By now, we all know how bad the Eagles’ cap situation is heading into the 2021 offseason.
They’re projected to be more than $51 million over the cap, making signing any prized free agent nearly impossible this year. Howie Roseman will certainly look to restructure contracts for some of his highly priced veterans, or even explore options on the trade market for these players in order to have some cap room.
Nevertheless, the Eagles have a huge hole to fill at wide receiver this offseason. Despite using their first round pick on Jalen Reagor last year, the team is still in need of a reliable pass catcher on the outside. Both DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery will likely be gone, leaving the team with little to no NFL experience at the position.
Howie could opt to use the sixth overall selection to take one of the marquee wideouts in the upcoming draft, but using his first round pick on a wideout two years in a row may not be the best path to take.
The wide receiver group needs some type of veteran leadership. As it’s looking right now, none of the wideouts on the team will be over 26 years old — unless they decide to bring Marquise Goodwin back next season.
There are plenty of wideouts set to hit the open market this offseason. Obviously, we’d all love for the team to bring in a talent like Allen Robinson of Chris Godwin, but those caliber of players will be outside of the team’s price range. This list will focus on the free agent wideouts who can be had for cheap and will provide the offense with a much needed veteran presence on the outside.
Let’s get into it.
I imagine Hilton will be someone who’s tied to the Eagles from the first day of free agency this offseason. New head coach Nick Sirianni has worked with Hilton in Indianapolis since 2018, and adding some familiarity to a new offense is always invaluable for a team.
Hilton isn’t the deep threat receiver he once was. Now 31 years old, Hilton has shifted his game to being an efficient, move the chains type of receiver. 42 of his 56 receptions this year either went for a touchdown or a first down. He’s as sure-handed as they come as well, only dropping six of his last 101 catchable passes, per Pro Football Focus.
Due to his age and having somewhat of a down year — although he came alive towards the end of the season, soring four touchdowns in the final five games — Hilton may be cheaper than some expect. Especially given how loaded the free agent crop of wideouts is this year.
Hilton’s certainly a name to keep an eye on once this offseason is in full swing.
While Samuel won’t exactly bring veteran leadership to the team — he’s still just 24 years old — he’s proven to be a very reliable pass catcher during his first four years in Carolina.
He saw a career resurrection under new head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. He posted career highs in receptions (77), receiving yards (851), and catch percentage (79.4%). Samuel was also used in a multitude of ways this past year, tallying 41 rushing attempts for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Samuel has solidified himself as a utility receiver who can really do it all, similar to Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. Brady and the offensive coaching staff lined Samuel up in the slot for the majority of the season, and it was clear that that is where he’ll do the most damage.
The Eagles seemingly already have a slot guy in Greg Ward, but as much as I like Ward as a player, it’s hard to deny that Samuel would be a clear upgrade over him.
Given how young Samuel is, coupled with his playmaking ability, it’s surprising how often he gets overlooked when discussing the free agent wide receiver class this year. He may be a little more expensive than someone like Hilton, but his contract number won’t break the bank by any means.
Samuel could end up being a long-term solution at wideout for the Eagles if they decide to go down this route.
Marvin Jones Jr.
Both of the Lions top-two receivers are set to become free agents this offseason, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. They may try to retain one or none of them, but it seems like it’s leaning towards both leaving at this point.
Jones has been a very consistent receiver for the Lions over the past six season, grading between 71.0 and 76.0 in each season, according to PFF. He’s exactly the type of veteran outside threat this team could use.
Jones is coming off a very solid season in Detroit, hauling in 76 catches for 978 yards and nine touchdowns. He can play either the X or Z position, and his snaps in the slot have steadily gone up over the past few seasons as well.
At 31 years old, Jones will likely fall in the same price range of Hilton, so the Eagles will probably keep their eye on him as free agency approaches.
A former fourth overall pick, Watkins was primed to be a star wideout in the NFL during his time in Buffalo, going over 900 yards receiving his both of his first two seasons. But as time has passed, Watkins has become just a serviceable receiver. He’s not the bonified No. 1 option many scouts projected when he was coming into the NFL, but he’s still a solid pass catcher who can provide great depth on any team.
Playing in just nine games this past season for the Chiefs, Watkins recorded 37 receptions for 421 yards and just two touchdowns. At 28 years old, Watkins’ career is far from over, and he’s a veteran presence that could bring some real value to this Eagles team.
Like I’ve stated before, this free agent class of wideout is loaded, so Watkins will likely slide under the radar heading into the new league year. The Eagles could swoop in and snag him if they wait for the right moment.