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June 18, 2024

5 Eagles thoughts: What happens with the third receiver spot, open practices and more

The 49ers would never trade Brandon Aiyuk to the Eagles, but the Eagles might be in line for a deadline deal that upgrades the No. 3 receiver spot.

Eagles NFL
Brandon Aiyuk Eagles 49ers Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Will the rival 49ers part with star receiver Brandon Aiyuk?

The opening of Eagles training camp is a little over a month away, coming up on July 23. As the Delaware Valley awaits more Eagles football, here are five thoughts I currently have about the Birds...

Brandon Aiyuk says the 49ers don't want him back. What does that mean for the Eagles?

49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk told Commanders quarterback and former collegiate teammate Jayden Daniels that San Francisco doesn't want him back in a TikTok on Monday (featuring NSFW language):

This has felt like a long time coming for Aiyuk. San Francisco is stacked offensively, but Aiyuk has certainly been important in Brock Purdy's rise. Aiyuk has combined for 153 catches, 2,357 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons. A weakened 49ers squad would be welcomed for Eagles fans. 

Aiyuk could be on his way out and the biggest question mark on the Eagles' offense is their wide receiver three spot. Hmm...

Would the 49ers trade Aiyuk to a team they loathe and is perhaps their biggest threat for back-to-back Super Bowl berths? No, obviously, but the wide receiver trade market through the fall could feel the ripple effects of a potential Aiyuk deal.

You can't have superstars at every position, but if I'm looking through my crystal ball and thinking about the position Philly is clamoring for an update at the 2024 NFL trade deadline, I'm seeing it be the wide receiver or EDGE rusher. They hold an extra third-rounder and an extra fifth-rounder in the 2025 NFL Draft to work with...

Parris Campbell had a fine spring in OTAs and minicamp. He has familiarity with Nick Sirianni during their shared time in Indianapolis, too. I'm sure the organization would love to see a rookie like Johnny Wilson or Ainias Smith come out and nab a big role as well. This is a Super Bowl-or-bust year though. They collapsed in the Big Game two years ago. They had a disaster-class ending during the 2023 season that culminated in a thoroughly embarrassing playoff loss. Who knows what 2025 holds for Sirianni? 

The Eagles will preach patience with non-stars this offseason, but when the talk radio callers have the phones ringing off the hooks and fans are freaking out on Twitter that they couldn't find an upgrade over even Quez Watkins, the heat will be felt. 

The Eagles will hold just a single open practice. Why?

The Eagles' annual open practice will come on Thursday, Aug. 1. It will be $10 to get in the door and $35 for a VIP package with all proceeds headed to the Eagles Autism Foundation. The Eagles will never go back to the days of training camp at Lehigh when fans poured in and saw everything going on, but one practice open to the general fan base is a little weak, no?

The Eagles are as light on summer practices as anyone. That extends to these open practices, which are even less intense than their lax training camp. You can't do at least one more, possibly a weekend date, to accommodate all sorts of fans with a variety of different commitments? 

Most Eagles fans can't afford a ticket to a game. That's just the nature and business of professional sports, but the summer should be about building all the goodwill possible and making Eagles football for everyone. If all the money is going to charity, what's the harm?

Mixed feelings as the NFL has changed its uniform number rules

When the NFL first announced that they were relaxing some of their stringent position-specific uniform number rules, I was all about it. DeVonta Smith wearing No. 6? Perfect. Darius Slay wearing No. 2? Let's have some fun. 

Watching the Eagles in minicamp, however, I began to feel like an old man about it.

Pro Bowl defensive end Josh Sweat changed from No. 94, an elite number for a pass-rusher, to No. 19, which I associate with some smaller, shifty wide receiver. Perhaps it's a "if you look good, you feel good, you play good" situation for Sweat and he's amped for this, but it just struck me as odd. 

I imagine for more casual Eagles fans, it adds a bit of confusion. 

Jake Elliott is one of the game's great kickers

Seven years into his pro career, Jake Elliott has established himself as the best kicker in Eagles history. No shade is meant to fan-favorite David Akers, but Elliott has been money in the highest-leverage moments possible. He's made nerve-wracking kicks in the Super Bowl, shifted the 2017 Birds' season with his 61-yard field goal against the Giants and made a tough-as-anything kick this past year against Buffalo. 

Off the top of my head, I'd have said that the top three kickers in the NFL right now are future Hall of Famer Justin Tucker, then Elliott and then Kansas City's Harrison Butker. They all have championships to their name. 

Elliott and Butker both entered the NFL in 2017. Here's how all three rate on 50-plus yard field goals since then.

 PlayersFGM FGA FG% 
Elliott 2637 70.0% 
Butker 28 40 70.0% 
Tucker 30 45 66.7% 

The post-Akers, pre-Elliott kicking wasteland in Philly showcased how easy it is to take reliable kickers for granted. Elliott is entering his age-29 season. Tucker is five years older. Akers kicked in Philly until he was 36. Elliott should continue to be a big-game threat for the Birds for years to come.

The Eagles have won over the years with elite running quarterbacks 

Jalen Hurts, through four NFL seasons, has 2,503 rushing yards. 21 QBs in league history have hit that mark. Three others have played for the Birds: Michael Vick (No. 1 with 6,109), Randall Cunningham (No. 5 with 4,928) and Donovan McNabb (No. 11 with 3,459). 

All of those three older QBs were ahead of their time. We got a glimpse of what Cunningham could do in a forward-thinking NFL offense with the 1998 Vikings, but he was already 35. Vick and McNabb had success under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, but imagine plopping them into Reid's modern system and pairing them with the likes of Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. 

Hurts is in the sweet spot where he's developed massively as a passer since his rookie campaign, the league has understood the value of quarterbacks with playmaking ability and he's playing alongside two star receivers. 

Let's see if Kellen Moore's new offense can have Hurts going from simply a "success" to a Super Bowl-winning signal-caller, getting over the hump that a revolving door of coaches couldn't do with Cunningham and Reid failed to do with McNabb and Vick.

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