The Eagles may have won the Super Bowl, but some things will never change — like the fans’ love affair with the wide receiver position.
Long gone are the days when folks clamored “the Eagles should trade Lito Sheppard and a third-round pick for Anquan Boldin” every offseason and trade deadline for the better part of a decade. (Seriously, this was a thing that people thought could actually happen, the updated version being “Mychal Kendricks and a third for Brandin Cooks” in 2017.) Still, this affliction presents every time any name receiver is even possibly available, no matter how remote the odds are he’s coming here.
It doesn’t matter how many receivers the Eagles have. It doesn’t matter how much money it will cost or whether the club has the cap space. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a good receiver, or somebody who’s washed up.
Which brings us to Dez Bryant. One of the most dominant receivers in the NFL for a brief period, Bryant is without a team. Saturday will be September. The regular season kicks off in less than a week. Only two teams have shown serious interest in Bryant since his release from the Cowboys in April — the Ravens, with whom he reportedly turned down a multi-year offer, and the Browns, who essentially said, “No thanks,” at least for the time being. And the Cowboys, by the way, have one of the worst receiving corps in football on paper.
There is next to no market for Bryant. Not at his price. Not for his diminishing production, maxing out at 69 receptions, 838 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in any of the last three seasons, after posting three consecutive years of at least 88/1,233/12. Not with all the sideline theatrics, volatility and disruptions that come with Bryant. At this point, even Bryant himself isn’t expecting to catch on anywhere until midseason.
So naturally people are clamoring for the Eagles to sign him.
The reason for the interest in Bryant, aside from the obvious — 1. He’s a receiver; 2. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler; 3. He’s a receiver — is based on the misguided notion the Eagles have a need there. Alshon Jeffery reportedly may miss the first two games. Nelson Agholor hasn’t played since the preseason opener. Mike Wallace has shown next to nothing this summer. Mack Hollins hasn’t shown anything at all.
Hollins has had a quiet camp coming off surgery for a sports hernia, but fellow 2017 draft pick Shelton Gibson has shined. Wallace is an established veteran entering his 10th season and has nothing to prove in August. Agholor is back to full health and will be ready to ball on opening night.
The only serious concern here is Jeffery, and we’re talking about two games, supposedly. Even if it’s three or four, are the Eagles really going to pay whatever insane price Bryant is asking because one guy might miss a month?
And what happens to Bryant when Jeffery returns to the lineup? In a standard three-receiver set, Agholor is in the slot and Wallace is the vertical threat. Think Bryant will be cool with being fourth banana?
The Eagles will be fine without Jeffery for a few weeks if that is indeed the case. That just means more targets for Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles.
Despite everything, Bryant probably could help some team out there. He’s not going to create a lot of separation at this stage of his career, but he still has the size and strength to box out defenders and make tough catches. Some of his declining production is because of injuries, some because of issues within the Cowboys’ offense.
That doesn’t mean he makes sense for the Eagles. Certainly not for the amount of money. Not because there’s a legitimate need, either.
Not that it will stop fans from asking. You can never have too many receivers in Philadelphia.