If Alshon Jeffery is back with the Eagles in 2020 — and that's a big if, salary cap implications notwithstanding — it wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing.
In fact, hanging on to Jeffery could prove beneficial, however unlikely that sounds.
In a perfect world, the Eagles wouldn't need to think twice about moving on from Jeffery. He's 30, his production has declined, he can't stay healthy, he counts for $15.7 million against the cap this coming season, he doesn't have the greatest chemistry with Carson Wentz on the football field and he's believed to have been critical of the franchise quarterback off of it.
Jeffery would probably be gone already, except his release will cost the Eagles around $26 million in dead money against the cap.
In other words, better prepare yourself for the possibility he's going to be here.
The Eagles do have options, and we'll get into those, but here's a thought: is it really so bad if Jeffery returns?
Less than ideal, sure.
Bad? Maybe not.
At this point, Jeffery's performance isn't even the most divisive issue. The desire to see him go is rooted in large part in the theory he's the anonymous source who bashed Wentz in the media.
Never mind it hasn't exactly been confirmed Jeffery made the comments in the first place. Let's just assume he was the anonymous source. Was what Jeffery said so awful? Was it even untrue?
To paraphrase, the source said the Eagles should simplify the offense, Wentz needed to check down more and Zach Ertz was targeted too much. The point about Ertz aside, these were legitimate gripes back in October, when the Eagles were 3-3 and the likes Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside were fixtures in the lineup. Heck, some of that could be interpreted as more of a shot at the coaching staff than the quarterback.
Is Wentz taking it personally? When questioned about Jeffery's relationship with his quarterback at the combine on Tuesday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson didn't exactly deny the receiver said those things. Yet, Pederson's answer was almost an admission the offense was a mess at the time.
"I think one of the big things where Carson really took a big step was in that leadership approach the past year," said Pederson. "Getting everybody on the same page and on board.
"It's just unfortunate. We had a lot of high expectations as an offense going into the season. Then when pieces started to drop out, it was just unfortunate that way. But there were no issues between those two."
Pederson isn't going to come right out and reveal a problem between two of his players, so believe what you want. Supposing the relationship between Wentz and Jeffery is frayed though, it doesn't automatically mean there's a distraction.
First of all, Jeffery should be motivated to perform, because even if the Eagles do retain his services, 2020 essentially becomes a contract year. His 43 catches, 490 yards and 11.4 yards per reception last season were his lowest totals since he was a rookie, not to mention the whole media circus.
If Jeffery wants to get paid, he needs to prove he can still play.
Then there's the question of how much Jeffery will even be around the team. He's currently recovering from a Lisfranc injury and may not be ready to go Week 1, meaning he could spend his spring and summer rehabbing before potentially starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Not only will Jeffery's presence in the locker room be minimized during that time. If and whenever he is ready to play, he'll be fresh for an Eagles playoff run and have every reason to bring his A game.
Even if he only made one catch even close to impactful as the one he made to help the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, it will have been worth it.
For what it's worth, Jeffery's agent also Tweeted his client wants to continue playing for the Eagles.
None of which is to say the Eagles shouldn't explore avenues to get rid of Jeffery.
If the NFL and its players union agree to a new collective bargaining agreement in place before the start of the new league year on March 18, the Eagles will be able to designate Jeffery a post-June 1 cut and spread the cap hit over two years. Don't rule out an inventive trade where a team with ample cap space agrees to eat that guaranteed money in exchange for draft picks, either.
Or, the Eagles can just eat a record $26 million in dead money for 2020.
None of those options is more palatable than simply keeping Jeffery though. The Eagles are paying him one way or another, no matter how the money is shifted or if draft picks are exchanged, so they might as well get something out of him.
Hopefully, Howie Roseman will be the adult in the room here and realize, yes, Jeffery needs to keep his complaints in-house — if it was truly he who went to the media — but overreacting could be more detrimental to the team than moving forward amicably.
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