The Philadelphia Eagles and Alshon Jeffery need each other to succeed

Alshon Jemell Jeffery, is a Philadelphia Eagles player by any other name as polarizing?

When Howie Roseman signed Alshon Jeffery to a one-year, prove-it deal worth $9.5 million in 2017, it was a near-universally lauded move by fans of the Philadelphia Eagles desperate for some top-level wide receiver play.

Mind you, the team was fresh off a season with Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Dorial Green-Beckham staring at wide receiver, unarguably one of the weakest position groupings in the NFL, but at the time, the move was pretty darn exciting.  I mean this was Alshon flippin’ Jeffery we’re talking about, a 6-foot-3 contested-catch specialist with deceptive 4.48 speed and a massive catch radius.

Sure, he’d only surpass 1,000 yards twice in his career, but that was more to do with having to play with the terrible collection of quarterbacks the Chicago Bears have trotted out since the 1990s. Carson Wentz, the Division II wunderkind who kicked Sam Bradford out of town based on the strength of a few preseason snaps, could fix that in no time.

And if we’re being honest, it’s hard to completely divorce Jeffery from the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.

In 2017, Jeffery appeared in all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles and amassed 789 yards on 56 catches to go along with nine touchdowns. Jeffery then stepped things up considerably under the bright lights of the postseason, bumping up his yards-per-game from 49.3 to 73 while paired up with eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.

While some will forever remember Jeffery for his should-have-been-a-catch against the New Orleans Saints that effectively ended the Birds’ 2018 title defense, I’d argue his Super Bowl touchdown was far more career-defining and may ultimately go down as one of the single best plays in Eagles’ history.

*sigh* what a difference a year can make.

Fast-forward to Spring of 2019, 12ish months removed from a historic parade down Broad Street, and Jeffery’s stock was at an all-time low. Some fans disapproved of his less-than advertised play and occasional boneheadedness, others were sure that he was Josina Anderson’s anonymous source seemingly heckbent on ruining Wentz’s credibility in the City of Brother Love, while others still openly questioned why Roseman opted to fully guarantee the then-29-year-old’s contract for the 2020 season. Had he balled out in a full season paired up with Wentz, things would have all brushed over, but instead, Jeffery’s 2019 season was hampered with injuries, inconsistent play, and only one 100 yard game in an unconscionable loss to the Miami Dolphins.

When news broke that Jeffery would miss the start of the 2020 season due to the extensive recovery time from his late-season Lisfranc injury, many fans in the 215 openly welcomed his absence, with some suggesting the team would simply place him on preseason IR and wash their hands of a wide receiver who seemingly couldn’t stand being an Eagle.

Only, here’s the thing: The Philadelphia Eagles and Alshon Jeffery need each other now more than ever.

Despite extensively addressing the wide receiver position on draft weekend, the Eagles once again find themselves with a serious need for capable pass catchers less than a month into the regular season.

With Jalen Reagor out with a torn UCL, Quez Watkins on IR, and Marquise Goodwin officially opted out of the 2020 season, the Birds are slated to roll up to a Week 3 home romp against the Cincinnati Bengals with only one truly experienced receiver in DeSean Jackson, with Greg Ward, John Hightower, and (probably) Deontay Burnett on loan from the practice squad. While Jeffery’s status for Week 3 is still up in the air, the fact that he was able to practice with his helmet on has to be encouraging.

If available to go, Jeffery will presumably get the start at ‘X’ wide receiver, a position the Eagles haven’t ‘received’ a ton of production from so far this season – though, to be fair, it’s not like the Eagles have really received all that much production from any position save maybe tight end. While the Bengals do have one cornerback who is legitimately good in William Jackson III, he can’t cover everyone; leaving either Jeffery or Jackson with one-on-one opportunities against players like Darius Phillips, Mackensie Alexander, and maybe even Tony Brown on the outside.

Fun fact: Jeffery is taller than every single one of the Bengals’ defensive backs by a minimum of three inches, leading to plenty of jump ball opportunities if that’s the route Doug Pederson would like to go.

For better or worse, Jeffery is a professional wide receiver and is at worst the fourth-best-pass-catching option on the roster depending on how you rank Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Jackson. Even if he’s just lining up so he doesn’t get fined – or something similar – it’s not like he’s actively going to drop the ball and make the team lose on purpose.

Why? Because Jeffery presumably wants to keep playing professional football in 2021 and beyond.

Assuming Jeffery doesn’t somehow stick around for the final season of his contract, he’ll likely be on the lookout for another team willing to sign the soon-to-be-31-year-old to what could ultimately be his final multi-year contract. If Jeffery mails in his 2020 campaign, that proposition becomes all the more challenging, as he already doesn’t have the cleanest reputation in the NFL.

Does Jeffery really want to finish out his career on a non-guaranteed, vet minimum deal with a team like the Patriots – having to constantly watch his back for the next guy gunning for his job?

Next: In Jalen Reagor’s absence, it’s John Hightower’s time to shine

Are the Philadelphia Eagles and Alshon Jeffery in a marriage of convenience? Yeah, but is that really a bad thing? Even if the Eagles are simply running out the time on Jeffery’s guaranteed money while he, in turn, waits to hit the open market yet again, both parties need the other to be in the best possible position to succeed over the final 14 games of the regular season.