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What the Eagles should do at wide receiver

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Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2017 roster. It’s already time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to repeat as Super Bowl champions next year. We continue this roster outlook series by looking at the wide receiver position.

THE PLAYERS

ALSHON JEFFERY

Regular season stats: 927 snaps, 120 targets, 57 receptions, 789 yards, 13.8 yards per reception, 9 TD, 3 two-point conversions

Playoff stats: 18 targets, 12 receptions, 219 yards, 18.3 yards per reception, 3 TD

Review: Jeffery got off to a slow start in 2017 but he really started to heat up down the stretch. He was a monster in the playoffs. He went out and proved why the Eagles paid him like a No. 1 wide receiver. Plus he made good on his Super Bowl prediction from last year, which is pretty boss.

Outlook: Jeffery will be the Eagles’ No. 1 wide receiver again in 2018. The hope is that he’ll be even more efficient now that’s spent time here and has some chemistry with Carson Wentz.

NELSON AGHOLOR

Regular season stats: 813 snaps, 95 targets, 62 receptions, 768 yards, 12.4 yards per reception, 8 TD, 1 fumble recovered for a TD, 1 rush attempt for 7 rushing yards

Playoff stats: 18 targets, 15 receptions, 167 yards, 11.1 yards per reception, 0 TD, 4 rushes for 29 rushing yards

Review: Man, what a turnaround for Nelson Agholor. This guy went from being literally one of the worst wide receivers in the NFL to an actual weapon in the slot. That’s an underrated part of Agholor’s rebirth, too: moving him from the outside to the inside. He doesn’t have the size or strength to regularly win against top cornerbacks but he is shifty and quick enough to be dangerous in the middle of the field. Agholor looked like a completely different player during the 2017 offseason and thankfully that carried over into the real games. Good on you, Nelly.

Outlook: Agholor is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Eagles will be able to pick up Agholor’s fifth-year option this offseason, however, which gives them more control over his future. It’s likely in the interest of both sides to eventually work out a long-term deal. Who would’ve thought?

TORREY SMITH

Regular season stats: 735 snaps, 67 targets, 36 receptions, 430 yards, 11.9 yards per reception, 2 TD

Playoff stats: 20 targets, 13 receptions, 157 yards, 12.1 yards per reception, 1 TD

Review: See below.

Outlook: I wrote about Torrey on Wednesday. Going to re-use that here. The ‘Tl;dr’ version is that he’s probably gone.

Philadelphia is currently $9,426,190 over the cap, per Over The Cap. Releasing Torrey Smith, who turned 29 in January, saves $5 million in cap space with zero dead money to worry about.

Smith was a passable deep threat role-player and a great locker room guy to have around last season, but he was also one of the Eagles’ least effective starters in 2017. Smith finished the regular season with 36 receptions, 430 yards, and two touchdowns on 67 targets. His 11.9 yards per reception was a career low (previous: 13.4). Smith had seven drops, which gave him the sixth worst drop rate of any wide receiver in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

If Smith is willing to take a significant pay cut, maybe the Eagles will consider bringing him back. But for now it looks like Smith will be a goner.

MACK HOLLINS

Regular season stats: 287 snaps, 22 targets, 16 receptions, 226 yards, 14.1 yards per reception, 1 TD

Playoff stats: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards

Review: Remember this?

That feels so long ago now (because it was). But I reference this preseason play because it’s one of the flashes we saw from Hollins in 2017. In addition to being a major special teams contributor, the rookie wide receiver always made the most of his limited offensive opportunities.

Outlook: There’s thought that Hollins could be a direct replacement for Torrey Smith. Maybe that’s the case. I don’t think the Eagles are quite ready to hand Hollins a starting job with no questions asked. But I do think they like his potential, and they should. #MackHollinsIsLiterallyUnstoppable, after all. Here’s hoping Hollins has a great offseason and earns the starting job opposite of Alshon Jeffery. Hollins likely isn’t a volume target, but that’s fine. He just needs to be a big play threat, which is something he’s capable of doing.

MARCUS JOHNSON

Regular season stats: 146 snaps, 8 targets, 5 receptions, 45 yards, 9.0 yards per reception, 1 fumble

Review: The Eagles were high on Johnson as an undrafted free agent in 2016. A training camp injury derailed his season, however. Philadelphia brought back Johnson for the 2017 offseason and he rewarded them by having a strong summer. He was even taking some first team reps at points. Johnson earned his spot on the team, but he didn’t do much with his playing opportunities in the regular season. The Eagles eventually made him a healthy scratch on game day in favor of activating Shelton Gibson over him.

Outlook: Johnson will need another strong offseason just to make the bottom of the roster or the practice squad. The way his 2017 season ended certainly wasn’t great for his stock.

SHELTON GIBSON

Regular season stats: 17 snaps, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards, 5.5 yards per reception

Review: Gibson REALLY struggled during last year’s offseason practices. He couldn’t catch to save his life. He started to show a little progress later on in the summer, but it wasn’t enough to stop people from believing the 2017 fifth-round pick might get cut. Fortunately for Gibson, that didn’t happen. Gibson began the season as a healthy scratch on game day (Philly’s sixth-string wide receiver) but he was eventually given an opportunity to be active starting in Week 12. Gibson mostly played on special teams from there on out.

Outlook: The Eagles drafted Gibson for his speed and deep threat ability. With Smith likely moving on, there’s an opportunity for Gibson to step up. He needs to have a much better offseason than last year, though, in order to earn playing time. Or just even a spot on the team.

GREG WARD

Outlook: The Eagles signed Ward as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. My first impression upon seeing him in offseason practices was that he was way too skinny. But Ward’s frame didn’t hold him back from looking good as he transtioned from quarterback to wide receiver. Now that he’s had a full year under his belt, he’ll be well positioned to compete for a depth spot as Agholor’s backup or another year on the practice squad.

BRYCE TREGGS

Outlook: Treggs began the 2017 season on the practice squad after leading the Eagles in receiving during the preseason. Then he was signed away by the Browns. In six games with Cleveland, Treggs had five receptions for 79 yards and one fumble. The Browns cut him and he ended up back on Philly’s practice squad. He’ll try to push for a roster spot once again this summer, whether that’s with the Eagles or another team.

RASHARD DAVIS

Outlook: Davis signed with the Eagles late in 2017 training camp. Then he bounced on and off the practice squad during the regular season. In his final year of college, Davis returned 15 punts for 426 yards (28.4 average!) and four touchdowns, which is crazy good. If Darren Sproles isn’t back, the Eagles will need a new punt returner. There’s an opportunity for Davis to make the team.

MARQUESS WILSON

Outlook: The Eagles signed the 6-4, 206 pound Wilson to a futures contract once the 2017 regular season ended. Wilson, 25, has flashed some potential. He’s just struggled to stay healthy. Chances are he won’t amount to much for the Eagles but it’s worth taking a no-risk flier on him. Wilson spent time with Eagles wide receivers coach Mike Groh when they were both in Chicago.

DOM WILLIAMS

Outlook: You probably don’t even recognize this name, which is very fair. Williams signed a futures contract with the Eagles in January 2017. He suffered a season-ending injury during a practice in May that landed him on injured reserve for the entire 2017 season. The Eagles liked him enough to not waive him off IR but he’s probably just a camp body.

WHO COULD SIGN

The Eagles won’t be big spenders in free agency and they don’t need to spend big money on a new receiver anyway. Maybe they add a cheap veteran guy just for the sake of pushing the young guys. Say, Brian Quick (connection to Mike Groh) or Kamar Aiken (connection to Joe Douglas)?

If the Eagles are looking to take a flier on someone with potential, Cody Latimer is a name to watch. Back in 2014, I was told Howie Roseman preferred Cody Latimer while Chip Kelly preferred Jordan Matthews. JMatt ended up in Philly while Latimer went to the Broncos and didn’t do much there despite being drafted in the second round. In four NFL seasons, Latimer produced 35 receptions for 445 yards and three touchdowns. That’s not good. He’s still only 25 years old, though.

Overall, the Eagles don’t have a ton of work to do at receiver. Jeffery and Agholor will resume their 2017 roles in 2018. If Torrey Smith isn’t back, the hope is that Hollins and others can step up. If Smith is back, he should see a decreased role with more playing time for Hollins and others instead.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

BGN’s Ben Natan recently took a look at wide receiver options in the 2018 NFL Draft. [Check that out by clicking here.]

Maybe the Eagles shouldn’t be thinking receiver in the first round.