March 10, 2017
Almost as soon as 2017 NFL free agency got underway, Howie Roseman and the Eagles made a huge splash by signing 27-year-old Alshon Jeffery, the best receiver on the market.
In Philadelphia, a city brought to its knees by dropped balls and the Eagles wideouts’ collective inability to get open, this move was well received. When it comes to the national analysis, most of the reviews and grades for and the Jeffery and Torrey Smith deals were also positive. Pump it up, Howie:
Here is how the Eagles’ start to free agency was viewed outside Philadelphia:
Barnwell grades the big free-agent deals: Bill Barnwell, ESPN
Barnwell is pretty high on the Eagles’ two free-agent receiver signings, writing that Smith “was likelier that stuck in a terrible scheme fit” (Chip!) than toast. The ESPN.com writer gave the Jeffery deal an A-, a grade that was his highest of Thursday’s free-agent activity:
It should be telling that Jeffery had a down year and missed four games thanks to a PED suspension but was still able to get what is essentially the same one-year deal he picked up on the franchise tag from Chicago last year. In his four years as a starter, Jeffery is ninth among wideouts in both cumulative receiving yards and receiving yards per game, despite having Jay Cutler as his best quarterback in that time. With him having just turned 27, there's plenty of reason to think Jeffery will rank among the top half of starting NFL wide receivers.
The Eagles Needed Receivers and They Just Signed the Best One Available: Michael Baumann, The Ringer
Why NFL Teams Shelled Out Millions for the Biggest Free Agents: Michael Lombardi, The Ringer
Bill Simmons’ site produced plenty of NFL content yesterday. First off on the Jeffery front, Liberty Ballers dot com alum Baumann likes the deal because Wentz is getting some competency from his pass-catchers:
The only downside to this deal is that Wentz might die of shock when one of his passes gets caught. Otherwise it’s a perfect fit.
But Lombardi, a former member of the Eagles, Raiders, Browns, and Raiders front office, doesn’t like the Birds “renting” (his words, not mine) Jeffery for one season:
It’s great for him — now he can sign a longer deal to his liking next winter, assuming he can stay healthy after missing 11 games over the past two seasons. Jeffery can’t get much separation, but he thrives as a jump-ball receiver; even though he’s rarely wide open and often covered, he has a knack for coming down with footballs in traffic. That’s a valuable skill. It’s just not worth $14 million for one season.
Winners and Losers: Will Brinson, CBS Sports
In addition to offering some thoughts on Jeffery, Brinson also floats an interesting name for the Eagles in free agency: Jamaal Charles.
Couple Jeffery with Torrey Smith (three years, $15 million) , add in Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews and the Eagles are starting to but some nice versatile weapons around Wentz. We’d love to see them pick up Jamaal Charles too and really establish the running game, but Howie Roseman did good work for his young quarterback on the first day of free agency.
NFL free agency grades: Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated
Alshon Jeffery should allow Carson Wentz to turn the Eagles' offense loose: Jonathan Jones, Sports Illustrated
Like Barnwell, Burke liked what the Eagles did with both Jeffery and Smith:
After suffering through two miserable seasons in San Francisco, Torrey Smith heads to Philadelphia, where he'll become Carson Wentz's latest downfield threat.
And Jones used stats (AIR YARDS!) to touch on a point that many are making: The Eagles are going to start throwing the ball down the field this season:
The addition of Jeffery and Smith should force the Eagles and Wentz to stretch the field more. While Wentz was being crowned by everyone from Philadelphia to the Vice President’s office early last season, he was throwing the ball east and west and barely across the line of scrimmage. His 3.3 air yards per attempt were 31st in the league. And when the field got shorter, Wentz wasn’t that great either: He finished 23rd in the league in red zone completion percentage at 49.5%.
Bears players defend Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery while tweeting goodbyes: Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune
Alshon Jeffery's departure intensifies Bears' search for playmakers: Rich Campbell, Chicago Tribune
Here’s a view from the other side in Chicago, and Campbell gives a good summary of the Jeffery-Bears dynamic:
So as Jeffery pushed toward the open market and the Bears fell to 3-13, their dynamic tilted toward him: The Bears needed Jeffery's playmaking ability as badly as ever, while he had leverage in searching for a team willing to bet on him.
The Bears were interested in retaining Jeffery, 27, but only at a price that mitigated risk of his unavailability. As it turned out, Jeffery's market didn't develop to include the long-term deal he wanted. That he settled for a one-year deal elsewhere proved that a situation with clarity at quarterback appealed to him more than familiarity in Chicago.
And a couple of Jeffery’s former teammates had some nice words for him after the receiver chose the Eagles:
S/o to big bro @TheWorldof_AJ though on the new deal, wish you much success ✊🏾— Jordan Howard (@JHowardx24) March 9, 2017
@TheWorldof_AJ Thanks for always being there for me when a lot turned their back! Always gonna be family!!— Kevin White (@mrkevinwhite) March 9, 2017
Grades for Day 1 Signings and Trades: Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report
Analysts seem to have drastically different takes on the signing of Jeffery. While Lombardi thinks “renting” has a negative connotation, Gagnon and others believe it gives the Eagles a short-term boost at worst:
Philadelphia needed a receiver in a bad way, and Jeffery was the most accomplished 20-something-year-old wideout on the market. Getting him for one year gives the Eagles a chance to see if he can get back to his 2013/2014 form before making any big decisions regarding a potential long-term deal.
At the very least, they got a heck of a lot better on offense without having to make a long-term commitment. And that's rare.
Grades for every move as they happen: Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation
Yeah, I got nothing else at this point:
Coupled with Torrey Smith, this is a deal the Eagles can definitely feel good about for the 2017 season and the development of Carson Wentz. The concern is whether or not Jeffrey will be able to stay healthy for an entire season.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann