Brandon Lloyd? Laurent Robinson? T.O. or Randy Moss? Washed-up big-name veteran to be named later?
That is not the direction the Eagles are going to go.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Sunday the Eagles are likely to replace injured Jeremy Maclin from within instead of signing a veteran street free agent.
“You want your young players to grow and develop, and that’s why you keep young players on your roster,” Roseman said Sunday morning, before the Eagles’ open practice at the Linc.
“You look at the good teams in this league, that’s what they do with their players. They develop them, they groom them, then they give them an opportunity.
“So sitting here, it’s not even August, we have a lot of reps to evaluate our team, and it doesn’t mean we’re not going to look for ways to improve. But at the end of the day, you have to show confidence in the players that you brought in.”
Maclin, one of only 12 receivers in NFL history to catch at least 50 passes for at least 750 yards in each of his first four seasons, is likely out for the season after tearing his right ACL during practice Saturday at the NovaCare Complex.
Roseman said Maclin’s surgery has not yet been scheduled. Maclin, who watched Sunday’s practice from the sideline, remains on the 90-man active roster and Roseman will wait until at least the cut to 75 on Aug. 27 to make a roster move with Maclin.
The Eagles do have the option of placing Maclin on short-term IR, although the expectation is that he’ll miss the entire season.
“We’ll just see where we are in a couple weeks,” Roseman said.
There are significantly red flags regarding most of the top veteran receivers on the street.
Lloyd isn’t a great locker room guy. Robinson has had severe concussion issues. Owens hasn’t played since 2010 and brings a ton of baggage. Moss struggled with four teams over the last few years and would cost a fortune. Etc.
The Eagles just figure the way to build with a new coach and a young team is with guys the Eagles already brought in.
Roseman said that in determining the best direction to go to replace Maclin, the Eagles took into account not only their crop of receivers but also their deep pool of running backs and tight ends.
“We have a lot of faith in our skill position group as a whole, and that’s kind of how we look at it,” he said. “We look at the running backs, we look at the tight ends, and those are the guys we have high hopes and high expectations for. That’s what camp’s for, the competition, and that’s why we brought in people to compete.
“We’re always going to explore options and see if there’s ways to improve our roster, but right now we’re excited about some of the guys we talked about, and we’ll go from there.”
The Eagles haven’t taken a receiver in the first four rounds of the draft since Maclin in the first round back in 2009. They have a bunch of receivers on the roster, but most are inexperienced.
Riley Cooper, a fourth-year pro out of Florida, and Damaris Johnson, a second-year undrafted receiver and returner, will likely get the first crack at Maclin’s starting spot.
Cooper had 13 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown in three starts in 2011 and has 46 catches for 679 yards and five TDs in three seasons. Johnson, the all-time NCAA total yardage record holder, has tremendous speed and caught 19 passes for 256 yards as a rookie and should be a very good fit in Kelly’s offense.
Jason Avant has 259 catches for 3,199 yards and 10 TDs in seven years with the Eagles, but is almost exclusively a slot receiver at this point in his career and will likely stay there.
Arrelious Benn, a former second-round pick, is also in camp, but has just 59 receptions in three NFL seasons – just four last year. He’s currently sitting out practice with a knee injury that’s not considered serious.
That leaves a bunch of rookies and untested first-year pros: Will Murphy, Russell Shepard, Ifeanyi Momah, Greg Salas, B.J. Cunningham and weekend acquisition David Ball, the all-time NCAA Division 1-AA receiving leader.
All will get more reps with Maclin on the shelf.
“I don’t think it matters right now who’s 1, who’s 2,” Roseman said. “For us right now, it’s about evaluating all those guys.”
Maclin caught 258 passes for 3,453 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first four seasons.
“Jeremy’s a heck of a player,” Roseman said. “Great character, hard worker, he had a great offseason, and it’s disappointing for him, and it’s disappointing for us.
“He’s 25 years old, and he’ll come back from this. He’s overcome a lot of adversity in his life. He’s got tremendous character. We’re hurting for him, but at the same time we’ve got to keep going and find guys.
“People in this business are going to get hurt, it’s a matter of who those guys are. It stinks that it’s Jeremy Maclin, but it’s not August yet, and we’ve got to move on.”
Roseman didn’t have much to say about Maclin’s contract status. Maclin is unsigned beyond this year and his value obviously will take a significant hit going into free agency.
“Obviously, you’re talking about a good player and a high-character guy, and we’ll have to see where it goes from there,” Roseman said.
If Maclin had held out, none of this would have happened. Will that give future players without contracts beyond the current season fodder to hold out?
“Jeremy did all the right things, and when you look at the history of guys who have held out, things don’t necessarily work out for those guys, too,” Roseman said
“What kind of reward are you going to give a player who doesn’t do the right thing when you have other players like Jeremy who are setting the right example and doing the right thing and working hard and with their teammates? What kind of message are you sending there, too?”