This Eagles’ season is not yet over, despite how things might feel following their ugly loss to the New England Patriots. The combination of a bad division and an easy schedule will keep this team in the playoff hunt for at least another week.
If there has been one positive to an otherwise disappointing season, however, it is that it is now crystal clear what the main objective has to be for Howie Roseman and the front office — do whatever it takes and completely overhaul the receiver position.
Speed. Big plays. Separation. Great catches. The Eagles’ receivers currently do none of those things, despite playing in a league where the rules are bent to give them the advantages each week.
On Sunday, the Eagles’ receivers caught a total of six passes for 75 yards, with only one of those catches going over 20 yards. Part of the blame certainly falls on the quarterback, who continues to struggle with his accuracy, but there is no denying that the poor decisions at receiver by Roseman over the last view years have caught up with this team and need to be corrected this offseason.
Receiver Mack Hollins, a fourth-round pick by Roseman, got into the game for just 14 snaps despite there being a wide-open opportunity for the team to give a player they have tried to develop for two years into the game. He had just one target and zero catches.
Receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside did catch both of the passes that came his way, with one being negated due to a penalty, but he didn’t register his first official catch until the final moments of the game despite being on the field for 19 snaps. Like Hollins, the fact Arcega-Whiteside was only on the field for 19 snaps was a red flag.
Receiver Nelson Agholor played the most of any receiver, 66 snaps, and caught four passes for 40 yards, with another drop pass sprinkled in. He had a chance to play hero at the end of the game, but was unable to come down with a very tough catch in the back of the end zone.
The player that was the real poster child for the Eagles’ issue at receiver, however, was Jordan Matthews.
Signed off the street last week, Matthews had six targets and just one catch. It is hard to blame Matthews for the lack of production, but the reality is that the fact he was signed last week and then played 64 snaps — and over guys like Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside — speak to how bad things have gotten at receivers. Matthews is a talented receiver, but Roseman failed both him and the offense by expecting him to come in on one week’s practice and produce against the top defense in the NFL.
It is easy to blame injuries for the issues at receiver, but that wouldn’t be the correct way to view what has gone wrong. Roseman expecting either Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson to play 16 games, with both over 30-years old, was unrealistic. His backup plan for both — Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside — were not enough.
The reality is, Roseman put together the perfect storm at receiver of old and slow, yet also unexperienced. The idea of Jeffery, Jackson ad Agholor looked great at the time, but in reality, it now seems obvious this group was always doomed to fail.
Now, with his franchise quarterback already under contract, Roseman must do whatever it takes to bring in a fresh set of receivers next season.
The good news is that there should be some options available to him. It is possible that Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders, DeVante Parker and Robby Anderson all hit the free agency market. All would be a considerably upgrade over what the Eagles have right, and almost all of them are still young enough that they could lineup next to Carson Wentz for multiple years.
There are also going to be plenty of options in the draft. It is possible that as many as seven receivers — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama…CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma…Henry Ruggs III, Alabama…Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado…Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson…Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU…Justin Jefferson, WR, TCU — go in the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft. Not all will turn into stars, but it is going to be up to Roseman to make sure he finds the one that will. The opportunity to do so will be there.
To bring in these players, however, Roseman is going to have to make some expensive admissions of fault.
Reshaping the wide receiver position needs to start with trading both Jackson and Jeffery. While the CBA not yet being extended past 2020 could create some issues, both Jeffery and Jackson are fairly tradeable, using the numbers at OverTheCap.com.
If the Eagles can find a team willing to take on Jeffery’s $9.9 million salary for 2020, they could flip him to another team for a late-round pick and save $9.9 million in cap space. As bad as Jeffery has been, the Eagles likely have a half-decent chance of finding another team to trade for Jeffery. Jackson could also be flipped for a late-round pick and save the Eagles $6.6 million in cap space. Despite his injury, it might be easier to move Jackson, considering he still at least has one elite NFL skill — speed. Bringing either player back is just setting the team up for more of the same this season -- missed games and inconsistent play.
Together, trading both Jeffery or Jackson after June 1st would open up $16.5 million in salary cap space, while leaving roughly $7.5 million in dead cap space. If the Eagles were to trade both, they would have roughly $52.6 million in salary cap space (per OTC) — and that is before they make any other cap-cutting moves.
The financials could get ugly, but due to the mistakes made by Roseman and the front office, they might have to be to fix this offense. Dead money, high-draft picks, overpaying for free-agent — the Eagles need to do whatever it takes to make sure that when they open up training camp in 2020, their receiver position is quicker, younger and more explosive than it is now.
If it isn’t, expect more of the same from this offense next season — and the same kind of results on the scoreboard as well.