Today has the potential of being a pivotal one in the future of the Philadelphia Eagles, what with news breaking that they are expected to franchise DeSean Jackson and that Randy Moss is attempting a comeback.
Randy Moss is doing what?!? How does that affect the Eagles? They would never…would they?
On the surface, I’ll concede that it seems preposterous that the 2012 Eagles will have both Jackson and Moss on the roster once Lehigh time rolls around. But let’s conceive the inconceivable for a second because we’re all Philadelphians and that’s what we do.
I’ll start with Jackson, clearly the more likely to be in the fold.
We all know his numbers dropped this past season, falling well below his career averages. I’m not going to bore you with statistical breakdowns illustrating it because we all watched the games and we all saw—and in a sense didn’t see—Jackson’s performance and we all have questions about his ability to regain the game-breaking ability with which he had become synonymous in his first few years in the league.
So why would a $9.5 million franchise tag be warranted for an undersized, mercurial, concussion-prone receiver, especially when there are other alternatives out there in free agency, namely Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson and the guy I’ll talk about shortly?
Because, and this is a dirty little secret that manifests itself when #10 isn’t on the field, the rest of the Eagles’ receiving corps is not that good.
Without Jackson, we’re leading off with Jeremy Maclin, a nice complementary option but by no means consistent enough to be a top flight target. For those who disagree, I refer you to his fourth down drop against Atlanta, his costly fumble against the Giants and his inexplicably tripping over the turf monster on fourth down against Chicago. And that was just in 2011. If Maclin makes any of those plays, well, let’s not get into what might have been.
After Maclin come Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. While everyone who knows me knows I’m extremely fond of Avant, he’s the quintessential slot receiver/third down option. As long as you have vertical threats softening up the defense, Avant and his Freddie Mitchell-esque hands will find holes, make plays and move the chains. But Jason Avants are rendered ineffective without explosive playmakers lining up outside them as focal points for the defense. That’s just the way football works at the professional level.
Oh, and Riley Cooper sucks. No further analysis needed.
So, the choice is yours, Eagle fans. Well, not really, since it’s up to Jeffrey Lurie and Joe “Still No Championship” Banner and company. But evaluate the situation objectively. Without DeSean Jackson, you’re talking yourself into a receiving corps devoid of the Birds’ trademark explosiveness. Sure, you can pursue a big-name replacement or explore options in the draft—and it is worth noting that if/when Jackson is tagged, another team can potentially sign him to a long-term contract at the perilous expense of two first round picks—or you can get creative.
Well, provided none of the other 31 rolling stones known as NFL franchises decide to gather him, might the Eagles consider the once-electric Moss? (No relation to the author of this column, although the inquiries are recognized, understood and appreciated.)
While his announcement regarding a potential comeback is less than a day old and there has been little association between Moss and any team other than New England, we’ve seen the Eagles make big splashes out of nowhere before.
Consider the probables, however, and it makes more than a modicum of sense. Moss will undoubtedly only sign with a contender, and only those with established quarterbacks will likely even inquire about his services. Those two criteria alone eliminate the majority of NFL teams, and even more would be afraid, and rightfully so, that signing Moss would do little more than recruit a disinterested head case most recently seen languishing Iversonially on three teams in 2010.
For the Eagles, though, the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.
Regardless of how they proceed with Jackson, there will be the aura of potential resuscitation around Moss that has lured Reid before (see: Vick, Michael). EVERYONE knows next year is a Super-Bowl-or-bust one for both Reid and Vick, so why not take a shot on Moss, who at 35 is still capable of being an effective option if and when he’s interested in playing? And playing with Vick, formerly voted the most desired teammate by NFL players, would almost certainly pique Moss’ interest.
It should also be noted that rumors were rampantly circulating last summer that Vick and the Eagles were courting Moss to join the once-famous “Dream Team,” so any speculation once again linking the two parties isn’t exactly baseless.
So what should the Eagles do? Pay DeSean Jackson like a top-tier NFL receiver? Dangle him as trade bait and see who bites? Kick the tires on an aging superstar on the ever-elusive quest for one magical year?
Knowing the Eagles, they will explore all of the above. But it’s also worth noting that they have as many legitimate red zone threats as they do Super Bowls as they do roster members currently wearing Moss’ #84 jersey.