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Regardless of numbers, Alshon Jeffery a legit No. 1 WR

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Regardless of numbers, Alshon Jeffery a legit No. 1 WR

Alshon Jeffery is a No. 1 wide receiver, and now that he’s under contract with the Eagles through 2021, don’t let anybody try to tell you different.

From a pure production standpoint, Jeffery’s Eagles tenure admittedly got off to a slow start. Seven games into a one-year deal, the longtime Bears star had 26 receptions for 354 yards — an average of 3.7 for 50.6 per game — with two touchdowns. The numbers hardly lived up to the hype, or some of the more modest expectations for that matter.

Even now, Jeffery is not on pace to finish with 1,000 yards this season, while less than 50 percent of his targets (48.3%) have gone for receptions. It’s certainly atypical of a so-called feature receiver who just signed a four-year extension worth $52 million, $27 million guaranteed.

Those statistics also ignore the way Jeffery has performed of late. Whether it’s because he was new in the offense, needed time to build a rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz, or opposing defenses are taking their chances and rolling coverages elsewhere, Jeffery is beginning to fill up the box score with regularity.

In the Eagles’ last four games, Jeffery has 17 receptions for 265 yards with five touchdowns. Extrapolate his current run over a 16-game season, and he would finish with 68 catches, 1,060 yards and 20 trips to end zone.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg for Jeffery. Or, it could be that he’s finally realizing his potential.

Either way, Jeffery looks increasingly like the No. 1 wideout that he truly is.

At this point, any criticism of Jeffery’s No. 1 credentials may boil down to expectations. He’s not necessarily going to catch 80-plus passes, as he did twice in Chicago, or rack up 1,400 yards receiving as he did in his 2013 Pro Bowl campaign. Nor do the Eagles require that type of volume, with tight end Zach Ertz playing a huge role in the passing attack and one of the NFL’s best running games.

Where Jeffery has shined, however, is finding the end zone. With seven receiving touchdowns — tied for fifth in the league — and five games remaining, he could easily reach double digits for the second time in his six-year career. Wentz has overthrown his favorite target on multiple occasions as well, robbing Jeffery of the chance to have 10 already.

Five of Jeffery’s seven scores have been inside the red zone, and give him three two-point conversions as well. He’s 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and plays like every bit of it when the field shortens.

But even when Jeffery hasn’t made an outsized impact on the stat sheet, his presence is still felt. One look at the tape will show the respect defenses have for the 27-year-old wideout. He dictates coverages, creating opportunities for Ertz and Nelson Agholor in the slot — it’s no coincidence both players are enjoying career years.

Jeffery does everything a bona fide No. 1 does. He produces. He's a beast in the red zone. He catches 50/50 balls. He draws the attention of the defense. He blocks. The only thing Jeffery doesn't do it seems is complain when he doesn't get his numbers.

In terms of both the total of the new deal, Jeffery's contract currently ranks eighth among all wide receivers. At $13 million annually, the deal is seventh, and the guaranteed money is fifth. It is expensive.

Although, Jeffery will be just 31 in the final year of this contract, and he's only now beginning to find his groove with Wentz. It's entirely possible the best is yet to come.

Even if it's not, and Jeffery is the same player we've seen through 11 games, the Eagles locked up a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the foreseeable future, through his prime, at the going rate. That's nothing to complain about.

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

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Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

Nick Foles for the 35th overall pick in the draft? A lot of Eagles fans would’ve probably pulled the trigger on that trade.

We know now the Eagles, wisely, did not.

Technically, it was Foles who shunned the Cleveland Browns’ overtures. According to an NFL.com report, the Eagles approached the Super Bowl MVP in March about the Browns’ offer of a second-round choice in the 2018 draft. He would rather remain a backup quarterback in Philadelphia than start for the league’s most pitiful franchise.

The Eagles respected his wishes. It wasn’t what was best for Foles. He earned that deference.

But it wasn’t what was best for the Eagles, either.

Never mind the organization owed it to Foles to ask his feelings about a possible trade, or that dumping him off in Cleveland against his wishes would’ve been unpopular with fans and around the league. Those were good reasons to turn down the offer. Just not necessarily the only reasons.

There was no need for the Eagles to settle for a second-round pick at that point in time, and all the rationale in the world says to wait and see what transpires.

Carson Wentz’s ongoing recovery from a torn ACL is the obvious. As confident as Wentz is he’ll be under center for the Eagles in Week 1, that remains to be seen. His progress was an even greater unknown when the offer was made over two months ago.

Was No. 35 enough to gamble on Wentz’s getting healthy in time for the 2018 season, amid the Eagles’ bid to repeat?

Maybe, maybe not – fortunately, the Eagles didn’t have to decide to trade Foles right then and there.

If recent history has told us anything, it’s not only do the Eagles have the option to trade Foles at a later date, but his value could increase based on demand.

The Eagles would know. Fans couldn’t believe the front office didn’t ship a disgruntled Sam Bradford to the Broncos for a second-round pick after making the move to draft Wentz in 2016. A few months later, almost everybody was amazed when Bradford was dealt to the Vikings for a first and a fourth.

Circumstances changed. The Vikings were a viable contender that, due to an injury, suddenly became desperate for an established quarterback just as the regular season was about to begin.

There’s no telling which teams might have interest in Foles between now and the mid-season trade deadline, or what price they might be willing to pay. And the Eagles were never going to find out had they shipped him out for the first semi-decent package that was floated their way.

The absolute worst-case scenario now is Foles sticks with the Eagles all this season, is never called upon to play a meaningful snap, then opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent next year.

Yet, even in that scenario, the reigning Super Bowl champions had the best insurance policy in the NFL, for a relatively modest price at $8 million against the salary cap, and the league eventually awards the team a compensatory draft pick after his departure. Along the way, the Eagles simultaneously get to do right by Foles and engender positive vibes among fans and around the league.

The Eagles could’ve used the cap space and another second-round pick this year, but they were better off keeping Foles.

For now, at least.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.