Roseman: 'Complicated' dilemma at wide receiver

Roseman: 'Complicated' dilemma at wide receiver
February 5, 2014, 10:15 am
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Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both unrestricted free agents and could be pried away from the Eagles when the new league year begins in early March. (USA Today Images)

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman spoke Sunday about free agency, the draft and other issues facing the Eagles this offseason in an interview with Eagles columnist Reuben Frank on 94 WIP. The quotes in this story are from that interview.

On the surface, the decision seems simple.

The Eagles drafted and developed receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. They watched Maclin, the 18th pick in 2009, blossom into a consistent receiver with a double-digit touchdown season and two near 1,000-yard years before tearing his ACL last camp. They watched Cooper, a 2010 fifth-round pick, step into Maclin’s role and break out for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.

In an ideal world, general manager Howie Roseman would prefer that both receivers come back in 2014 to pair with Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson and veteran Jason Avant.

The NFL isn’t an ideal world.

Maclin and Cooper will each have their contracts expire when the new league year begins March 8 if neither re-signs with the Eagles beforehand.

Roseman suggested that bringing both back isn’t a slam dunk. He mentioned salary cap constraints and this year’s deep draft class of receivers to explain why the situation is more complex than it might appear.

“Well, I think it is complicated, because you have guys that you want to have back,” Roseman said, “and also, what resources are you going to devote to that position with the guys who are already on the roster?

“And then you look at it in the draft, obviously a very strong position, so I think ... it's a complicated situation but we've never ruled out bringing both of those guys back.”

The Eagles have cap flexibility and could afford to keep both, but they must go about their business this offseason with an eye on the future. One year from now, extensions will be due for several significant pieces of the team’s nucleus, including quarterback Nick Foles, cornerback Brandon Boykin, defensive end Fletcher Cox and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Starting center Jason Kelce is eligible for an extension this offseason.

On the same plane, Jackson’s base salary spikes from $6.75 million last year to $10.25 million this coming season and $9.75 million in each of the final two years of his deal. Jackson has already sounded alarms that he’s seeking even more money, which probably didn’t go over well in the front office.

The fact that Roseman mentioned wide receiver depth in this year’s draft is a fairly strong indication that the Eagles are already planning to fortify the position this April in their new favorite personnel playground.

Put this together and it’s sound logic that Roseman envisions a scenario where one of his two free agent wideouts won’t be back.

Maclin, coming off his knee surgery, has publicly admitted that he’d like to return and understands that his knee injury likely spoiled his shot to land a long-term deal.

Cooper, who survived his racial slur incident in training camp, is coming off his best season. He could be an attractive commodity for a rebuilding team (like Jacksonville) with a young quarterback and some money to spend.

The Eagles and Cooper haven’t yet engaged in any substantive contract talks, according to a source close to the situation, but conversations will take place this month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Roseman didn’t rule out bringing back Maclin and Cooper, but he also said the Eagles aren’t far from where they want to be offensively. Last year’s team that set records for offensive yards and points needed only one of those receivers to break those records.

“Both of those guys are guys we drafted, we feel they fit into the system,” Roseman said, “and I think if Jeremy was healthy he would've had a heck of a year with us.

“You talked about the Broncos and the Seahawks -- we do not think we're very far away on offense, about the kind of offense we have, and you want to keep building on a strength. I think that's very important in the National Football League -- if you have a strength, keep building on it.”