UPDATE: Alshon Jeffery has been ruled out for the Eagles’ Week 7 game against the New York Giants. The decision to not put him on PUP is only looking worse.
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW.
It came as a surprise when the Philadelphia Eagles opted to keep Alshon Jeffery on their 53-man roster heading into the 2020 NFL season.
Many thought the team would opt to keep the 30-year-old wide receiver on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he fully recovered from his Lisfranc injury. Doing so, of course, would’ve automatically required Jeffery to miss six games. The trade off is that Jeffery wouldn’t have been taking up a roster spot.
By not putting him on PUP, though, the Eagles signaled that Jeffery would be able to play within the team’s first six games. But as we’re heading into Philly’s Week 6 game against the Baltimore Ravens, it doesn’t appear that that’s going to be the case. Jeffery seems unlikely to play on Sunday.
From Doug Pederson on Friday morning:
“In Alshon’s case, obviously, we just incorporated him back into practice this week, taking team reps. So we want to make sure that, again, he’s feeling good before we put him out there. He was taking scout team reps this week. Wanna get him with the [first team] offense before we make that decision.”
Pederson was further pressed about the team’s decision on Jeffery:
“Well, you’re exactly right. When you don’t put a guy like Alshon — we hopefully anticipated him coming back within the six weeks, right? And it has taken a little bit longer. But, again, you guys know I want to make sure he’s 100%. He’s just now getting back into practice. He’s done some individual work and now he’s into practice. I mean, listen, I think medically, Alshon’s case, our case, we were hopeful that within the six weeks he would’ve been back. I can’t second guess the decision, obviously. But he is getting close and we’re excited about that.”
It goes without saying that the team has more information on Jeffery’s injury than outsiders. But there was always reason to wonder if the veteran pass catcher would truly be ready early on in the season after originally getting hurt in mid-December 2019. Look back at this conversation I had with Dr. Edwin Porras in May:
“[...] I’m not very, very optimistic on Alshon Jeffery. And that’s just because of this recent study that came out on NFL players and they had a Lisfranc injury [update]. So, the average return for these players after the Lisfranc injury is about 10 months. So, give or take a couple of months there. It can between anywhere between 8 and 11 or 12 months. He’s 30 years old, so the likelihood of him coming back before that 9 or 10 month mark is pretty low, generally speaking. And so that’s what you’re looking at. The chances of him coming back and not being on the PUP are really, really low.”
Unlike other players who’ve been on PUP in the past (such as Jalen Mills last year), Jeffery wasn’t really active in training camp. He wasn’t allowed to practice, to be clear, but he wasn’t really ever running on a side field or showing any signs of being super close to returning. He mostly stood stationary on the sidelines watching practice.
All of this is to say that questions should be raised about the Eagles’ decision-making process here. Especially since not putting Jeffery on PUP looks like another case of roster mismanagement by Howie Roseman.
Had the Eagles placed Jeffery on PUP, they could’ve avoided losing young players who showed potential like Noah Togiai or Casey Toohill. Those players very well might end up being irrelevant. Or they might be the next Travis Fulgham. Even with the added roster flexibility due to COVID-19, having an extra roster spot with the team being so injured would’ve been ideal.
For the Eagles in this case, roster mismanagement has further begot roster mismanagement. Jeffery likely wouldn’t even be on the team right now if the Eagles didn’t unnecessarily guarantee his salary for 2020 back in September 2019. The team has reportedly tried to move on from him dating back to last year but no team has been willing to take on his albatross of a contract. And now they’ve only made the situation worse by needlessly burning a roster spot on a player who anonymously trashed Carson Wentz twice in the past two years.
Perhaps Jeffery will come back soon (Week 7 is a short week so it might not be until Week 8?) and be a valuable contributor to the offense. One shouldn’t hold their breath for that outcome but, hey, it’s possible. Even if that’s the case, though, the team is likely to move on from Jeffery after this year. And any playing time he gets could be coming at the expense of a younger receiver with more long-term potential.
Jeffery playing well also won’t justify how the Eagles could’ve just had him start this season on PUP. In fairness, one benefit to keeping Jeffery on the roster is that he’s been able to ramp up in practice. But we did see the aforementioned Mills immediately play without any kind of ramp up period after coming off PUP last year. Also don’t buy that the ramp up period is worth the cost of a roster spot for six weeks. Regardless, this is the path the Eagles have chosen.
You can say that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill with this Jeffery situation and maybe I am. I just can’t help but feel it’s the latest example of questionable Eagles roster management.