Carson Wentz the big winner after Eagles' free-agent flurry

Carson Wentz the big winner after Eagles' free-agent flurry

When Carson Wentz went to sleep on Wednesday night, his best outside receivers were Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham. 

No more tossing and turning. 

Wentz will sleep a little easier from now on. 

While Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith will be counting their millions and while Howie Roseman will be receiving praise for pulling off the short-term deals, the real winner on Thursday was the Eagles' 24-year-old franchise quarterback. 

Wentz finally has some weapons aside from his hunting rifles. But these weapons are actually good for the Birds. 

All things considered -- the ups and downs included -- Wentz had a solid rookie campaign in 2016. The No. 2 overall pick completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in Year 1. As a rookie and for a team with a serious deficiency at wide receiver, he moved into fourth place all-time for Eagles passing yards in a season. 

Wentz wasn't perfect as a rookie, but he certainly didn't do anything to disprove the Eagles' notion that he can be the guy to lead the franchise for the next decade. And now he has the tools to make a jump in that all-important second year. 

The objective this offseason was pretty simple. A year removed from working to acquire a franchise quarterback, this entire offseason was all about finding ways to build around him. While signing receivers to what are basically both one-year deals might not seem like the way, it at least ensures that Wentz will have quality receivers to work with in 2017. It ensures that he'll be able to get into a rhythm and be able to count on his receivers to catch passes. 

It ensures that his growth won't be stunted by players who simply don't belong. 

How many times did Wentz seemingly avoid pressure, run around in the backfield for five or six seconds only to find that no one had gotten open? How many times did he throw for a first down only to have the ball dropped? How many times could a receiver have pulled in a tough pass that wasn't perfectly thrown to help him out but didn't? 

Forget Bryce Treggs and (yes, sorry) Paul Turner. DGB and Agholor are now afterthoughts -- if the Eagles get anything out of them next year, great. But now, the Eagles will have proven commodities lining up for them next season -- these guys chose to come and play with Wentz, too.

And the way the puzzle should fit makes a ton of sense. 

Jeffery is the big-bodied (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) receiver that Wentz can feel confidence in when he throws up a 50-50 ball. More times than not, Jeffery will come down with it. 

Smith, even after six years in the league, is still a burner. He's the field-stretcher who can finally help Wentz hit on long balls. Just six players have caught more 40-yard passes than Smith (25) since he entered the league in 2011. That was an area where the Eagles were awful in 2016; they had just six 40-yard completions. 

And Jeffery can catch the deep ball, too. Both Smith and Jeffery have had a season with more 40-yard catches than the Eagles pulled in during 2016. 

On top of Jeffery and Smith, the Eagles will still have two of Wentz's favorite targets -- Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz -- roaming the middle of the field. The two additions ought to help both of them find plenty more open space across the middle. 

Those Eagles fans who always see the glass as half-empty -- and there are plenty -- will scoff at these moves. They'll point at the declining numbers for both players, which are undeniable facts. Catch totals have dropped for Jeffery and Smith in each of their last three seasons. But without that drop-off, neither would be holding press conferences in Philly on Friday. Instead, they'd be playing on huge deals elsewhere. So think of these moves as low-risk, high-reward options.

The low risk comes in the form of the short-term contracts. The high reward will come if having them for at least a year helps Wentz grow. 

Because ultimately, that's what it's all about: helping Wentz grow. 

And it's hard to grow without getting a good night's sleep. 

'Leaper' rule proposed by Eagles is adopted by NFL

'Leaper' rule proposed by Eagles is adopted by NFL

PHOENIX -- The only rule change proposal the Eagles ended up presenting to the competition committee has been adopted.

NFL clubs on Tuesday at the league meetings in Arizona adopted the rule proposal, which prohibits "leapers" from jumping over the line of scrimmage to attempt to block a field goal or extra point.

After originally proposing four rule changes and one change that would allow teams to wear an alternate helmet, the "leaping" rule was the only one the Eagles actually presented on Tuesday. The others were withdrawn.

Previously, players were allowed to leap over the line so long as they didn't make contact with other players. Now, no player is allowed to leap. While these plays are exciting, it was pretty clear the change was going to be adopted. The NFLPA previously pushed for this type of rule.

While a rule that would have shortened regular season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes didn't pass, seven more in addition to the "leaping" rule did.

All seven were proposed by the competition committee. Here they are:

- Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

- Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.

- Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. Previously, receivers had such protection only when attempting to make a catch.

- Prohibits crackback blocks by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

- Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews.

- Makes it unsportsmanlike conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

- Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Malcolm Jenkins, Boldin, others push lawmakers on criminal justice reform

Malcolm Jenkins, Boldin, others push lawmakers on criminal justice reform

WASHINGTON -- Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin and other players were meeting with members of Congress this week to push for legislation that leads to improved relationships between minority communities and local police.

Their latest outreach follows the racially charged rhetoric of the 2016 election, during which then-Republican nominee Donald Trump won fewer than 1 out of 10 black voters. Overcoming hot-button terms like "stop and frisk" and getting Republicans and Democrats to find common ground is a tall order, but one the players said they intend to tackle.

This is the second trip to Washington in the last five months for Jenkins and Boldin.

"Football is easier than doing this," Jenkins said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "You've got to do the research, and you've got to come prepared. And when you're speaking on behalf of other people, you want to make sure you bring the right voice to the table."

At the top of the players' list is putting an end to private prisons and doing away with mandatory minimum prison sentences that can put nonviolent offenders behind bars for lengthy terms. Jenkins and Boldin said there is too much focus on law-and-order solutions and not enough on preventing crimes before they happen.

"We all know that once you're in the system, it's hard to be a normal citizen," Boldin told AP. "You get discriminated against with jobs, with housing."

Boldin, who played for the Detroit Lions last season, said private prisons are a "huge problem" because the companies that operate them are often contractually assured a certain amount of inmate capacity. That can lead to an emphasis on incarceration.

"We feel like that's one of the things that leads to quotas by police officers," Boldin said.

Both Boldin and Jenkins said relationships between minorities and police remain fractured despite the protests and demands for reforms since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

"We get access to videos and it's on the news and people are starting to see what this looks like," Jenkins said. "And now those who weren't exposed to it before are forced to choose a side, and forced to deal with this issue. And that is what's dividing our country. The problem has been there. And it's always been there. But it's becoming harder for us to sweep it under the rug."

Jenkins and Boldin are scheduled to speak Thursday at a congressional forum on building trust between communities and police.

Joining them in the outreach effort this week are Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi and Donte Stallworth, a former NFL receiver.