eagles improved themselves on Thursday and the offseason is still far from over. For now, maybe that's just enough.

 

 

 

Story By Philly.com)

 

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