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June 03, 2017

Should the Eagles try to sign Jeremy Maclin?

The Philadelphia Eagles didn't want to lose Jeremy Maclin two years ago in free agency, after Maclin put up career highs (at the time) in catches (85), receiving yards (1318), and TDs (10). In fact, they made a him a pretty good offer, however, the Kansas City Chiefs made a better one, and geographically speaking, allowed Maclin to return to Missouri, where he grew up.

As of late Friday evening, Maclin is once again a free agent, this time not by choice, after the Chiefs released him in a salary-cap dump.

The obvious question in the aftermath will obviously be, should the Eagles consider reuniting with Maclin?

If the Chiefs had released Maclin back in March, allowing him to explore the open market during the start of free agency, he would have almost certainly been a player of significant interest. After all, he would already know the Eagles' offense under Doug Pederson having played in Andy Reid's system, and he was once a pick during the Howie Roseman era, Part I. If you haven't noticed, Howie likes signing his productive draft picks to long-term contract extensions when they are up for renewal.

A mere three months ago, the Eagles' wide receiver corps look vastly different than they do now. A quick snapshot what the Eagles have done at that spot:

Eagles WRs March 1 June 3 
 1Jordan Matthews Alshon Jeffery 
 2Nelson Agholor Torrey Smith 
 3Dorial Green-Beckham Jordan Matthews 
 4Bryce Treggs  Nelson Agholor
 5Paul Turner  Mack Hollins
 6 Shelton Gibson
 7 Dorial Green-Beckham
 8 Bryce Treggs
 9Paul Turner 

The June 3rd column looks far better than the March 1st column, obviously, with the additions of free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.

However, each of the Eagles wide receivers we project will make the 53-man roster come with question marks:

Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery has been a highly productive receiver when healthy (and not suspended), but he has one suspension under his belt already and has missed seven games over the last two seasons due to injury.

Torrey Smith: Bad quarterback play aside, Smith himself had a dreadful 2016 season, and still has to prove that he is closer to the player he was in Baltimore than the one he was in San Francisco.

Jordan Matthews: Matthews is an effective but flawed slot receiver who is heading into the final year of his contract.

Nelson Agholor: Agholor has been the bustiest of busts in his first two years in the NFL.

Mack Hollins: Rookie.

Shelton Gibson: Rookie.

While improved, the Eagles are hardly done fixing their wide receiver corps, and Maclin would improve them even further.

So what is he worth?

To begin, he's 29, so he should be slightly past the physical prime of his career, but certainly with some good years left assuming his injuries of a year ago are in the past. Let's take a look at his last three seasons:

• 2014: Again, as noted above, Maclin put up a stat line of 85-1318-10, and then cashed in on a five-year, $55 million contract.

• 2015: In his first year with the Chiefs, Maclin caught 87 passes for 1088 yards and 8 TDs. While those numbers were down from his previous year, it's worth noting that the Chiefs got a grand total of zero touchdown catches from their wide receiver corps in 2014, before Maclin arrived.

• 2016: Dealing with a groin injury, Maclin managed just 44 catches for 536 yards and 2 TDs.

At this stage of his career, I would consider Maclin something of a high-end No. 2 receiver. The two players closest to Maclin in age and productivity from this latest free agency class, in my view, are Pierre Garcon and Kenny Britt.

 Last 3 yearsRec Yards YPC TD 
 Jeremy Maclin (29)216 2942 13.6 20 
 Pierre Garcon (30)219 2570 11.7 12 
 Kenny Britt (27)152 2431 16.0 11 

Garcon signed a five-year deal worth $47.5 million with the 49ers, while Britt signed a four-year deal worth $32.5 million with the Browns.

The Chiefs didn't do Maclin any favors by releasing him in June, as teams around the league filled their wide receiver roster holes both in free agency and the draft. As such, it may be unlikely that Maclin will garner the same kind of money that Britt and Garcon did, but it's also not as if he'll be cheap. 

The best guess here is that Maclin will look to sign a one-year deal in an attempt to cash in once again in 2018. In an offense with which he's familiar, the Eagles would give him an opportunity to do that, but at what cost?

The Eagles have their backs against the wall on the salary cap. has them presently at $3,642,144 under the cap, and that figure does not include the signing of Derek Barnett, who will count for $2,336,543 against the cap in 2017.

The deal that the Eagles signed with Jeffery this offseason includes $4.5 million in performance-based incentives that would count toward the 2018 cap if attained. The Eagles would have to get really creative if they were to try to fit Maclin in under their extremely tight cap. It's worth noting that if the Eagles can pass Ryan Mathews on a physical, that will free up an additional $4 million in cap space, and they could always restructure a few more vets they see as long-term solutions like they did with Zach Ertz and Rodney McLeod.

Adding Maclin feels somewhat unrealistic, but it's not impossible. If the Eagles are sufficiently motivated, they can get it done, but such a deal would leave them with an extraordinarily small amount of wiggle room financially.

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