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January 07, 2022

Mailbag: Should the Eagles spend big on a free agent wide receiver this offseason?

Eagles NFL
72_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Alshon_Jeffery_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Alshon Jeffery was a successful Eagles free agent wide receiver signing, for a little while anyway.

In our Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Mig: Which veteran free agent wide receivers would you go after this offseason, and how much are you willing to pay?

Here are all the wide receivers who have signed contracts in free agency worth at least $10 million in average annual value over the last 10 seasons (via Spotrac), with their average receiving stats during the years they played with the team that signed them: 

Year Player Contract (AAV) Avg receiving stats 
2021 Kenny Golladay, Giants 4 yrs, $72,000,000 ($18,000,000) 34-499-0 
2018 Sammy Watkins, Chiefs 3 yrs, $48,000,000 ($16,000,000) 43-538-3 
2018 Allen Robinson, Bears 3 yrs, $42,000,000 ($14,000,000) 73-885-5 
2021 Corey Davis, Jets 3 yrs, $37,500,000 ($12,500,000) 34-492-4 
2020 Emmanuel Sanders, Saints 2 yrs, $24,000,000 ($12,000,000) 61-726-5 
2013 Mike Wallace, Dolphins 5 yrs, $60,000,000 ($12,000,000) 70-896-8 
2021 Curtis Samuel, WFT 3 yrs, $34,500,000 ($11,500,000) 6-27-0 
2017 DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers 3 yrs, $33,500,000 ($11,166,667) 46-721-4 
2012 Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers 5 yrs, $55,555,555 ($11,111,111) 54-865-4 
2019 Tyrell Williams, Raiders 4 yrs, $44,300,000 ($11,075,000) 42-651-6 
2021 Nelson Agholor, Patriots 2 yrs, $22,000,000 ($11,000,000 36-450-3 
2015 Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs 5 yrs, $55,000,000 ($11,000,000) 66-812-5 
2021 Will Fuller, Dolphins 1 yr, $10,625,011 ($10,625,011) 4-26-0 
2019 Antonio Brown, Raiders 1 yr, $10,500,000 ($10,500,000) 0-0-0 
2020 Robby Anderson, Panthers 2 yrs, $20,000,000 ($10,000,000) 71-783-4 
2019 Devin Funchess, Colts 1 yr, $10,000,000 ($10,000,000) 3-32-0 

My conclusion: There have been a whole lot of busts on big-money free agent wide receivers, and not many success stories.

Davante Adams (Packers) and Mike Williams (Chargers) are strong franchise tag candidates, so forget about them. Otherwise, you're looking at injury risk players like Chris Godwin (Buccaneers) and Michael Gallup (Cowboys), or guys who are beginning to age and perhaps aren't what they once were, like Odell Beckham (Rams) and Allen Robinson (Bears).

I'd stay out of the top end of that market, personally, and look for more moderately priced receivers who I can add to my depth.

It's also yet another strong draft for receivers, and while the Eagles have spent heavy resources on receivers in the draft in recent years, I still believe the success rate is better there than it is in free agency.

Question from Rudy: How much longer can Jason Kelce keep it going? He has been a warrior for the Birds, but all good things must come to an end. Also, do you think Kelce goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

It's been a while, but I used to look at the ages of every offensive line in the NFL every offseason. One of the things I learned during that exercise was that centers had the most longevity among offensive linemen, and by a pretty wide margin. The good ones could play into their late 30's.

At the time I did those studies (and we're talking, like, 5-10 years ago), it was rare for offensive tackles to play beyond their mid-30's. But now you have guys like Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters who were the oldest offensive tackles in the NFL a half decade ago, but are still going at age 40 (Whitworth turned 40 in December; Peters will turn 40 in January).

Kelce just turned 34, and he is still playing at an extremely high level. I have little doubt that he can continue to play at a high level for several more seasons. It's just a question as to whether he wants to.

As for Kelce's Hall of Fame candidacy, if he retired this offseason, he should get in, in my opinion. He's a five-time Pro Bowl player, three-time first-team All Pro (he should add a fourth this year), and he's a Super Bowl champion. But beyond those "on paper" accolades, he might be the most athletic center, ever. Even at 34, he can do things that no other center in the NFL can do. It also doesn't hurt that he has a charismatic personality, and he has a likely Hall of Fame brother still playing in the league.

Question from Kelly: Curious as to what you think the Eagles' record would have been this year if Wentz was QB1 instead of Hurts, everything else being the same with this year's team.

I can't say what the Eagles' record would be. It's impossible to go game-by-game and say, "OK, they would have won this game, this game, and this game if they had Wentz, and they'd have lost this game, this game, and this game."

However, I don't think the Eagles could have successfully transitioned to their run-heavy offense under Wentz, nor do I think they would have even tried to. Hurts is a huge part of the Eagles run-heavy dynamic, and why it has been successful. With Wentz, I think they're still chucking the ball 35 times per game, and losing.

Of course, it's worth noting that Wentz is also part of a run-heavy offense in Indianapolis, but his role in that dynamic in minimal. It's all Jonathan Taylor and the Colts' offensive line.

Question from Pragmatic: Will the Monday Night Football game in the first round be a 4 seed vs. 5 seed matchup so they know the winner's opponent in the divisional round?

First, let's note that the first round of the playoffs will have two games on Saturday, three on Sunday, and one on Monday night.

This is a great question, and it makes logical sense, in that the NFL could schedule the divisional round games at the conclusion of the Sunday night wildcard game. They wouldn't have to wait to schedule the divisional round games until Monday night if that game is a 4/5 matchup. 

This question spurred me to ask around about it. What I learned is essentially that your logic is indeed correct. They will factor that benefit in, but ultimately, the league can sort of do whatever it wants. In other words, there's a very good chance that game will be a 4/5 matchup, but not a guarantee.

The Eagles will either be the 6 seed or the 7 seed. They cannot be the 5 seed. So for those of you who do not want the Eagles to have to play on Monday night, the odds are in your favor that that won't happen.

While we're on the topic, barring an unlikely matchup against the Cowboys in the wildcard round, because the Eagles play on Saturday Week 18, I don't think the NFL will make their wildcard round opponent play on a short week (six nights of rest), when the Eagles would be getting their full seven nights of rest. So I think the best bet is that they will play on Sunday.

Question from Norm Snead: Is it an advantage for an NFL team to play the tougher teams on their schedule early and have a relatively easier schedule late as the Eagles had this season?

I have long felt that getting stronger opponents later in the season is preferable. Why? Well, because the NFL is a league that depends so much on injury luck, early-season good teams becoming late-season bad teams is a more common occurrence than early-season bad teams becoming late-season good teams. And so, you may as well get the bad teams early and the good teams late, since the good teams might lose a quarterback or something.

In 2021, it worked out in the Eagles' favor that they got the good teams early and the bad teams late. The good teams that they faced early this season — the Cowboys, Chiefs, Buccaneers, etc. — were still good at the end of the season, while the bad teams — WFT x2, Giants, Jets, etc. — were often injury depleted AND very bad, making those easy opponents even more beatable.

I still believe that getting the bad teams early is ideal, but for a middling team like the Eagles, the opposite really worked out for them this season.

Question from DB: What's your Super Bowl pick right now? Still Brady-Mahomes until somebody beats them? Also, I assume you are rooting for a San Francisco loss to eliminate any chance of a Green Bay trip in two weeks?

The Packers will be tough to beat at Lambeau, but yep, sticking with Bucs-Chiefs.

Question from Jake: If you had to rank the most successful NFL franchises in the 21st century where would the Eagles rank? I think that they are definitely top 10 and could be argued to be in the top three in the NFC with the Packers and Seahawks.

Tier 1: Patri*ts, Ravens, Steelers. Multiple Super Bowls, and a whole lot of wins.

Tier 2: Packers, Colts. One Super Bowl, boatload of wins.

Tier 3: Eagles, Saints, Seahawks, Broncos, Chiefs. At least one Super Bowl, and a lot of wins, but a win tally not on the level of the Tier 2 teams.

Tier 4: Buccaneers, Giants. Two Super Bowl wins, but have otherwise had some really ugly stretches.

Tier 5: Rams. One Super Bowl win (early this century), one Super Bowl appearance (later this century), a lot of very bad in between. 

Tier 6: Cowboys, Titans, Vikings, Chargers, Falcons, Bears, Panthers, Cardinals, 49ers. Some successful regular seasons, couldn't close in the playoffs.

Tier 7: Dolphins, Bills, Bengals. Occasionally competitive in the regular season, long playoff droughts over the last 20 years.

Tier 8: Jets, Raiders, Texans, Jaguars. Awful.

Tier 9: Browns, Lions. Beyond awful.

Tier 10: Football Team. Awful on the field, even worse off of it.

That was fun.

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