It’s no secret that the Eagles struggled all season long in 2018 to consistently get their deep passing game going. After somewhat failed experiments with Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace the past two seasons, the Eagles will take their third swing at finding a deep threat at wide receiver this offseason.

In 2018, the Eagles passing game ranked just 16th in the NFL in completed passes of 20 yards or more. In 2017, Carson Wentz completed 40 passes of 20 yards or more, and seven of which went for 50 yards or more. In 2018, though, Wentz completed just 37 passes of 20 yards or more, and only three of which went for at least 50 yards.

More importantly, 20 of Wentz’s 37 passes of 20 yards or more were to non-wide receivers. In comparison, just 14 of Wentz’s 40 passes of the same distance went to non-wide receivers.

Those numbers may not seem substantial, but they are a sign of a lacking deep threat to take a top off of a defense. It’s great to have the tight end’s and running back’s involved in the passing game, but to have a truly elite offense, there needs to be wide receivers who can take a top off opposing defenses.

Meanwhile, the two main wide receivers on the roster, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, are able to be a deep threat, but are for more effective in other roles.

Down the stretch, the deep passing game came on a bit stronger with a healthier offensive line and Nick Foles at quarterback, but even then it wasn’t enough.

When the Eagles signed Torrey Smith in 2017, it was with the expectation that he would serve as the main deep threat within the offense. Smith went on to catch just six passes of 20 yards or more, and averaged just 11.9 yards per reception, the second-worst in his eight year career.

This past offseason, Mike Wallace was brought in for the same purpose. Instead, Wallace suffered a fractured fibula in week 2. Wallace didn’t catch a single pass all season long for the Eagles.

The Eagles are back at square one in terms of filling that void, but coming into this offseason, they will have options. Between free agency, which starts on March 13, the NFL Draft, which kicks off on April 25, and through trades, the Eagles will have multiple chances at finding their next deep threat on offense.


Here is a look at how the Eagles can solve this issue through each way of transaction…


Free Agency

Free agency is approaching in just about two weeks, and the group of wide receivers set to hit the open market isn’t very impressive. However, there is one wideout who would be a perfect fit in the Eagles offense as a deep threat.

That player is John Brown, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals.

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Photo: Baltimore Beatdown

In 2018, Brown caught 42 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns. Brown’s 17.0 yards per reception would have ranked first on the Eagles offense among starters.

11 of Brown’s 42 catches in 2018 went for 20 yards or more. Over his career, Brown is averaging just over eight receptions per season of 20 yards or more, despite being in two of the worst passing games in the league.

Brown’s natural ability to get down field and make plays has made him one of the more exciting deep threat’s in all of football. At the 2014 NFL Combine, Brown turned heads when he ran a 4.30 40-yard dash, which got him drafted in the third-round despite playing at a Division II school.

Most importantly for the Eagles, Brown is not expected to be overly expensive. The Eagles already have nearly $21 million committed to Jeffery and Agholor alone (barring any restructured deals), and won’t be looking to spend big on a third wide receiver.

Despite his skillset, Brown won’t be one of the more sought after free agent wide receivers (Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams and Adam Humphries are expected to draw the most attention.) That will allow the Eagles to comfortably offer Brown a contract that won’t break the bank, and barring any unexpected developments, they won’t have to get into any bidding wars.

Adding Brown would finally give the Eagles a wide receiver that will open up the field, which would take some defensive attention off of Jeffery, Agholor, and Ertz.

NFL Draft

If the Eagles are looking to lockdown a wide receiver for years to come as their deep threat, the NFL Draft will give them the perfect opportunity. The Eagles have three picks in the top 60, which gives them a bit of flexibility in terms of who they target at each selection.

The first wide receiver that the Eagles could target in the NFL Draft is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown out of Oklahoma.

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Brown underwent surgery for a Lisfranc injury that will hold him out of the NFL Combine, but he is expected to be ready for when training camp rolls around. Due to that injury, Brown potentially could slide from being a top-15 pick towards the late first round, which puts him in the territory of the Eagles at pick 25.

In 2018, Brown was one of the most electrifying players in all of college football. Brown finished with 1,318 receiving yards, which ranks 8th in FBS play. Brown also set a personal high with 75 receptions, and also added 10 touchdowns.

On November 23 against West Virginia, Brown had his best game of the season, and the Eagles had scouts in attendance for the performance. Brown finished with 11 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

The nature of Brown’s injury may be concerning to some teams, and the Eagles would have to throughly evaluate his health before getting comfortable to select him in the first round. In the event Brown does fall to them, though, the Eagles would be able to get their hands on a wide receiver for fairly cheap that could eventually take the offense to an entirely new level.

Another option for the Eagles in the draft in Georgia’s Mecole Hardman Jr.

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Photo: Georgia Telegraph

Hardman has blazing speed. Out of high school, Hardman was clocked at 4.32 for his 40-yard dash, and has mentioned that he could break John Ross’ NFL Combine record for a 40-yard dash of 4.22 seconds.

In 2018, Hardman caught 35 passes for 543 yards and seven touchdowns. Hardman’s involvement in the Georgia passing game was inconsistent, but his best game of the season shows the potential that he holds.

In Georgia’s week 2 matchup against South Carolina, Hardman caught six passes for 103 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown.

As it stands, Hardman is projected to be a Day 2 selection, but that could change if he impresses at the combine.

Trades

The Eagles have a history of making trades in the offseason for impact players, and that could be an option this time around for a deep target. Outside of Antonio Brown, who is a highly unlikely option for the Eagles to target, there isn’t much along the lines of trade rumors at wide receiver.

However, the one other rumor there is at wide receiver is with John Ross, and he could be a nice fit in the Eagles offense.

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Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Image

The Bengals are reportedly interested in trading Ross, who was their first round pick just two seasons ago.

Ross’ career hasn’t gotten off to the best start after boding well in the draft. After not playing at all in 2017, Ross caught just 21 passes for 210 yards and seven touchdowns.

In seven games as a starter after AJ Green went down with a toe injury, Ross averaged just 1.71 catches per game for 16.86 yards per game and five touchdowns.

Ross’ injury history doesn’t paint a much better picture, either. Since 2014, Ross has suffered the following injuries: torn meniscus (2014, missed one game), torn ACL and meniscus (2015), torn ACL, shoulder labrum tear (2016), shoulder labrum tear (2017), grade 2 groin strain (2018).

Thanks to all of what was just said, though, the price of acquiring Ross in a trade is likely much lower than where he was drafted. With the Eagles set to have two sixth-round selections, they could flip one of them to take a flier on Ross.

Following his two knee injuries, Ross still broke the NFL Combine record with a 4.22 40-yard dash. Outside of his injury history, Ross’ struggles could also be somewhat pinned on the inconsistent quarterback play of Andy Dalton.


It would be unfair to look at Ross as a guaranteed solution to the Eagles’ deep threat issue, but he is certainly a reasonable option for a capped-out team with more dire needs at other positions.

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