The strange saga of the Eagles’ interest in bringing back Riley Cooper took another awkward turn Wednesday.
The Eagles and Cooper, who’s less than two weeks away from becoming a free agent, are reportedly nearing a deal, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It’s strange and bizarre news for several reasons.
First, the Inquirer just four days ago cited unnamed sources in a report asserting the Eagles prioritized wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, another soon-to-be free agent, over Cooper.
But its most recent report, also with an unnamed source, is a flip-flop, instead suggesting that Cooper is priority No. 1 for a long-term term deal and that Maclin is expected to ink a one-year prove-it deal coming off his anterior cruciate ligament tear that cost him all of 2013.
Second, just nine days ago ProFootballTalk.com reported that Cooper would face an “active market” in free agency, citing a league source. The site’s writeup suggested that several teams would be bidding for the receiver, who broke out for 835 yards and eight touchdowns and averaged just under 18 yards per catch.
“Significant demand,” the report said.
If several teams are lining up to make their best pitch for Cooper, then why would the fifth-year receiver re-up with the Eagles without first testing these active free-agent waters?
The likelihood is that the Eagles and Cooper are talking contract right now, because the team and Cooper’s agent, Joel Segal, met at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis and tossed around dollar figures.
The combine used to be a hotbed of tampering, but several agents have said that the three-day tampering window implemented by the NFL last year, which this year starts March 8, severely cut back the velocity of those contract term talks at covert Indianapolis outposts in the middle of the night.
It would surely help Cooper’s case if other NFL teams were under the impression that the Eagles were about to lock him up for the long term. It could force more general managers to pick up the phone and start talking dollar amounts and help Segal get an accurate gauge on the market for his client.
Or, perhaps Cooper is showing some loyalty to the franchise that had every reason to kick him to the curb last summer when his racial slur at a country music concert was caught on camera and went viral. It made him the subject of national scorn and a potentially polarizing figure in the locker room.
New coach Chip Kelly and several Eagles team leaders, many of them African-American, came to Cooper’s defense and welcomed him back after he took a brief leave to undergo counseling. Cooper then responded with his best season, showing that he’s an asset to Kelly’s record-setting offense.
At this point, with so many contrasting reports, anything is possible.