The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then added Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson in the draft, but if you thought that would stop fans from clamoring for every big-name receiver who hits the market, you were wrong.

Jeremy Maclin was released by the Kansas City Chiefs last week, and though the Eagles don't have an apparent need at wide receiver, people want him anyway. People want Maclin so bad, some want the Eagles to create a need by cutting Smith.

Their rationale is simple enough to follow. Maclin is the superior player, and the Eagles can part ways with Smith for relatively cheap – a tidy $500,000 in dead money against the salary cap.

It's also an incredibly shortsighted way of looking at things. Maclin may be better, but he isn't necessarily a better fit for the Eagles in 2017, nor is he better than Smith by the margin you might think.

The Eagles haven't lacked a receiver who can work the short and intermediate areas of the field the past two seasons. That's Jordan Matthews. What the offense has been missing -- really since the departure of DeSean Jackson -- is somebody who can stretch the field.

That's Smith. In fact, Smith is second only to Jackson among active players with 17.0 yards per reception, making him one of the best deep threats in the NFL. With the exception of one season, Maclin has always been a relatively average vertical target.


Look at the numbers. With 4.3 receptions of 40 or more yards per year, Smith has averaged nearly one more than Maclin (3.4) every season, even excluding the year he missed with a torn ACL.

While one extra 40-yard play may not sound like much, it also doesn't take into account all the times Smith's speed drew a penalty. On average, Maclin is worth 1.71 defensive pass interference calls for 32.0 yards, compared to Smith earning 4.83 flags for 102.7 yards per season, according to Football Outsiders.

Smith very clearly is the more dangerous receiver downfield. However, if we treat penalties as if they were catches -- because they're just as good -- Smith begins to narrow the gap with Maclin statistically.

Adjusted for pass interference penalties, Maclin averages 945.6 yards per season, compared to 856.7 for Smith. And there already isn't a huge difference in touchdown catches, with Maclin only edging Smith 6.6 to 6.2.

There isn't a massive difference between the two in terms of dropped passes, either. Maclin is the more sure-handed of the two with 5.4 drops per season to Smith's 7.0, according to data from Pro Football Focus.

Maclin is the superior player overall, and nobody would try to argue otherwise. But Smith gives the Eagles offense a whole different dynamic, while the return of the long ball should open up the middle of the field for Matthews, a big possession receiver with upside.

To be fair, Smith is coming off of a terrible season with the San Francisco 49ers. However, as recently as 2015, Smith was still a viable deep threat, leading the league with 20.1 yards per reception.

It’s not as if Maclin was well last season. Slowed by a groin injury, Maclin had his least productive year as a pro. Given his sudden release, it's fair to wonder if he's 100 percent.

At least the Eagles know Smith is healthy. He's also a year younger, and doesn't have near Maclin’s extensive medical history. Furthermore, Smith's contract is a series of club options that give the Eagles control through 2019 -- a structure and length Maclin is unlikely to accept.

Even if we were to assume Maclin returns to his pre-2016 form, would sign a team-friendly deal, all while Smith's regression continued, releasing Smith now would be poor form at best. At worst, it would damage the Eagles' ability to do business with free agents in the future.

No, the Eagles could not have predicted Maclin would suddenly become available in June. Still, they had been pursuing Smith since last offseason, offering an opportunity to revive his career. If the Eagles cut him now, they would at minimum ensure Smith's agent would hesitate to direct another client their way again.

Again, if the Eagles were to do anything here, putting Matthews on the trade block makes the most sense. Maclin has spent a lot of time in the slot the last few years to begin with, and if his quickness as diminished at all with age and injury, it's the best position for him.


It's debatable whether that would make the Eagles better. What can't be argued after watching this team for the past few years is they need a legitimate deep threat to take the pressure off the rest of the receiving corps. That's not Maclin.

The Eagles can't rely on Gibson to provide the offense with a proper deep threat, either. The rookie out West Virginia is fast, but there have been a lot of speedy guys to come through the NFL who did nothing.

Smith is a proven option, and he serves a specific purpose, one that's long been missing from the Eagles' offense. He deserves a shot to fill the void. A Maclin reunion may be a nice thought, but the Eagles don't need to get every receiver who comes along -- especially now.