Here we will continue our series of what I would do with each player on the team this offseason if I was Howie Roseman, this time looking at the wide receivers and tight ends.
If my life was on the line and I had to pick one player on the Eagles I guarantee will be on the team next year, I would choose DeVonta Smith. After whiffing horrendously on a first-round receiver selection in 2020 (we will get to him soon), the Eagles took another swing at the position with their 2021 first-rounder in Smith, and this one looks like a home run. The “Slim Reaper” had by far the most college production of any wideout in the class, but concerns over how his skinny legs and overall relatively miniscule frame would hold up in the NFL slid him down to the third receiver selected. Smith put those concerns to rest by making it through his whole rookie year essentially unscathed, and – oh yeah – he is pretty good at football too, breaking DeSean Jackson’s team record for receiving yards by a rookie and displaying a knack for the acrobatic sideline toe-tap catch. Smith is already the best receiver the Eagles have had since at least Jeremy Maclin, and honestly maybe even farther back than him. He is quick, reliable, a great teammate and uber-competitive, and at 23 years old he is only going to get better. This was one of Roseman’s best selections of his entire Eagles tenure.
What I would do: Keep him, next question.
Watkins is looking like a great pickup with the Eagles’ 2020 sixth-round selection. He needs a little bit of refinement, but I think he can be the third or fourth receiver on a really good team, given his burner-level speed and reliable hands. Still with two dirt-cheap years remaining on his rookie contract, he is not going anywhere.
What I would do: Again, this one is pretty obvious. There is nothing to gain out of getting rid of Watkins. Keep him.
Poor Jalen Reagor will always be known as the guy the Eagles took over Justin Jefferson. I thought the decision was a little odd at the time, but I did not expect it to backfire as tragically as it has. Jefferson rapidly emerging into a top-10 receiver has certainly not helped his cause, but Reagor has been putrid on his own merit as well. Literally just having him on the field actively hurts your team. He drops game-winning touchdowns, he drops punts, and he really struggles to create separation, especially given his speed. Nick Sirianni had to manufacture reverses and jet sweeps for him just so he could make some semblance of a contribution. The fact that most people think it would be reasonable to just cut him right now even though doing so would cost them $12 million in cap space is really all you need to know. Personally, I am not willing to bite the bullet that hard just to save one roster spot, and there is no way a Howie Roseman first-round pick is getting released after two seasons. However, someone has to start opposite DeVonta Smith, and it would be malpractice for that player to be Reagor yet again. Go find someone else.
What I would do: Keep him as a backup, just because you kind of have to, but they really need to find a good #2 receiver. If that means drafting one in the first-round for the third straight year, so be it.
Greg Ward. Jr
There was once a time where Ward was pretty much the only competent receiver on the Eagles as Carson Wentz tried to carry a ravaged roster to a playoff spot. His role is now much reduced, as Ward is just a safe back-of-the-depth chart guy who will make the easy plays but never really does anything crazy (although this was pretty nice). Ward is a restricted free agent, but I don’t think he is worth a tender. If he goes untouched in free agency and they need one more body at receiver, then I am not opposed to bringing him back, but I actually think he ends up on another team next season.
What I would do: Ward is not a priority free agent at all, in my opinion. He can be back on another minimum salary if he has no market, but I would not go further than that.
A 2019 second-round pick, JJAW has been another colossal disappointment at the receiver position. The Eagles used him almost exclusively as a blocking tight end this year because that is just about the only way he can be useful. To his credit, he was solid in that department, but it is obviously not what the Eagles signed up for when they drafted him. JJAW has one more year on his rookie deal left, and I honestly would not be surprised if he stays on the team or if he is cut in training camp. He is practically a lost cause at this point, though.
What I would do: Personally, unless he comes into training camp and completely lights it up, I think I am ready to just move on.
Goedert has emerged into one of the most well-rounded, talented tight ends in the league, and was recently awarded a lofty 4-year extension. While he might be notoriously remembered for some egregious drops towards the end of the season (4:35 mark of this video), Goedert is a physical, athletic receiving threat who is also a great blocker. There are very few young, good tight ends in the NFL (I can count them on one hand), and the Eagles are fortunate to have one of them. He will be in Philadelphia for several more years to come.
What I would do: Keep him, undoubtedly.
With Zach Ertz traded and Tyree Jackson (more on him soon) spending most of the season on the mend, the Eagles were paper thin at tight end behind Goedert for most of the year. Stoll was an undrafted rookie who spent most of his snaps run-blocking and had four catches on the year. He still has two minimum salary years left on his contract, so he is at least worth keeping into the preseason, but the Eagles need to find a second tight end this offseason.
What I would do: He is worth keeping as a training camp/preseason body, and maybe as a reserve/practice squad tight end during the season, but if he is still the Eagles #2 tight end next year, that is a bad sign.
Rodgers is just your run-of-the-mill reserve tight end. He is entering free agency, is now 30 years old, and the Eagles have younger alternatives. There is really no need for him.
What I would do: Just let him walk.
Jackson entered last training camp as an intriguing quarterback-converted tight end from the University of Buffalo. He showed during camp he was very athletic for a 6’7”, 249 pound former QB, and looked like a great developmental project. However, he broke his back later in camp and then tore his ACL in Week 18 against the Cowboys, so he never really saw meaningful time on the field this season. Jackson is under contract for next year and is still a compelling player at a position where the Eagles are in need of depth, so I fully expect him to be on the roster next year.
What I would do: At bare minimum, let him compete for a roster spot, assuming his knee is healed, and I would give him a good shot of making the team in 2022.
Training Camp Bodies on IR/Futures Contracts (longshots to make 53-man roster)
Deon Cain, John Hightower, Noah Togiai, Jason Croom.
Photo: Getty Images