Future with Eagles uncertain for Jeremy Maclin

Future with Eagles uncertain for Jeremy Maclin

Eagle Eye: Needs on offense

January 7, 2014, 1:45 pm
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Jeremy Maclin led the Eagles in catches (69), receiving yards (857) and TDs (seven) in 2012. (AP)

It took Jeremy Maclin a while to walk down the hallway, and longer still to make his way inside the NovaCare Complex locker room to collect his things. He seemed to limp a little -- not much, just enough that you noticed -- but that wasn’t what caused the delay.

Every few feet someone stopped him. Nick Foles said, “What’s up, Mac?” Riley Cooper gave him one of those half-handshake/half-hug greetings. Jason Avant chatted him up. In the very back of the locker room, DeSean Jackson was sitting on a chair in front of his stall. When he saw Maclin approach, Jackson tried to get up but stopped when Maclin leaned over on top of him and wrapped him in a full embrace. They laughed and talked for a while.

That’s how it went for Maclin on Monday. So many people wanted to say hello -- or maybe goodbye.

Maclin is one of 10 Eagles free agents (see story). Going into training camp this season, Maclin was confident. He said he was “excited” to play for new head coach Chip Kelly. He expected to have a big year and then sign a big deal (see story). Instead, he blew out his ACL during 7-on-7 drills before preseason games even began.

“It was frustrating for me personally, for myself,” Maclin said. “But, at the same time, I was happy for these guys. I was happy to see Riley [Cooper] step up and emerge as a playmaker in this league and see [DeSean Jackson] go out there and make some plays as well. Like I said, I’m happy for these guys. I have not one selfish bone in my body. These guys have worked hard. It was good for me to sit back and watch them have the success they had.”

The big year he was poised to have? That went to Jackson, who had nine touchdowns and set career-highs in receptions (82) and yards (1,332). Jackson’s yardage total was the second-best mark in Eagles history. Jackson has a contract (even though he’d like a new one). Maclin doesn’t.

“Yeah, you think about it,” Maclin said when asked if he wonders what might have happened if he hadn’t suffered the injury. “But everything happens for a reason. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”

The question is what happens next and whether the Eagles are interested in bringing Maclin back. While he was out, Cooper stepped into his role and finished second on the team behind Jackson in targets (84), receiving yards (835) and touchdowns (eight). Cooper also had 47 catches. It’s possible Cooper will return and Maclin won’t. It’s possible Maclin will return and Cooper won’t. Or both could be back. Or neither.

Maclin said there hasn’t been much discussion yet with the Eagles about his future. When he was asked whether he’d take a one-year deal -- which sometimes happens with free agents coming off an injury -- Maclin said he’s “a realist” and understands “that’s a possibility.” He also said he wants to stay in Philadelphia and that he still believes Kelly’s offense would be a good fit for his abilities.

Would he be willing to sign for a discount if it meant staying in town?

“I’m going to look at what’s best for me, talk to my agent and my team,” Maclin said. “Money isn’t everything. I have to see what’s best for me and look at the numbers, look at the personnel, and I think we’ll make our decision based on that.”

Maclin, who was taken by the Eagles in the first round of the 2009 draft, led the team in targets (122), receptions (69), receiving yards (857), catches of 20-or-more yards (12) and receiving touchdowns (seven) in 2012. It was a solid year. But he’s never reached the 1,000-yard plateau or made the Pro Bowl. And now he’s coming off an injury that might make some general managers hesitate before offering him a contract.

Maclin understands all that. He knows what’s ahead of him. He’ll be forced to prove his worth -- and his health.

“I’m running right now,” Maclin said. “The next step is going side to side, but everything is going good. I’m pleased with where I am right now and how things are going.”