There's a simple reason the Eagles have one of the least productive groups of wide receivers in the league.
Bad move after bad move. Poor decision after poor decision. Mistake after mistake.
It’s not easy to bungle an entire position group in the span of one year, but that’s what seems to have happened.
And this is nothing new for the Eagles.
Whether it’s drafting Josh Huff in the 3rd round in 2014 or trading Dennis Kelly for Dorial Green-Beckham in the summer of 2016 or signing guys like Rueben Randle and Chris Givens in 2016 or Mike Wallace, Markus Wheaton and Kamar Aiken last year, the Howie Roseman-led front office has struggled for years evaluating wide receivers.
This year, it’s been worse than ever.
Let’s take a look:
MARCH 13: Acquired DeSean Jackson from the Buccaneers
The Eagles didn’t give up much to acquire DeSean from the Buccaneers — two late-round picks. The deal in itself wasn’t bad. I liked it. It’s what happened one day later that now looks like a mistake.
MARCH 14: Signed the 32-year-old Jackson to a three-year, $27.9 million contract extension with $15 million in guaranteed money
We saw in the opener Jackson can still play, but he hasn’t played since, and it’s fair to question giving an aging speed receiver a contract that runs until he’s 35 and is worth over $9 million per year. Receivers can play at a high level into their mid-30s — guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Derrick Mason have done it — but it’s tough to find a speed receiver who has. It's a huge financial commitment for a guy in his mid-30s whose whole game is based on speed.
APRIL 26: Selected Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round
OK, it’s way too early to give up on JJAW, and he’s actually shown a couple flashes the last two weeks. But D.K. Metcalf, drafted seven picks later by the Seahawks, has 38-for-630 and 5 TDs. JJAW has 5-for-86. It’s still early. Maybe Arcega-Whiteside will end up being the better player. We've now seen both of them drop TD passes. Time will tell who's ultimately the better receiver, but the early returns favor Metcalf. Maybe JJAW can play. But we know Metcalf can play.
APRIL 30: Exercised the 5th-year option in Nelson Agholor’s contract for 2019 at $9.4 million guaranteed
Has anybody ever done less for more? Agholor has 322 receiving yards with five games left. So far, pro-rating his contract, Nelly is earning $18,882 per YARD. Or $168,889 per catch. Agholor ranks 76nd among NFL wide receivers in yards, 46th in catches and 18th in salary. Just a miserable year for a guy earning nearly $10 million.
AUG. 31: Kept Mack Hollins on the 53-man roster at final cuts
It’s not like there was anybody decent that they released to keep him unless you’re a huge Marken Michel fan. But Hollins, a one-time 4th-round pick, has just 10 catches for 125 yards all year despite playing 396 snaps. He's now gone seven straight games without a catch. ANYBODY would have been a better option. But the Eagles couldn't find him.
SEPT. 7: Restructured Alshon Jeffery’s contract
The Eagles converted $11.5 million of Jeffery's 2020 base salary into guaranteed pay. That essentially made him un-cuttable. Jeffery’s production has dropped steadily, and he’s having an awful season marred by injuries, drops and a lack of productivity. He’s been hurt much of the last few years, and although he’s only 29 it’s a very old 29. The Eagles would love to move on from him, but thanks to the guaranteed money, they really can't at this point. The thing is, they had no reason to guarantee Jeffery’s 2020 salary. So they went out of their way to make sure they kept a player who a couple months later had worn out his welcome.
SEPT. 24: Released Greg Ward
With Jeffery inactive for the Lions game, the Eagles signed Ward from the practice squad. But he played only two snaps on offense, wasn’t targeted, and was released the next day. I don’t want to get carried away with Ward, but he showed Sunday — with six catches, three for first downs — that he can at least get open and catch the football. Mack Hollins has NEVER caught six passes in a game. Ward did it in the first game he ever got significant playing time.
NOV. 11: Signed Jordan Matthews
Matthews’ third tenure with the Eagles lasted only 21 days, and he was just 4-for-33 receiving despite playing 135 snaps in two games. How does the Eagles' brain trust like Matthews enough to give him 73 snaps on Sunday — more than any other receiver, tight end or back — but decide to release him the next day? What’s crazy is that the Eagles have seen Ward since he got here on April 9 (and really for most of the last three years) but they still thought Matthews was a better option. They’ve watched Ward practice every day since training camp began, but they still left him rotting on the bench. Only when they were finally forced to play him did they realize … “Oh, he’s not bad.” It sure looks like they had no idea what they had in Ward. Which really should be impossible considering how long he's been here. Then on Monday they released Matthews. Why? To play Ward. Who could have been playing all along.
Hitting the road this week, or wasting away on the couch in a food coma? The perfect time to binge your favorite NBC Sports Philadelphia podcast! Click here for more.