In the 2016 offseason, the Eagles got a quarterback to build around. That’s half the game in the NFL. Now, they have to build around him. Specifically, they need to get him players to throw to, because his supporting cast in 2016 was pathetic. The Eagles need help in all areas at wide receiver. They need speed on the outside that defenses can respect. They could use a possession receiver who can be a reliable target on third down. Those players don’t grow on trees, but there are a handful of players who should hit free agency that can step in and immediately fill at least one of those roles at a high level.
Pros: The most talented and versatile WR in free agency, bar none. Since his rookie year, he averages 70 catches for 1046 yards and 6 TDs over 16 games. He can be high volume possession receiver, since 2013 only seven players have more games of 10+ receptions. And he can be a home run threat, only three players during that time span have more games of 5 or fewer receptions for at least 100 yards. And he’s the only player with as many of both of those types of games. He’s done this with three different play callers in four years, and with backup QBs for a quarter of his games played. Quite simply, when he’s on the field, he’s a top wide receiver.
Cons: When he’s on the field is the key. Jeffery missed seven games in 2015 with injury, and in 2016 he missed four games due to a PED suspension. After Lane Johnson’s 10 game suspension, the Eagles might just completely dismiss any player who is one test away from one. And even if they aren’t, just as they did with Lane Johnson they will have the contract void any guaranteed money on a suspension, which could turn off Jeffrey.
Pros: The Eagles searched the bargain bin for deep threats in 2016 and came up empty, Kenny Stills can fix that. In four seasons he’s had two different starting QBs in three different offenses, and in all of them he’s been an excellent deep threat. Minimum just 50 receptions since he entered the league in 2013, Stills has the 6th best yards per reception in the league, only Torrey Smith and DeSean Jackson have more receptions and touchdowns. And he’ll be just 25 years old when the season starts. Signing Stills would give Carson Wentz a proven deep threat that can and open up space underneath, and he’ll have him for years in his prime.
Cons: Stills doesn’t offer much else beyond the home run. If the Eagles sign Stills, they’ll need to pair him with a possession receiver who can consistently move the chains, because that’s not Stills’s game. He has more than five catches in a game just three times in his career, and his 42 receptions this season was the second best of his career. He’s the answer to some of the Eagles problems, but he’s not the answer to all of them.
Pros: You know DeSean Jackson. He’s one of, if not the best deep threat in football, with ridiculous speed and an excellent ability to track deep balls, a wonderful quality to have with a young QB who refining his game.
Cons: You know the cons too, namely that like Stills he’s not the answer to all of the Eagles problems, though he is much more rounded player than Stills. But there’s more that what’s on the surface. Take the name and the memories out of the equation: would you be excited about signing a 31 year old player who has played a full season just twice and is hugely reliant on speed for his production? If so, fine. But if not, you’ve got to pause and consider are you signing DeSean for what he was, or what he is? And signing DeSean would be a huge mea culpa by the Eagles, who unceremoniously dumped him three years ago.
Pros: Pryor is a physical freak at 6’6” and with burner speed. He’s a match up nightmare for any defensive back and can erase mistakes by a QB. And he’s so new to playing WR that he should improve with more experience and refinement. He’s an outlier as a player (on the other end of the physical spectrum: Darren Sproles), and outliers are fun.
Cons: He may not be available. But if he is, he’s probably going to be expensive.
“It's my first time, I've been cut so many times. I wasn't good enough. Now it's my agents' turn to do their jobs and put me in the best position for myself. I believe in them and trust them.”
That sounds like a guy who is interested in paycheck first, situation second. Given the career span and health issues NFL players have, it’s hard to knock any player for taking a payday. Get paid. But you can knock a team for throwing money at a player who will be 28 when the season begins and has played his position full time for just one season. Which is what Pryor will be.