After DeSean Jackson expressed concern with his current contract situation at the end of the season, there was a viable possibility that the Eagles could be turning over their entire top-four receivers going into the 2014 season. With a young coach and quarterback, this would never happen and the team would have to maintain some level of stability on the outside. That said; with Jackson a potential distraction, Jason Avant a potential cap casualty, and Jeremy Maclin & Riley Cooper entering free agency, the Eagles had more questions than answer at the receiver position.
Much has been made about whether the Eagles wish to bring back both, one, or neither of their two pending free agents. Cooper is coming off by far the best season of his career and has inherent value given the chemistry between him and quarterback-of-the-future, Nick Foles. Maclin, who was poised for a major payday during a contract year in 2013, missed all of last year after suffering a non-contact ACL tear before the start of training camp.
Cooper is a much more traditional free agency case. He is a mid-round pick coming off his rookie contract after a career year. His decision will most likely depend on what the market dictates his value as. One has to wonder if the fact that he never did much of anything with a quarterback not named Nick Foles will scare teams away. If that doesn’t, one has to think there are still locker rooms around the league still miffed over Cooper’s preseason racial faux pax. Earlier in the offseason, I expressed my desire for the team to bring back Cooper, but should not allow themselves to get into a bidding war over what could be just a serviceable talent.
The situation with Maclin is much more unique. The former first round pick has been productive his entire career and has shown flashes of taking his game to another level. Maclin excelled with Michael Vick and Nick Foles, in an abbreviated stint. Were Maclin healthy, he would be right alongside Eric Decker at the top of the free agency list at the wide receiver position. Maclin has all of the tools one looks for in a top-two receiver and has a bit more size than his counterpart, DeSean Jackson. He is a top-notch route-runner and an asset off the field and in the locker room.
Maclin’s injury is as perplexing as what his eventual contract will be. It is the second injury on the same right ACL and it occurred without any sort of contact. Given the position he plays and the large price tag that usually accompanies top talent from the wideout position, this has to scare potential suitors from locking up Maclin without some security.
The wideout’s injury actually works to the Eagles advantage from an evaluation standpoint. Maclin has done almost all of his rehab work at the Novacare Complex with the team’s training staff. The following video, posted on Maclin’s Instagram account, showed his progress in terms of on-the-field performance.
So with the Eagles staff having the most up-to-date knowledge regarding the 25 year old’s health, one has to consider them in an advantageous position as far as pursuing a price that works for both parties.
Recently, rumblings surfaced that a few other teams around the league had expressed interest in Maclin. Both the Jets and Chiefs reportedly had kicked the tires on pursuing the soon-to-be free agent when the March 11th starting date arrived. Considering the team’s apparent stance of building their team through the draft and avoiding any sort of bidding wars that would damage their cap situation long-term, it would be safe to assume they back down if any team brought something substantially above market value for Maclin.
One thing that has always impressed me about Maclin is his professionalism and maturity. Even after his injury, Maclin fully understood the decision he had made and was set to live with the consequences. He acknowledges the business side of being a player in the NFL and has shown no sort of animosity toward the Eagles in terms of negotiations. While the free agent has played the game to a tee as far as not tipping his hand in one direction, he loosened his lips a bit in the last week. Judging by Maclin’s words and reading the tea leaves, it might not be as difficult for the Eagles to bring him back than one would have initially thought. Toward the end of last week, Maclin weighed in on various topics, most notably his future with the Eagles.
“I know that everything is going to work out how they’re supposed to work out, I’ve always stated this is where I want to be. The Eagles have stated the same thing. So, we’ll continue to get on the same page with all that and, like I said, get something done.”
For anyone who is a Maclin fan, this should come as extremely welcome news. Rarely do free agents, especially ones who just a year ago were probably imagining a much larger payday, express their desires for a certain location so vehemently. Even more-so, the fact that Maclin was the one describing the thought about his future in such a way should carry some weight.
With the NFL combine starting next weekend and free agency kicking off two weeks after, it would not be surprising to me if something came down regarding Maclin in the immediate future. One has to imagine this current regime wants to take care of anything they deem ‘easy’ on their offseason docket sooner rather than later. Maclin seems to indicate that the two sides are fairly close to an agreement on his future with the Eagles. Should this be the case, it would not be unreasonable to think something official would be agreed upon in the coming weeks.