The 2014 NFL offseason has begun for the Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2013 roster. While the team was able to manage a 10-6 record along with an NFC East crown, there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 11, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the wide receiver position.
Stats: 1010 snaps, 82 rec, 1332 yards, 16.2 Y/R, 9 TD, 61 Lng, 1 fumble
Review: DeSean Jackson experienced a career year in his first season under Chip Kelly. Jackson was recently named to the Pro Bowl after originally make the roster as an alternate. According to Pro Football Focus's "WR Rating" statistic, quarterbacks had a 124.4 QB rating when throwing to Jackson in 2013. That number earned Jackson the highest rank in the NFL. Jackson a big play threat and a reliable target. Jackson's contract comments after the season ended rubbed some people the wrong way, but there's no denying he had a great season.
Review: Maclin's 2013 season was robbed due to an ACL injury suffered early in training camp. It's a shame because it would have been interesting to see if Maclin thrived under Kelly's guidance. Maclin is scheduled to be a free agent in March. The Eagles are rumored to have interest in bringing Maclin back, but it remains to be seen if two sides can agree on a new deal.
Stats: 1002 snaps, 47 rec, 835 yards, 17.8 Y/R, 8 TD, 63 Lng, 0 fumbles
Review: What an interesting season for fourth year receiver Riley Cooper. Cooper entered the year largely as a backup wide receiver and special teams player, but was thrust into a starting role when Maclin suffered a season ending injury. Cooper became the focus of attention off the field when a video of him saying a racial slur at a concert went viral on the internet. Cooper apologized for his actions and spent a brief period of time away from the time until they mutually agreed it was time for Cooper to return. Cooper had a rough start to the season on the field as he was largely ineffective. Things changed when Nick Foles took over at quarterback and Cooper became more of a receiving threat. Cooper finished with career-year numbers. Cooper, like Maclin, is also scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, and the Eagles have to decide if he is worth bringing back.
Stats: 807 snaps, 38 rec, 447 yards, 11.8 Y/R, 2 TD, 31 Lng, 1 fumble
Review: Avant is a great teammate and a leader. It's hard to have nothing but respect for the guy as a person. As a player, however, he wasn't very valuable to the Eagles offense. Avant only caught 50% of the passes thrown his way in the slot, which ranked 32 out of 33 slot receivers. Avant was credited for 3 dropped passes. He just wasn't a reliable target. Avant was graded 89 out of 111 total receivers per PFF. His 2.3 yards-after-catch per reception ranked 103 out of the 111 receivers. Many will laud Avant's efforts as a blocker, and he certainly deserves credit in that department. Think back to the Lions game in the snow where Avant made some key blocks for McCoy to run. However, consider that Avant's blocking grade ranked 44th out of 111 receivers. That number is clearly above average, but not at all irreplaceable. The Eagles could definitely use an upgrade in the production they get out of their slot receiver.
Stats: 20 snaps, 2 rec, 27 yards, 13.5 Y/R, 0 TD, 14 Lng, 1 fumble; 2 rush attempts, 2 yards; 0 pass completions, 1 attempt; 4 kick returns, 106 yards, 25.6 Y/RT
Review: Smith was brought in later in the season after the Bills cut him. He played well on special teams, racking up 8 special teams tackles. That's good for sixth on the team despite playing in less games than his teammates. Fans will lament Kelly's usage of Smith in the red-zone, but that shouldn't be big deterrent. I'm optimistic about Smith's kickoff return ability in the future if the Eagles choose to use him in that role.
Stats: 129 snaps, 4 rec, 67 yards, 16.8 Y/R, 1 TD, 37 Lng, 0 fumbles
Review: The Maehl man was a reliable depth receiver and special teams player that Chip Kelly trusted because of his Oregon connection.
Stats: 53 snaps, 2 rec, 15 yards, 7 Y/R, 0 TD, 8 Lng, 1 fumble; 3 rush attempts, 12 yards; 12 punt returns, 100 yards, 21 Lng, 8.3 Y/RT; 17 kick returns, 441 yards, 33 Lng, 25.9 Y/RT
Review: Damaris absolutely lit it up in 2013 training camp as a receiver. The Eagles mostly used him as a returner when the season started and that didn't work out so well. I know many all ready to write him off as soon as possible, I still think Johnson has potential as a slot receiver. The Eagles had plenty of chances to cut Johnson from the roster during the season but didn't pull the trigger, so maybe they see something too. Or maybe Johnson's days are numbered and he's really just the new Na Brown.
Review: The Eagles traded a late round pick for Benn early in the offseason. He couldn't stay healthy enough to show much in training camp and finally ended up on Injured Reserve. If Benn can stay healthy this offseason, he will have a legitimate chance to compete for a job. But right now that's a big "if" and it's hard to rely on.
Review: I was mildly excited to see what Cunningham would do in training camp last year since I was a big fan of his during his MSU days. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury early on in camp. Cunningham finished the year on the team's practice squad after appearing on the main roster for a few weeks. I'm still intrigued by Cunningham's potential, but he has a long way to go to make the roster in 2014.
Review: The former Oregon Duck receiver spent the entire season on the practice squad. It doesn't hurt to have guys on the practice squad who are familiar with the way Kelly practices and knows what he expects from his players.
Review: Momah spent the entire 2013 season without a job with an NFL team. The Eagles signed him to a futures contract after the season ended. Momah needs to show massive improvement from last year in order to contend for a roster spot in 2014.
Who Could Leave
As I already discussed, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are free agents. The Eagles have to make a decision on them. Cutting Jason Avant could save the Eagles over $3M. Some of other depth guys could easily be cut. DeSean Jackson isn't going anywhere.
Who Could Sign
The Eagles could easily decide to retain their in-house options in Maclin/Cooper. Eric Decker and Julian Edelman are two big name free agent receivers but I doubt the Eagles go that route. Could veteran WR Anquan Boldin (!!!!!) be in the mix? I doubt that, too. As for a guy to take a flyer on, how about the oft-injured Danario Alexander? I imagine the Eagles' best course of action here is to evaluate their internal options and then decide from there if they need to add a receiver through free agency.