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Zach Pascal, Eagles unsurprisingly agree to one-year contract

Who could’ve seen this coming?! Besides literally everybody, of course.

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles did exactly as we all expected them to and signed free agent wide receiver Zach Pascal to a one-year contract on Monday afternoon, according to an official team announcement.

Bleeding Green Nation first wrote about this possibility inevitability at length nearly two weeks ago (and then again earlier today). Here’s what we had to say at the time:

Nick Sirianni REALLY likes Pascal.

Check out this quote from when Sirianni was the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator in 2019:

“Zach Pascal has a block on a linebacker on that play that is incredible,” Sirianni said about a key run in the win over the Titans. “I told Zach today, hopefully he knows that’s the biggest compliment I can give him, I said, ‘I hope Jacob Sirianni, my son, plays football like you do.’ And I made it very clear to the offensive line that my son is not going to be built like them. So, I mentioned it to Zach first and Zach was incredible on that play.”

Not convinced? Check out these connections outlined by my BGN Radio co-host, Jimmy Kempski:

“During his very first press conference after he became head coach of the Eagles, Sirianni named Pascal among 13 players that he felt he built special relationships with in his previous coaching stops. [...] Before the Eagles’ final preseason game, Sirianni said that he showed the team video cutups of players who went into the final preseason game on the roster bubble and sort of stamped their ticket onto the final 53-man roster. Pascal was among those players that Sirianni showed the team. And then finally, Pascal was integral in Sirianni’s “dawg mentality” theme that the Eagles adopted in Sirianni’s rookie head coaching season, as documented in a great story by Zach Berman of The Athletic.”

Sirianni was Pascal’s offensive coordinator for three seasons. In addition, Eagles passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo was Pascal’s position coach in Indy for two years. It’s easy to imagine the coaching staff will be pining for Howie Roseman to sign him.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get their way. But Pascal might happen to fit exactly what the Eagles are looking for in free agency. And that’s not what most fans would probably like to see: a high-volume, top-end kind of pass-catcher.

The problem with that thinking is the Eagles might not be inclined to break the bank for a veteran receiver. For starters, consider that they threw the ball less frequently (in terms of passing play percentage) than any other team last year. If DeVonta Smith is already failing to get the regular looks he deserves, it’s hard to envision the Eagles sinking major resources into yet another volume target. The Eagles have also spoken highly of Quez Watkins, indicating that they don’t view themselves as barren at receiver outside of Smith.

No one is denying the Eagles need to add more talent at receiver and adding Pascal would hardly be a sexy signing. He’s averaging just 472 yards per season. But the 27-year-old would fit their budget and very well might qualify as a undervalued player. Pascal’s numbers were ascending until Carson Wentz arrived in Indy last year. Wentz doesn’t exactly have an extensive history of getting the best out of his receivers as much as he does with, say, tight ends.

The thinking here is that Pascal would be a souped-up version of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. That’s to say, a very good run-blocking receiver who can contribute more than JJAW in the passing game as a legitimate complementary option alongside Smith and Watkins. [Plus, he could help on special teams.]

It should be noted that Pascal was hardly the Eagles’ first option. They reportedly pursued the likes of Christian Kirk, Allen Robinson, and Calvin Ridley before getting to this point. But with wide receivers hardly lining up to play with Jalen Hurts, the Birds had to resort to a fallback option.

The Eagles signing Pascal does not preclude them from adding more receiver talent, be it via trade or the 2022 NFL Draft. For now, though, the newest addition projects as a top three receiver on the team. The Eagles can/will rotate their pass-catchers but Pascal primarily fits in the slot with Smith and Watkins playing on the outside. Jalen Reagor is relegated to being the fourth receiver (at best) with Greg Ward rounding out the group.

Speaking of Reagor, Pascal shares some unfortunate company with the Eagles’ 2020 first-round pick. Out of 94 qualifying receivers (minimum 20% targets) , they were the very bottom two receivers in Pro Football Focus’s “yards per route run” metric last season. Not great!

Pascal’s rank in that category in previous seasons:

2020 — 79th out of 101 receivers
2019 — 60th out of 102 receivers
2018 — 102nd out of 109 receivers

Pascal was evaluated more favorably by Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric outside of last year when he ranked 87th out of 91 qualifying players.

2020 — 37th out of 87 receivers
2019 — 33rd out of 80 receivers
2018 — 65th out of 79 receivers

Bottom line: this is hardly a thrilling addition. The Eagles still need more talent at wide receiver. But the Eagles did have to do something at this position and, well, they did, so there’s that. Pascal might end up being a decent role player for this team.

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