While I’m still trying to figure out how the Eagles can possibly afford to do this, there is very little not to like about signing Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal.
Sure, $14 million is a steep sum, although Jeffery is worth every penny if he returns to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2013 and ’14. Even if it doesn’t work out, this is a one-time payment. It’s $14 million less than could’ve been spent on another player or carried over into 2018, yet the opportunity to sign a true No. 1 receiver in free agency and test drive him for one season doesn’t come often.
And make no mistake, Jeffery absolutely has the ability to be a No. 1. This guy has it all. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and 33-inch arms, Jeffery possesses tremendous catch radius. That size makes him a weapon inside the red zone, as evidenced by his 17 touchdowns over the ’13-14 seasons, but he can also stretch the field, his career 15.0 yards per reception good for 11th among active NFL players.
Jeffery is coming off of a pair of seemingly ordinary campaigns that maxed out in 50-reception, 800-yard range. Still, his career 72.2 receiving yards per game ranks 10th among active players and 18th all-time.
The down years are certainly a cause for concern, although the Bears have been terrible, too, winning nine games during that span. Jeffery also battled injury in 2015 and was only able to play half a season, while a suspension over performance-enhancing drugs cost him a quarter of the ’16 campaign.
If you take Jeffery’s production over the past two years and project that over a full 16-game season, it works out to 81 receptions and 1,240 yards. That’s pretty much in line with Jeffery’s numbers in ’14, when he posted 85 receptions and 1,133 yards, and not far off of his Pro Bowl effort in ’13, with 89 receptions and 1,421 yards.
Can the Eagles get a full 16 out of Jeffery? Obviously, that is a larger issue than his play, which is tremendous. For a single payment of $14 million, the risk is minimal.
In fact, if there is a downside to this deal at all, it’s Jeffery becoming a free agent again in 2018. The Eagles, understandably, didn’t want to get locked into something super long-term after the suspension, injury and modest seasons. Still, there’s no guarantee that Jeffery won’t have a tremendous season and wind up in a different uniform a year later.
The Eagles aren’t entirely without protection, as they can always use the franchise tag to restrict Jeffery’s movement if need be. Of course, all of this is putting the cart before the horse. Jeffery has something to prove after the last two years, and if he’s able to, the Eagles are in strong position to capitalize, both in 2017 and beyond.
Previously: Grading the Eagles' moves: WR Torrey Smith