Throughout the 2016 season, the talk around the city of Philadelphia was about how inept the play of the Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers was. For every positive play an Eagles wide receiver made, they would take two steps back with a negative play.
Jordan Matthews was the Eagles’ most consistent wide receiver in 2016, but that is not saying a lot as he had 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns. Despite those numbers, he still has issues catching the football. Sticking with the notion of catching the ball, that was the problem for Nelson Agholor, and Dorial Green-Beckham, who were disappointments to put it politely.
With Matthews being the only consistent wide receiving threat for quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ front office brass knew they had to upgrade the position in the offseason.
Smith, who spent the past two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, is a wide receiver who can stretch the field. The Eagles have not had a wide receiver who could stretch the field and put pressure on opposing teams’ secondaries since DeSean Jackson.
Smith essentially signed a one-year, five million deal with two five million dollar options over the next two seasons.
Jeffery, however, was also signed to a one-year deal for $14 million. When the news came out about Jeffery signing a one-year deal, it shocked a lot of people.
Many people expected Jeffery to seek a contract for $14 million per year, but not for one season. This is where the expertise of Eagles’ Executive Vice President Howie Roseman comes into play. He knew coming into free agency that the Eagles did not have a lot of money to spend. With that being known, the Eagles released defensive end Connor Barwin, which freed up $7.75 million towards the salary cap.
The release of Barwin helped the Eagles acquire both wide receivers as they are on “prove it deals.”
The 2016 season was not good for neither Jeffery nor Smith. With the 49ers, Smith posted career-lows across the board with 20 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns. A reason why Smith’s numbers were low is because he had two different starting quarterbacks under center in Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick.
Let us be honest, neither Gabbert nor Kaepernick have the skills and the arm like Wentz. The Eagles are hoping that Smith can return to his 2014 form with the Baltimore Ravens, where he had 49 receptions for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. While the 11 touchdowns may be unrealistic for the 2017 season, if he can average 15.7 yards per reception, that means he is doing his job.
Eagles fans remembered when Jackson posed the threat of blowing the top off of opposing defenses every play and how he opened things up for other players. If Smith can bring that same type of impact, he will make life easier for Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz.
Finally, when you look at Jeffery’s 2016 season with the Chicago Bears, it was not great either. Jeffery only had 52 receptions for 821 yards and two touchdowns. Not to mention, he also missed four games due to a suspension for PEDs.
Nevertheless, when Jeffery is healthy and playing to his full potential, he is a mismatch on the outside and is the big body target that the Eagles have missed since Terrell Owens. Now I am not saying Jeffery will make the same type of impact Owens did, but Owens made life easier for McNabb and the entire Eagles’ offense.
The Eagles are hoping that Jeffery can open things up outside the numbers and across the middle of the field. They are also hoping that he can be a playmaker in the red zone.
Over his six-year career, Jeffery has 14 red zone touchdowns. Having a 6-foot-4, 230-pound target to throw the ball up to in the end zone against a smaller cornerback is a great option to have.
The Eagles have started out free agency in a great way by fixing one of their biggest needs, which was holding them back in 2016. Now it will be up to Jeffery and Smith to play up to their potential. If they do, then the Eagles should be able to compete in the NFC East and both will be back. However, if they do not, then the Eagles can cut their losses and move on.