After a successful season that resulted in obtaining the NFC East crown, the Philadelphia Eagles must keep the pedal to the metal because they have key decisions to make regarding some of their free agent players.
With two of their top receivers, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, becoming free agents this year, the direction the organization is going to take has become intriguing.
Jeremy Maclin was a first-round pick by the Eagles in 2009 and has been relatively productive since his arrival. The biggest issue regarding Maclin is that he suffered a torn ACL before the start of the 2013 season. This injury diminishes the chances of a team paying a substantial amount of money for Maclin, so the Eagles have the potential of retaining him without a significant financial burden.
Maclin has been a consistent player throughout his four-year career and averages 65 receptions, 863 yards, and seven touchdowns per season. He is particularly good when Foles is under center. Maclin became Foles’ favorite target and had 29 receptions for 386 yards and two touchdowns. Maclin has also publicly showed his belief in Foles’ potential.
In an interview with Derrick Gunn, Maclin stated: “I told people last year that Nick could play.
“He does all the little things to separate the good quarterbacks from the great quarterbacks.
“I think Nick’s gonna have a very, very bright future here in Philly.”
The New York Jets are reportedly highly interested in Maclin, but if he had to choose between the two teams it would make sense for him to choose a playoff team with a Pro Bowl quarterback who he vehemently supports.
The question remains whether the Eagles want to bring back Maclin, who has publicly stated he would prefer to return.
The other free agent receiver the organization has to make a decision about is Riley
Cooper, who is coming off a breakout year. Cooper had 47 receptions accumulating for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, not including his touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the postseason.
Before the 2013 season, Cooper had a total of 46 receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns after being drafted in 2010. In the 10 games that Foles played in 2012, Cooper caught 37 balls for 729 yards and seven touchdowns.
The biggest issue with Cooper is that he was put under a substantial amount of scrutiny before the season because he was caught on camera using a racial slur. Cooper was viewed as a villain by the league and most of the media but he did everything necessary to warrant a second chance.
Cooper had his most productive season, and when he apologized he came across as genuine. LeSean McCoy, the Eagles running-back who seemed that he was never going to forgive Cooper, recently supported Cooper in an interview with CBS Sports Radio.
McCoy stated: “I know Riley and we talked about it; because when he said it I was so angry with him. I was like, ‘I know this guy. This is how you feel about me?’ You have (those) thoughts. And then you really sit down and talk to him and you see what really happened. He said some things he didn’t mean. He said he was angry, he definitely was drunk and he got into it with a guy and he said some things he didn’t mean. And I understand it because I say some things that I might not mean.
“I don’t think he’s racist or anything like that. All the guys I talk to, they love Riley. He’s a good dude. He (just) made a mistake.”
McCoy has the respect and credentials to really affect a player’s reputation with anything he says and, supporting Cooper publicly really resonated throughout the league.
As Maclin’s worth decreased, Cooper’s increased drastically. Both players share a unique ability to perform better with quarterback Nick Foles, and that is one thing the organization cannot overlook. Chemistry is crucial to winning football games and it is not so easy to find.
Eagles are $20 million under the cap restriction, which leaves them with plenty of leverage to do what they want. It would be smart for the Eagles to bring back both Maclin and Cooper, whom together with Pro Bowler Desean Jackson, have the potential of becoming one of the top receiving groups in the NFL.