After dust settles, ranking top 10 receivers in NFC East

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After dust settles, ranking top 10 receivers in NFC East

A year ago, Jamison Crowder was a Redskin, Golden Tate was a Lion, DeSean Jackson was a Buccaneer, Terrance Williams was a Cowboy, Odell Beckham Jr. was a Giant, Amari Cooper was a Raider, Cole Beasley was a Cowboy.

The NFC East wide receiver landscape has changed dramatically since then.

Crowder signed with the Jets, Beasley signed with the Bills, Tate was traded to the Eagles and then signed with the Giants, D-Jack was traded to the Eagles, OBJ to the Browns, Cooper to the Cowboys, and Williams is now a free agent.

What does it all mean? Which NFC East team now has the best wide receivers?

We decided to rank the top 10 receivers in the division, taking into account both what they did last year and their consistency over the past several seasons.

1. Amari Cooper, Cowboys
In four NFL seasons, he’s averaged 70 catches, 977 yards and six TDs, and the 24-year-old Cooper gave the Cowboys a real lift after coming over from Oakland. His 217 yards in Dallas in December is second-most ever against the Eagles. You can debate the other spots on this list, but not No. 1.

2. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
Alshon gets the nod for the No. 2 spot because of his consistency. He hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014 in Chicago, but he’s one of only eight WRs with at least 750 yards in each of the last four seasons, and his 5,814 yards since 2013 are 10th-most in the NFL over the last six years.

3. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Jackson has really built up a body of work in 11 NFL seasons. He’s one of only six players in NFL history with 10,000 receiving yards and over 17 yards per catch. The two years in Tampa weren’t great ones, but he’s still as explosive as anybody and led the league in yards per catch for the NFL-record fourth time last year.

4. Golden Tate, Giants
I didn’t want to rank Tate this high because the Golden Tate we saw in eight games was pretty mediocre (3.8 catches and 35 yards per game). But Tate did catch 75 balls for 795 yards in 15 games last year, and his 510 catches since 2013 are 6th-most in the NFL and his 5,917 yards are 8th-most.

5. Sterling Shepard, Giants
Shepard isn’t spectacular, but he has piled up 190 catches, 2,286 yards and 14 TDs in his first three seasons, which puts him right around what Jeffery and Jackson have done. Close call between him and Nelly for No. 5.

6. Nelson Agholor, Eagles
Nelly’s numbers are modest, but you can’t understate his importance to the Eagles in terms of big plays, and his Super Bowl performance was exceptional. And for the sake of comparison, he’s one of only 14 WRs in the league with 60 catches, 700 yards and 4 TDs in each of the last two seasons.

7. Michael Gallup, Cowboys
The Cowboys’ rookie third-round pick out of Colorado State had a promising rookie year with 33-for-507 and was the only rookie wide receiver in the NFC East to catch a pass. He finished with a career-best 119 yards in the playoff loss to the Rams, fourth-most yards ever by a rookie wide receiver in a postseason game. And he’s only 22.

8. Josh Doctson, Redskins
After barely playing as a rookie, Doctson has averaged 40-for-517 and 4 TDs the last two years for the Redskins. OK production but certainly not close to what the Redskins expected when they made him the 22nd pick in the 2016 draft.

9. Paul Richardson, Redskins
Richardson was only 20-for-262 in seven games in Washington last year but did have a 700-yard season a year earlier for the Seahawks with six TDs so he makes the list based on that.

10. Allen Hurns, Cowboys
Since his 1,000-yard season with the Jaguars in 2015, Hurns has averaged just 31 catches for 419 yards and 2 1/2 TDs per year for the Jaguars and Cowboys.

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NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

On Tuesday night, receiver Stefon Diggs sent the internet into a tizzy when he apparently erased any mention of the Vikings from his Instagram account. 

We’re taking a bit of a leap here (gotta love 2020) but if this is Diggs’ somehow voicing his frustration with the Vikings it wouldn’t be the first time. And it would also basically be a Bat Signal to the other 31 NFL teams: “Come and get me!” 

The Eagles should. 

It’s funny. Before all those rumors began to swirl on Tuesday night, I was on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants and was asked for one potential trade target for the Birds. The name I gave was Diggs. He made sense even before this. While there’s no guarantee the Vikings trade him, it’s worth finding out. 

If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles are in desperate need of help at receiver. It’s why about 85 percent of mock drafts have them taking one in the first round of the draft in a couple months. But any player they pick in the draft is an unknown. Diggs is not. 

There are three big reasons why Diggs should be attractive to the Eagles: 

1. He just turned 26 back in November

The Eagles are committed to getting younger this offseason and getting Diggs now would kind of be like signing a free agent after his rookie deal. The Eagles have been getting older but Diggs would help them get younger. No, he’s not a 21-year-old anymore but he is arguably entering his prime. 

2. Diggs is already one of the best receivers in the NFL

Despite his targets dropping from 149 in 2018 to 94 in 2019 (ostensibly one of the reasons for his displeasure), Diggs still managed to have more receiving yards this past season. Since the 2016 season, Diggs has 313 catches, 3,903 yards and 26 touchdowns. There are just six players in the league with better stats in those four seasons: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. 

What has been impressive about Diggs is that he’s been successful in different ways. After averaging 10.0 yards per catch in 2018, he averaged 17.9 (a career high) in 2019 and was a tremendous deep threat. Just three players in the NFL had a higher yards-per-catch average in 2019. 

The Eagles certainly saw what he can do. In Week 6 against the Birds, he had his best game of the 2019 season. He caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was the only time this season he was targeted over 10 times in a game. 

3. Diggs is relatively cost-controlled for another four seasons

While trading for Diggs will cost draft equity (we’ll get to that soon), his salary will be cheaper than that of a free agent of the same caliber because he’s already locked up. While multiple teams will out-bid each other for free agents and end up over-paying, Diggs has a contract that runs through the 2023 season and it’s a very reasonable contract. By the end of it, there’s a very good chance he’ll be extremely underpaid. Even though he just signed the five-year extension in the summer of 2018, he’s already just the 13th highest-paid NFL receiver in terms of APY, according to OverTheCap. 

Check out his base salaries for the remainder of the contract: 

2020: $10.9M
2021: $11.4M
2022: $11.4M
2023: $11.4M

No, that’s not exactly cheap like a rookie contract would be but it’s very manageable. And once the new CBA is eventually worked out, those prices will probably look even better. And there are some performance escalators written in, but if Diggs hits them, both sides would be happy. 

So what will it take? 

This is the big question. I think we all agree that Diggs is a good player and the Eagles would love to have him. But what would they have to give up in a trade? 

Well, the Vikings are going to start any negotiation with a first-round pick at minimum. They should. All those reasons I listed above are reasons why they should have teams lining up for Diggs. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad things really are between Diggs and the Vikings, though. There was definitely frustration during the 2019 season but he finished out the year. Is it bad enough that it’s an untenable situation? If so, then the Vikings would lose some leverage. 

If it’s a second-round pick, this is an easier conversation. The real question is whether or not the Eagles would be willing to give up a first-round pick. I kind of doubt they’d be willing to but you can make a real case for it. It’s easy to say the Eagles should just focus on the draft and take one of the many talented options with the 21st pick but there’s no guarantee they’ll hit. In fact, their history picking receivers, especially in the last decade, shouldn’t instill much confidence. They have drafted four Day 1 or Day 2 receivers since 2010: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. 

None of them ever became what Diggs is right now. And there’s a good chance any player taken at 21 won’t become what he is either. 

Maybe GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be worried about Diggs’ fit in the building; after all, he has created enough drama in Minnesota to bring all of this up in the first place. Would that eventually happen here? Hard to say. This isn’t a no-brainer but it’s worth a call or two. 

Pick up the phone, Howie. 

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Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

The Eagles decided Tuesday to decline the team option on Nigel Bradham's contract (see story), cutting the 30-year-old linebacker loose after four years in Philly. From the highs of winning a Super Bowl to the lows of his multiple run-ins with law enforcement, Bradham's time with the Eagles was nothing if not entertaining.

Bradham's teammates received the news Tuesday, just like fans did, and a number of his now-former teammates shared their reactions to the team's move on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Brandon Graham lamented the end of his time playing alongside Bradham:

DeSean Jackson and Kamu Grugier-Hill wished Bradham luck in his next NFL stop:

Nate Gerry thanked Bradham for teaching him the ins and outs of the linebacker position, and of life as pro football player:

Rodney McLeod and Nelson Agholor, two players who might not return to Philly in 2020, also shouted Bradham out on Instagram:

One particularly interesting reaction, to my eye, was that of cornerback Rasul Douglas, who opted to use the head-slap emoji in a quote tweet of a report about the move:

Whether that signifies surprise or displeasure, it seems like Douglas would've preferred Bradham return to Philly in 2020.

Instead, free agency is off and running, and the Eagles' sleepy offseason is finally about to heat up.

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