Conventional wisdom says the Eagles upgraded the wide receiver position this offseason.
Not like they had any choice.
Their wide receiver production was the worst in modern Eagles history.
• So bad that for the first time since 1966 they didn’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards.
• So bad that they didn’t have any WRs ranked in the top 65 in the NFL in yards.
• So bad that they didn’t have a receiver all year record consecutive games with at least 65 yards.
• So bad that the five receivers that suited up for the playoff game against the Seahawks had a combined 55 career receptions.
• So bad that Doug Pederson fired Carson Walch and hired Aaron Moorehead as the team's sixth WRs coach in six years.
It was time for a total rebuild, and that’s what Howie Roseman did.
But as we wait to see what form — if any — a 2020 NFL season takes, the reality is that there isn’t a single sure thing in the restructured Eagles wide receiver corps.
Every single guy is a big, giant question mark.
There are once-great veterans. Youngsters with potential. Long shots who could be keepers.
But there isn’t one guy who you can safely say, “OK, he’s going to catch 65 passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this year.”
Yet the Eagles rank sixth in projected 2020 wide receiver spending at $34.1 million, according to Spotrac.
The Eagles currently have 14 wide receivers on the roster. We broke them down into five categories.
Who will wind up making the team? Who will wind up starting? Who will wind up contributing?
How good will they really be?
A lot of projecting so far. A lot of unknowns. And a lot of hoping.
One-time Pro Bowlers
DeSean Jackson is 33 years old and Alshon Jeffery is 30. Jeffery got significant snaps in only eight games last year and Jackson in just one, although it was an explosive one. Neither has made a Pro Bowl since 2013, both are coming off serious injuries and both are at an age where even healthy receivers begin declining.
Jackson is on the books with an $8.6 million cap figure this year and Jeffery a whopping $15.45 million. The Eagles need production at those numbers. But how much can they expect from Jackson and Jeffery?
The Eagles gave up virtually nothing to take speedy Marquise Goodwin and his bloated contract off the 49ers’ hands.
But what are they getting in Goodwin? A guy who has 35 catches the last two years, has averaged 332 yards in his seven NFL seasons and has caught 30 passes just once, in his excellent 2017 season.
Goodwin has a $4.28 million cap figure, so if he makes the team, he better produce. But what does he have left? And can the Eagles get enough of a sense of what they have in Goodwin in a curtailed offseason to make that $4.28 million commitment?
Young draft picks
The real key to this wide receiving corps isn’t Jackson, Jeffery or Goodwin. It’s the 23-year-old JJ Arcega-Whiteside and the 21-year-old Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ second- and first-round draft picks the last two years.
Reagor was the 21st pick this year and you’d expect a sizeable contribution as a rookie. JJAW was terrible last year but you’d hope for a big jump in Year 2. The reality is Roseman has never drafted an elite wide receiver. Or even a better-than-average one.
Reagor and/or JJAW have to end that streak.
Practice squad posse
Greg Ward is the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles have, and he’s played seven games in his career. He had nearly half the catches by Eagles WRs the last seven games of the season (28 of 59). But it's still a very small body of work.
Deontay Burnett had a big 41-yard catch against the Giants — the fourth-longest catch of the year by an Eagles WR — and Ward, Burnett, Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Shelton Gibson make it Eagles six 2019 practice squad receivers currently on the roster. Can any of them really be factors?
Rookie long shots
Rookie fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins are both late-round speeders. Manasseh Bailey had a fine career at Morgan State and Khalil Tate is trying to convert from quarterback to wide out, much like Ward did after playing QB at Houston.
Hightower probably has the best shot from this group to make the team and find his way onto the field, but at this point, without OTAs or preseason games, they’re all long shots.
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