I know there’s been a lot of talk over the past few weeks as to whether the Philadelphia Eagles should keep wide receiver Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper. Honestly, I think every fan in their right mind would be praying that the Birds find some feasible way to hold both on this roster. Sadly, as ideal as that scenario might be from a talent stand point, the amount of money it would cost to pay both players the money they deserve would leave the team with almost no money to allocate to other areas.
After injuring his ACL, Maclin missed a crucial year as the Eagles were led by not only a new quarterback in Nick Foles but a new head coach in Chip Kelly. With the speed, size and potential that he possesses, I doubt that it would take him too long to acclimate to the revitalized offense. But that’s not what concerns me on Maclin’s behalf. My issue is the amount of money he most likely expects given his past performance. Maclin has hauled in 258 catches for 26 touchdowns for an average of 13.4 yards per catch in just four years with the Birds. No doubt that if he would have played this season those numbers would have sky rocketed, but fact is, he didn’t play. What makes matters worse is that Cooper had on hell of a year.
Nearly getting cut due to an off the field issue and starting the season incredibly slow, Cooper exploded the second half of the year. During his breakout performance, he caught 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns for a 17.8 average yard per catch. Not only did he emerge as a true number two wide receiver, he emerged as a huge safety net for Foles. He had someone to just lob the ball to and let them make a play. This kid is due for another shot.
My issue with both of these receivers is that I don’t believe either is due for a big contract after last year, but if they don’t get it, who knows where they’ll end up. Maclin’s statistics virtually speak for themselves but does he deserve to get big money coming off a season where he sat the sideline? Cooper had a phenomenal year, but is he just a one hit wonder?
I like both these guys and don’t want to see either of them go, but I feel that if the Eagles really needed to focus on keeping one, Maclin would be the way to go. With the New York Jets expressing interest in Maclin where he would clearly get paid a huge sum of money and easily be their number one wide receiver, he won’t last long in free agency. Although it would be a risk for Maclin to go to a team with a quarterback who threw almost double the amount of interceptions as touchdowns while the Eagles have a Lombardi trophy competing team, we have no idea what he values. Not saying he’s not a team player, but the Jets could always make an offer he can’t refuse.
I don’t know how many teams would express interest in Cooper if he were to test free agency. Cooper often times found it difficult to find separation between himself and others covering him. He’s more of a one dimensional player whose strength is going deep and gaining big yardage, while Maclin is multidimensional. He’s big, he’s fast and in my opinion, has the best hands of the receiving corps besides Jason Avant. He creates space and makes tough catches all over the field.
The Eagles cannot afford to lose a great receiver like Maclin, especially when they would get nothing in return. He was drafted in the first round for a reason; he’s got some serious talent. Besides, if the Birds are fortunate enough they can always draft another low round wide receiver that could end up playing over his head and losing Cooper wouldn’t be that big a deal. Or, best case scenario, the Eagles don’t sign him to a large sum of money and he doesn’t get picked up by another team for an amount the Birds can’t match. Maclin is a must for this offense to take the next step, but I really hope Cooper remains a part of the plan.