The 20 best wide receivers in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles

We rank the top 20 wide receivers in Eagles history.
Harold Carmichael, Philadelphia Eagles
Harold Carmichael, Philadelphia Eagles / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

They're called "divas." They're often referred to as "selfish." Some have even been referred to as the equivalent of "icing on the cake." Some say you can win a Super Bowl without great receivers. That may be true. Ask any Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller though. If your offense lacks one or two, the difficulty of doing so increases.

Somewhere, Donovan McNabb is hanging out, and he's asking himself a question. Where were DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown when I was playing? We totally understand you, 5! There are days when we ask ourselves similar questions.

Philly isn't known for its great receivers like, say, the cross-state Pittsburgh Steelers. We have, however, seen several rock the Kelly and Midnight Green. Buckle up. Here's their story.

What happens when we grab a few handful of names and stack them? We're glad you asked. We welcome you aboard our broken-down "Wentz Wagon."

Twenty Eagles ranking. Here's how things shook out. We hope you enjoy!

20. Alshon Jeffery

Tenure: 2017-20

Regardless of where he began his career, what happened with Carson Wentz, or how it ended in Philly, everytime we look at Alshon Jeffery, we're going to remember that catch on the bomb from Nick Foles in that NFC Championship Game and the TD snag in the Super Bowl that followed.

19. Jordan Matthews

Tenure: 2014-16, 2018-19

Jordan Matthews was the 42nd overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft. He enjoyed two tours of duty in Philly. Never forget the time he and Sam Bradford connected for a game-winning TD versus the hated Dallas Cowboys in overtime.

He has seen multiple teams during his NFL career, but he just feels like one of us. He earns a spot on our list after racking up over 3,000 yards and 21 TDs during 62 regular-season games.

18. Charlie Smith

Tenure: 1974-81

Former Grambling State receiver Charlie Smith was Harold Carmichael's rival in college. He entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent added by the L.A. Rams. By 1974, he, Carmichael, and his collegiate teammate, former Eagles defensive end Ricky Smith, were teammates on Philly's roster.

Smith went on to play eight seasons in an Eagles jersey. He snagged 218 receptions for 3,349 yards and reached the end zone 24 times. That's damn good for a UDFA.

17. Terrell Owens

Tenure: 2004-05

Obviously, if we were discussing the top NFL wide receivers of all time, Terrell Owens would be higher on this list. As an Eagles wideout, we have to place guys ahead of him. We can't, however, ignore the storm he brought with him for 21 games, nor can we ignore his performance in Super Bowl XXXIX.

If only he and Donovan McNabb could have worked through their differences...

T.O. was so talented and loved in the City of Brotherly Love that he could have evolved into one of Philly's favorite sons. Unfortunately, when we think of him, we limit his mentions to his debut in the home opener, that go-ahead TD versus the Baltimore Ravens, the broken leg, the return, nine catches in the Super Bowl, and sit-ups in the driveway.

Wow. What could have been.

16. Irving Fryar

Tenure: 1996-98

Irving Fryar won't be remembered as an Eagles receiver. He's a member of the New England Patriots' All-1980s Team and their 50th Anniversary Team. What a run he had for three seasons in Philly though.

Fryar appeared in 48 games with 48 starts and snagged 222 receptions for 3,067 yards while finding his way into the end zone 19 times. For his trouble, he was voted onto two Pro Bowl rosters.

He may not be an Eagle for life, but he was pretty good for three seasons.

15. DeVonta Smith

Tenure: 2021-present

Name 10 Eagles receivers with more God-given talent than DeVonta Smith. Don't worry.. We'll wait. Keep checking back. He'll be much higher on this list when he decides he is done playing.

DeVonta set the franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie in 2021. In Year 2, his 95 receptions were the most by any Eagles wide receiver at the time (tight end Zach Ertz still owns the franchise record for most catches in a single season by any player regardless of position), though A.J. Brown claimed that record for himself in 2023.

DeVonta can do anything. We truly believe that. Kick your feet up and enjoy the show.

14. A.J. Brown

Tenure: 2022-present

A.J. Brown's tenure in Philly began with an unexpected trade during the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft. He rode into town like a conquering hero. More importantly, he has also played like one.

A.J. is a matchup nightmare, one who can run over cornerbacks and past them. Like DeVonta, he won't be left out of the top 10 for long.

13. Jason Avant

Tenure: 2006-13

Merrill Reese once called Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin the best Eagles wide receiver trio he has ever seen. Hey, if they're good enough to pass Merrill's eyeball test, they should be good enough for all of us.

Avant would be good in any era of Eagles football. He caught everything en route to 297 receptions, 3,646 yards receiving, and 12 TDs during 116 regular-season games with 52 starts. He also snagged 25 receptions for 259 yards and a trip to the end zone during eight postseasin games with four starts.

12. Calvin Williams

Tenure: 1990-96

Calvin Williams' career began with a bang as he earned a spot on Football News' All-Rookie Team in 1990. He was a small guy. He stood at 5-foot-11 and tipped the scales at 181 pounds, but he played like he owned a bigger frame.

Williams never made a Pro Bowl roster, but he's firmly entrenched in the Eagles' record book after stacking 295 receptions, 3,840 yards, and 34 TDs in 93 regular-season games with 83 starts. He added another receiving TD, 17 receptions, and 200 yards receiving during six postseason games.

Take a bow, Calvin! You have earned it!

11. Fred Barnett

Tenure: 1990-95

Many of those aforementioned in-game appearances by Calvin Williams featured Fred Barnett on the other side of the formation. A third-round selection in 1990, the former Arkansas State Red Wolves standout earned a spot on an All-Rookie Team like Mr. Williams, the Pro Football Writers of America's version. Then, he worked his way onto a Pro Bowl roster in 1992.

Barnett's Pro Bowl mention lands him ahead of Williams on our list. A whopping 308 receptions, 4,634 receiving yards, and 28 TDs during 91 regular-season games didn't hurt his cause either. Neither did the 18 receptions, 283 receiving yards, and three TDs he racked up during five Eagles postseason games.

10. Ben Hawkins

Tenure: 1966-73

He played during an era of Eagles football in which the Birds weren't very good, but you would be hard-pressed to blame any of the failures on Ben Hawkins. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1967 (but was snubbed from the Pro Bowl roster). He even enjoyed a tour of duty with the World Football League's Philadelphia Bell in 1975. Talk about giving your all to a city.

Philly only won 37 of 112 games during Hawkins' run with the organization, but the Belmar, New Jersey, native did his part, stacking 261 yards, 4,764 yards receiving, and 32 TDs during 102 games with 93 starts. It's sad he never got to play in a postseason game.

9. Jeremy Maclin

Tenure: 2009-14

During the first round of most NFL Drafts, Andy Reid typically went with an offensive or defensive lineman. In 2009, the Eagles rolled the dice on a wide receiver from Missouri with the 19th overall selection. That decision worked out pretty damn well for him.

Maclin, a Kirkwood, Missouri, native, settled in nicely as one of the City of Brotherly Love's adopted sons. A Pro Bowler in 2014, he gave blood, sweat, and tears to the Eagles organization.

He did so during the regular season (343 receptions, 4,771 yards receiving, and 36 TDs during 75 games). He did so during the postseason (two games, 10 receptions, 219 yards receiving, one TD). Like so many guys on this list, Maclin would have been effective in any Eagles offense.

8. Bobby Walston

Tenure: 1951-62

Bobby Walston gets lost in the shuffle sometimes — nationally, we mean. No diehard Eagles fan with knowledge of this team's history has to be told how great he was.

He's a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, the Eagles Hall of Fame, and the NFL's 1950s All-Decade Team. His resume, however, extends past that.

He was the NFL's scoring leader in 1954 and a two-time Pro Bowler who was a part of the Eagles team that won the 1960 NFL Championship. That's a mighty fine resume for a 14th-rounder who came off the board at No. 166.

7. Harold Jackson

Tenure: 1969-72

Harold Jackson was taken 323rd overall in the 1968 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Back in those days, that made you a 12th-rounder. He found his way to Philly in 1969.

What followed was one of the great runs in Eagles history: 215 receptions, 3,493 passing yards, and 21 receiving TDs in 56 regular-season games with 52 starts. He led the NFL in receiving yards and yards per game in 1969. He also topped everyone in 1972 in receptions (62), receiving yards (1,048) and yards per game (74.9).

For his trouble, he earned two Pro Bowl nods (1969, 1972) and a second-team All-Pro nod in 1972. Had he not played during an era of bad Eagles football, his tenure may have received even more acclaim.

6. Mike Quick

Tenure: 1982-90

Before Mike Quick was the color analyst on the Eagles' radio call, he carved out his place as one of the greatest receivers in franchise history. He's co-owner of a record that can never be broken, a 99-yard TD reception. He deserves his spot in the top 10 and the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame.

He only played 10 games five times during his nine-year career. He only caught 44 passes after his 29th birthday, but he earned two first-team All-Pro nods (1983, 1985) and five straight Pro Bowl mentions (1983–1987), and he led the NFL in receiving yards in 1983.

The great Merrill Reese once said "if he's even, he's leaving." That says it all about Mr. Quick. Only three players in NFL history have carved out three consecutive seasons with 60 catches, 1,000 yards receiving, nine TDs or more, and a 17 yards-per-catch average. The other two are Lance Alworth and Randy Moss.

Quick is the only receiver in Eagles history to be named first-team All-Pro more than once. Can you imagine what would have happened had he played on grass instead of the unforgiving turf at Veterans Stadium?

5. DeSean Jackson

Tenure: 2008-13, 2019-20

Maybe we're biased, but as far as we're concerned, DeSean Jackson is the greatest deep threat in NFL history. No disrespect is intended to Randy Moss or James Lofton, but let's face it. There's nothing in the world like D-Jax.

DeSean torched defensive backs with regularity and ease. When he decided to call it a career, his 45 TDs of 40 yards or more ranked second in NFL history.

His final TD as an Eagle came versus Dallas, an 81-yarder delivered just two days after Christmas. He was 34 years old at the time.

In total (95 regular-season games with 94 starts), he tallied 379 snags, 6,512 yards receiving, 35 receiving TDs, 1,296 yards on 132 punt returns, and four return TDs. He even racked up 385 yards and three rushing TDs on 58 career carries plus another 321 receiving yards and two receiving TDs on 19 career playoff receptions.

He has caught TD passes from Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, and Jalen Hurts. Who else can say that? Make no mistake. DeSean was a legend and all kinds of special.

4. Pete Retzlaff

Tenure: 1956-66

Well, it seems like the Detroit Lions have been making bad decisions for a while. We'd like to thank them though. This one paid off mightily for Philly.

The Lions selected Pete Retzlaff 265th overall in 1953. As strange as this sounds, in those days that made the draftee a 22nd-round selection.

Pete wouldn't make the Lions roster in 1953, so he went to the Army. After two years of service, he was sold to the Eagles and spent 11 seasons as a flanker and tight end after being converted from fullback.

Things worked out well in Philly (sorry, Detroit). He was part of the team's 1960 NFL Championship-winning team. He was also a two-time first-team All-Pro (1958, 1965) and a two-time second-team All-Pro (1964, 1966), and he made five Pro Bowls during his 11 seasons.

He spent four seasons as Eagles general manager, but not before tying for the NFL lead in receptions in 1958. He's a Bert Bell Award winner (1965) and a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame. His No. 44 jersey is retired. Not bad, huh?

3. Pete Pihos

Tenure: 1947-55

From one Pete to another.

We'll tell you this. When NFL stars go to sleep at night, they hope and pray they can construct a resume like the one belonging to Pete Pihos. Just sit back and let the following soak in.

He's a two-time NFL champion (1948, 1949). He's a six-time first-team All-Pro (1948, 1949, 1952-1955), a six-time Pro Bowl nod (1950-1955), and a member of the NFL's 1940s All-Decade Team.

Three times, he led the NFL in receptions (1953-1955). Two times, he led the league in receiving yards (1953, 1955). He tied for the league lead in receiving TDs in 1953 (10).

He's a member of the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team, the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Need we say anything else?

2. Tommy McDonald

Tenure: 1957-63

Listen up, youngsters! Before LeSean McCoy rocked the No. 25 jersey, there was Tommy McDonald. A flanker with the Eagles for seven seasons, his tenure with the Birds, like his peers on this list, is the stuff of legend. Mull all of this over for a couple of ticks.

An NFL champion (1960), he's a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He's a legend, and despite stops in four other cities (Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Cleveland), he's an Eagle through and through.

His resume consists of two first-team All-Pro nods (1959, 1960), three second-team All-Pro designations (1959, 1961, 1962), and six Pro Bowl mentions (1958–1962, 1965). He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1961. He topped the list of receiving touchdowns leaders twice (1958, 1961). He's a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team, and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

Case closed. He's an all-timer.

1. Harold Carmichael

Tenure: 1971-84

Harold Carmichael is a personal fave of most Eagles fans who watched him play, met him in person, or ever spoke with him in passing. He's also the top receiver in our rankings, and it will be hard to knock him from his perch.

Eagles do sit on perches, right?

Anyway, here's why Harold Carmichael tops our list.

He spent 20 seasons as the Director of Player and Community Relations, where he got to know most of the men on this list. Before that, he made his mark on the game while crafting a resume most would pay for.

It's hard to find guys who stand at 5-foot-10 with his fluidity of motion. It becomes increasingly difficult to locate 6-foot-8, 225-pounders with the same. Mr. Carmichael is among the latter.

Here's the resume: first-team All-SWAC (1970), Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Florida Sports Hall of Fame. If you're stating that none of that has anything to do with the Eagles, then we present Exhibits B-I into the evidence.

  • The 1980 NFL Man of the Year (1980)
  • Two-time second-team All-Pro (1973, 1979)
  • Four Pro Bowl nods (1973, 1978–1980)
  • 1973 NFL receptions leader and receiving yards leader
  • Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame
  • Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary Team
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame

We've said this about a few guys on this list. We do the same for Harold. He would be effective in any era of Eagles football.

A franchise-record 589 receptions in 13 seasons. A franchise-record 8,978 yards receiving. Seventy-nine receiving TDs.? That's also a franchise record. We asked this about Mike Quick, and it bears repeating for the sake of argument. Can you imagine if he had played his home games on grass?

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