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What the Eagles should do at wide receiver

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series continues by examining the running back position. PREVIOUSLY: Quarterback | Running back | Tight end.

THE PLAYERS

DEVONTA SMITH

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 916 snaps, 104 targets, 64 receptions, 916 yards, 14.3 yards per reception, 5 touchdowns, 1 two-point conversion, 3 drops, 1 fumble

PLAYOFF STATS: 66 snaps, 11 targets, 4 receptions, 60 yards, 15.0 yards per reception, 0 TD, 1 two-point conversion

REVIEW: Smith arguably entered the 2021 season as the Eagles’ most exciting player. It was fitting, then, when his first career target was a touchdown in Atlanta. Smith continued to impress throughout his rookie season, displaying route-running mastery and skillful toe-tapping sideline catches. Smith also Moss’d promising rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II at one point, which was pretty awesome. All told, Smith had the most productive season of any Eagles wide receiver in franchise history as he surpassed DeSean Jackson’s old record. And although Smith had the benefit of playing one more game than Jackson did, Smith saw 16 fewer targets. Smith could’ve been even more productive if he wasn’t limited by playing in the NFL’s heaviest run offense (league low 50.13% passing percentage). [For a great All-22 analysis of Smith’s 2021 season, CLICK HERE.]

OUTLOOK: The Eagles underutilized Smith in 2021; a total of 60 NFL players finished with just as many or more targets than him. That’s not acceptable. Smith is a legitimate WR1 and the Eagles need to treat him as such. Nick Sirianni needs to do a better job of getting the ball in his hands. Jalen Hurts must get comfortable throwing to him with antici ... pation. FEED DEVONTA SMITH.

MY TAKE: Stay. And feed him!

Poll

DeVonta Smith: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (6277 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (132 votes)
6409 votes total Vote Now

QUEZ WATKINS

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 771 snaps, 62 targets, 43 receptions, 647 yards, 15.0 yards per reception, 1 TD, 1 drop ... 1 rush, 3 yards

PLAYOFF STATS: 58 snaps, 7 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards

REVIEW: Watkins had a really impressive summer; he flashed in both training camp practices and preseason games. Watkins showcased his speed as a deep threat and a catch-and-run weapon. Watkins making contested catches was a much more unexpected development but an entirely welcomed one. Watkins’ regular season production didn’t exactly match the hype he generated. He did contribute with some big plays, such as his 91-yard reception in Week 2 (that the Eagles ultimately failed to turn into points). Watkins clearly isn’t a target monster, such as Smith, but he could’ve been more productive in a friendlier passing offense. There were times when Watkins was streaking open down the field and Hurts didn’t get the ball to him.

OUTLOOK: Watkins isn’t a WR1. He might be WR2 caliber but it might be more realistic to rely on him as WR3. He’s definitely a legitimate big play threat. It’s just a matter of seeing that happen more consistently. Perhaps another year with Hurts will allow that connection to click better. If the Eagles trade for Russell Wilson, I could see Watkins’ numbers exploding considering Russ loves the moon ball.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Quez Watkins: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (5994 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (124 votes)
6118 votes total Vote Now

JALEN REAGOR

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 750 snaps, 57 targets, 33 receptions, 299 yards, 9.1 yards per reception, 2 TD, 4 drops ... 10 rushes, 32 yards ... 2 fumbles,

PLAYOFF STATS: 53 snaps, 1 rush, 2 yards

REVIEW: There was some thought that Reagor had a good training camp because people saw clips of him making a couple freaky catches in 1-on-1 sessions. While those grabs were undoubtedly impressive, it was said here was that he was still invisible during team drills. Sure enough, Reagor struggled once again when it came to playing actual football in the regular season. He somehow took a step back from his disappointing rookie season, which is hard to fathom. Reagor ranked 94th out of 99 receivers graded by Pro Football Focus and 85th out of 91 in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric. He had no shortage of highly disappointing moments, such as when he dropped a game-winning touchdown against the New York Giants. Or when his muffed punt in the playoffs really put the nail in the coffin for the Eagles’ season.

OUTLOOK: After the season, Howie Roseman said the Eagles “expected more from Jalen at this point.” That was notable because Roseman has been more defensive of other slow-developing players (such as Andre Dillard). Though it’s not easy to expect Roseman to already take the L on Reagor’s career, he absolutely SHOULD be willing to do that. Reagor is likely a lost cause in Philly. It’s not just that he’s been really bad; he’s also failed to give maxmium effort on more than one occasion. The Eagles cannot claim to foster a meritocracy if Reagor is out there loafing and struggling on the regular. The bad news for the Eagles is that Reagor costs more to cut than to keep (loss of $4.2 million if released). Reagor won’t have much, if ANY, trade value ... but the Eagles could try to sell him for a very meager return in order to clear a small amount of cap space ($13,576) as opposed to taking a loss. Reagor needs to be gone. It’s honestly what’s best for him at this point. But watch him be back with the Eagles in 2022. Sigh.

MY TAKE: Go. Please.

Poll

Jalen Reagor: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Stay
    (860 votes)
  • 87%
    Go
    (6017 votes)
6877 votes total Vote Now

GREG WARD

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 245 snaps, 11 targets, 7 receptions, 95 yards, 13.6 yards per reception, 3 TD, 1 drop ... 2 pass attempts, 1 completion, 2 yards

PLAYOFF STATS: 6 snaps

REVIEW: After being a starter for the Eagles in 2020, Ward found himself as a backup in 2021. A good chunk of his limited production came in garbage time. Ward did have a limited role as a red zone contributor but he wasn’t particularly effective down there. He dropped a touchdown in the Eagles’ loss to the Giants and his usage on the Philly Special redux was a case of Sirianni getting too cute.

OUTLOOK: Ward is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason. If the Eagles want to use the lowest RFA tender on him, it would cost $2.43 million. That might not seem like much but it would be the 19th highest cap number on 2022 Eagles. Ward isn’t so valuable that you have to pay him that. The Eagles could opt not to tender him, let him test free agency, and ultimately bring him back on a cheaper one-year deal. Ward is ideally a WR4 or WR5 type, not a full-time starter.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Greg Ward: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Stay
    (3194 votes)
  • 45%
    Go
    (2654 votes)
5848 votes total Vote Now

J.J. ARCEGA-WHITESIDE

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 170 snaps, 5 targets, 2 receptions, 36 yards, 0 TD, 2 drops

REVIEW: There was some annoyance that the Eagles kept JJAW over Travis Fulgham when it came to roster cuts. To JJAW’s credit, though, he did really rebrand himself from “total draft bust” to “hustle guy.” JJAW made some positive contributions in 2021 as a blocker and on special teams. He also had a really big reception in the New Orleans Saints game to stave off a comeback attempt. Of course, JJAW finished his season on a bad note by dropping an entirely catchable touchdown pass in Week 18. After that game, JJAW’s mother claimed that her son dropped the ball because he “tore the ligaments and tendons in his finger.” Sure enough, JJAW did go on injured reserve following the season finale.

OUTLOOK: JJAW deserves some credit for being willing to be the dirty work guy. Not every draft bust embraces that role. Look at how DGB flamed out, for example. And do you have any faith Reagor could salvage his career in that fashion? Still, JJAW’s efforts should hardly lock him in for spot on the 2022 roster. Sirianni called him an “enforcer,” which is a bit much. Ideally, the Eagles will be able to add enough quality competition that JJAW will get beaten out.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Stay
    (495 votes)
  • 91%
    Go
    (5587 votes)
6082 votes total Vote Now

JOHN HIGHTOWER

REGULAR SEASON STATS: 2 snaps

REVIEW: Hightower had some flashes in training camp but they were few and far between. Hightower spent most of the season on the practice squad, though he did get elevated for one game. Despite the Eagles often using one of their four weekly practice squad protections on him, they did not sign Hightower to a futures contract immediately following the season. Thus, he’s currently a free agent available to sign with any team. It’s a shame the 2020 fifth-round pick didn’t pan out after showing promise in training camp as a rookie. UPDATE: Shortly after writing the preceding blurb, the Eagles signed Hightower to a futures deal after all. He’s not done yet! But the odds are against him to make the 2022 roster.

Poll

John Hightower: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Stay
    (2677 votes)
  • 50%
    Go
    (2717 votes)
5394 votes total Vote Now

KEESEAN JOHNSON

PLAYOFF STATS: 2 snaps

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Johnson to their practice squad in early September after he was waived by the Arizona Cardinals. He spent the entire regular season on the PS before being temporarily elevated to the roster for the Eagles’ playoff game. Philly then opted not to signed him to a futures contract after the season. Johnson signed a futures deal with the San Francisco 49ers instead.

DEON CAIN

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Cain, who once overlapped with Nick Sirianni on the Indianapolis Colts, to their practice squad in October. They never used a protection on him or elevated him to the roster.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles signed Cain to a futures contract after the season ended. He turns 26 in August so he’s hardly a super raw developmental prospect. Seems like a guy who could be in danger of being cut to make room for Philly’s UDFA signings. If that doesn’t happen to him, he’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot in offseason practices. Cain’s a longshot to make the team but the lack of numbers at his position is currently working in his favor.

Poll

Deon Cain: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Stay
    (562 votes)
  • 83%
    Go
    (2895 votes)
3457 votes total Vote Now

TRAVIS FULGHAM

REVIEW: Isn’t it crazy how this dude was actually the Eagles’ leading receiver in 2020? Hopes of Fulgham being a contributor in Philly were dashed after he struggled in training camp practices and preseason games. He began the season on the Eagles’ practice squad before they cut him in early October. Fulgham signed to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad but they cut him two months later. Fulgham then got picked up by the Denver Broncos and signed a futures contract with them after the season ended. Maybe Aaron Rodgers will help him revive his career. Or maybe the Broncos will soon be the fifth team to cut him since he entered the league in 2019.


FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles will have an opportunity to sign or trade for a starting caliber receiver in free agency. Notable names currently set to hit the market include Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, Michael Gallup, and D.J. Chark. Adams and Williams could be franchise tag candidates while Godwin and Gallup are coming off ACL injuries. Robinson is coming off his worst year ahead of his age 29 season. Chark is also coming off injury and has never played every game in one season. All of this is to say there’s considerable risk in paying big money to one of these guys. The Eagles might be able to find a deal they’re comfortable with, especially if they’re getting someone on a one-year trial not unlike how they did with Alshon Jeffery in 2017.

One free agent with notable ties to the Eagles’ coaching staff is Zach Pascal. He’d hardly qualify as a flashy signing but Nick Sirianni has previously praised him. He could be somewhat of a buy-low candidate coming off a relatively unproductive year with Carson Wentz. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who only turned 25 in November, could also be a name to watch considering the Eagles reportedly showed interest in him last offseason.

When it comes to trade candidates, Calvin Ridley is the top player to watch. It’s been rumored that the Atlanta Falcons will be moving on from him. I tend to think the Eagles won’t be trading for him and then signing him to a big deal but his situation is worth monitoring.


NFL DRAFT APPROACH

In theory, a team that spent a 2019 second-round pick, a 2020 first-round pick, and a 2021 first-round pick on the wide receiver position shouldn’t need to address that position early in the 2022 NFL Draft. But with JJAW and Reagor being massive misses, well, the Eagles could very reasonably select another pass-catching prospect on Day 1 or Day 2. They should definitely add at least one receiver by Day 3 at the latest.

Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks, Chris Olave, and Drake London are the high-profile targets. There hardly seems to be a consensus when it comes to ranking those guys. With multiple first-round picks, the Eagles could view themselves more qualified than other teams to take a risk on Williams as he comes off an ACL injury. In a perfect world, the Eagles could find someone who slots in as an X receiver. And someone like London has the size for that. But, as the Eagles hopefully learned with Reagor, they could be focusing more on talent than reaching for the perfect “fit.” If there’s an opportunity to add another stud receiver to pair with DeVonta Smith, do it!