Lunch Break: Which receiver will get paid?
Riley Cooper (left) had a career year in 2013. Jeremy Maclin didn't play a snap because of a torn ACL. Both are free agents. (USA Today Images)
It was a familiar scene, one that plays out each season by each team in the league. There were cardboard boxes everywhere and large, heavy-duty black trash bags stuffed with everything from clothes to nutritional supplements to personal mementos.
The Eagles cleaned out their lockers at the NovaCare Complex on Monday. It was what happens when the season ends and the offseason begins. Some guys lingered and talked in groups, others hung around the players’ lounge and shot pool or played ping-pong. Some of them know they’ll be back next season. Others aren’t so certain.
The Eagles have 10 free agents heading into the offseason: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Michael Vick (see story), Cedric Thornton (restricted), Donnie Jones, Clifton Geathers, Phillip Hunt, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson.
“I’m a realist,” said Maclin about the possibility of signing with another team during the offseason. “I understand that’s a possibility. Me and my agent, me and my team will get together and talk about what’s best for me -- the whole situation and go from there.”
Maclin, who was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the 2009 draft, blew out his ACL during training camp and didn’t play a single snap in 2013. A year ago, Maclin led the team in targets (122), receptions (69), receiving yards (857), catches of 20-or-more yards (12) and receiving touchdowns (seven).
His future with the team is uncertain, however -- because of his injury, but also because of the the emergence of his replacement. In Maclin’s absence, Cooper had 47 catches and finished second on the team in targets (84), receiving yards (835) and receiving touchdowns (eight) behind DeSean Jackson. The Eagles bring back either Maclin or Cooper. Or both. Or neither.
To hear Chip Kelly tell it, the Eagles won’t be making any personnel decisions soon.
“We’ve got a lot of time ... we’ve got to look at the entire season,” Kelly said, “and how this thing in terms of our evaluations of our players, of our scheme, of everything that we’re going to do.”
And so it goes for many of the Eagles' free agents. Thornton will almost certainly be back because he’s restricted and because of the way he played. (Thornton had 67 tackles, second among defensive linemen. He also played 713 snaps -- good for 58 percent of the defensive reps -- second-most among defensive linemen.) There’s a good possibility that Jones will also be back. He had the second-best punt average (48.8 yards) in the NFL this season and just one touchback. Beyond that, nothing is assured.
“I’d love to be back but it’s out of my hands,” Jones said. “I’ll go home and wait for a call -- hopefully it’s from here.”
Kurt Coleman expressed a similar sentiment on Monday. The safety had 14 tackles and no interceptions this season. He saw some time at nickel this year and also played regularly on special teams. Coleman, who had to fight for a spot on this year’s roster during training camp, has spent the last four seasons with the Eagles after being taken by the team in the seventh round of the 2010 draft.
“I’m at a good place,” Coleman said. “I was able to work on a lot of things and really get better as a player. Me getting some time at nickel, being able to focus on man-to-man coverage down in that position in the slot. I felt really good. Going into next year, I’m excited. God is going to open up a new door for me -- whether that means come back here, which is my home, or go somewhere else -- I feel really confident in this next chapter.”
Coleman, who is getting married in about a month, said he’ll spend time with his family while his situation is determined. Allen said essentially the same thing. While Allen isn’t getting married, he plans to head to Florida for some vacation time while waiting for what comes next.
Allen was something of a surprise this year. He was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft but had several disappointing seasons before producing his best year as a pro in 2013. Allen had an interception, six pass deflections, and was third on the team in tackles this season.
“I’m not going to get caught up in the chaos with free agency and where are you going and who’s offering,” Allen said. “I’m just going to let everything fall into place. I’d love to be back here in Philly. I like what’s going on. I had a lot of fun this season. I like the coaches, my teammates. We’ll see what happens.”