Grading the Eagles’ moves: WR Alshon Jeffery

Grading the Eagles’ moves: WR Alshon Jeffery

While I’m still trying to figure out how the Eagles can possibly afford to do this, there is very little not to like about signing Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal.

Sure, $14 million is a steep sum, although Jeffery is worth every penny if he returns to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2013 and ’14. Even if it doesn’t work out, this is a one-time payment. It’s $14 million less than could’ve been spent on another player or carried over into 2018, yet the opportunity to sign a true No. 1 receiver in free agency and test drive him for one season doesn’t come often.

And make no mistake, Jeffery absolutely has the ability to be a No. 1. This guy has it all. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and 33-inch arms, Jeffery possesses tremendous catch radius. That size makes him a weapon inside the red zone, as evidenced by his 17 touchdowns over the ’13-14 seasons, but he can also stretch the field, his career 15.0 yards per reception good for 11th among active NFL players.

Jeffery is coming off of a pair of seemingly ordinary campaigns that maxed out in 50-reception, 800-yard range. Still, his career 72.2 receiving yards per game ranks 10th among active players and 18th all-time.

The down years are certainly a cause for concern, although the Bears have been terrible, too, winning nine games during that span. Jeffery also battled injury in 2015 and was only able to play half a season, while a suspension over performance-enhancing drugs cost him a quarter of the ’16 campaign.

If you take Jeffery’s production over the past two years and project that over a full 16-game season, it works out to 81 receptions and 1,240 yards. That’s pretty much in line with Jeffery’s numbers in ’14, when he posted 85 receptions and 1,133 yards, and not far off of his Pro Bowl effort in ’13, with 89 receptions and 1,421 yards.

Can the Eagles get a full 16 out of Jeffery? Obviously, that is a larger issue than his play, which is tremendous. For a single payment of $14 million, the risk is minimal.

In fact, if there is a downside to this deal at all, it’s Jeffery becoming a free agent again in 2018. The Eagles, understandably, didn’t want to get locked into something super long-term after the suspension, injury and modest seasons. Still, there’s no guarantee that Jeffery won’t have a tremendous season and wind up in a different uniform a year later.

The Eagles aren’t entirely without protection, as they can always use the franchise tag to restrict Jeffery’s movement if need be. Of course, all of this is putting the cart before the horse. Jeffery has something to prove after the last two years, and if he’s able to, the Eagles are in strong position to capitalize, both in 2017 and beyond.

Grade: A

Previously: Grading the Eagles' moves: WR Torrey Smith

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

It was great to be back at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday and take in an Eagles practice, even if it was non-contact. There’s a lot of buzz around the team right now, and minimal time to cover everything, so let’s dive into some of the storylines that slipped through the cracks during the first week of OTAs.

The thought that the Eagles are secretly fuming over Carson Wentz seeing a private quarterback guru seems ridiculous. It’s not uncommon for NFL players -- even quarterbacks -- to seek council during the offseason. Tom Brady did it, and I don’t recall any drama ever unfolding with the Patriots as a result of that. Perhaps some mild concern has been expressed behind closed doors, as Wentz’s mechanics are a constant work in progress, and Eagles coaches surely prefer he learn the methods they’re teaching. Then again, I highly doubt somebody earned the title of “quarterback guru” if they’re not passing along standard NFL techniques. It was an even bigger reach to suggest Doug Pederson’s displeasure over this development was on display during his press conference on Tuesday.

I’m not one to place a whole lot of stock into OTAs, but seeing rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas on the field with the first-team defense in nickel situations is a promising sign. He didn’t look out of place, either. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Douglas matched up well with Alshon Jeffery. I could see his size being an asset against NFC East rivals like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor -- bigger receivers the Eagles will face two times each this season. While performance in OTAs typically means squat, it was about this time last year when Jalen Mills began ascending the depth chart, and he wound up playing quite a bit. It’s early, but given the situation at cornerback, not at all far-fetched to anticipate a similar role coming for Douglas.

While I agree with the premise Nelson Agholor could improve and go on to have a respectable NFL career, Eagles teammate Brandon Graham isn’t really the most relatable example. It’s time for the seemingly annual reminder that Graham’s progression was derailed by a major knee injury as a rookie. He essentially missed the following season, and was buried on the depth chart upon returning. A year later, the defense switched to a 3-4, which was an adjustment as well. Yet, time and time again, Graham would perform at a high level whenever he got into games, finally earning his starting job back in 2015. Agholor has been a starter the past two seasons, and aside from a high ankle sprain his rookie year, he’s been relatively healthy. What’s the excuse here? Agholor may be a late bloomer, but Graham’s experience breaking into the league was vastly different.

The revelation that Vinny Curry was affected by a knee injury last season can be taken one of two ways. Some may see it as an excuse for his modest performance after signing a massive contract extension a year ago, which currently looks like an expensive mistake. I prefer to view the injury news as another reason to give Curry a slight pass. We’ve all seen what an explosive pass rusher he could be, racking up 9.0 sacks in 2014 while playing only one-third of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. If he was hampered by the knee -- Curry admitted wearing a brace for much of the season -- that could certainly help explain why he often seemed invisible. Even if he simply wasn’t very good, Curry has another opportunity to prove himself in 2017. Might as well take the optimistic outlook.

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is teaming up with Mayor Kenney, the city of Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross, and the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation to help protect you from the sun's harmful rays.

As part of the Sun Smart America initiative, the Phillies will place 12 sunscreen dispensers around Citizens Bank Park in addition to 6 dispensers located elsewhere around the city. 

This Sunday, May 28th, is also Melanoma Awareness Day at the ballpark when the Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds at 1:35. 

Schmidt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and try to promote the importance of protecting one's skin from the sun. He knows from a trying personal experience.

"The sun almost took my life," Schmidt told the Palm Beach Post after his battle with skin cancer. He spent months going through heavy radiation and chemotherapy and is currently cancer free.

The sunscreen dispensers at the ballpark can be found at all entry gates as well as on the Rooftop, Pavillion, and Terrace levels beginning on Sunday.