Putting the Jeremy Maclin injury into perspective
One day after Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL, the fallout can begin to be understood. There's a few topics to discuss, both for Maclin and the Eagles. Let's look at both...
FOR MACLIN: The injury is obviously devastating, for multiple reasons. Anytime a player loses a season in training camp, it's difficult to digest. Add in the fact that it was a starting player taking a bigger role in the offense, and that devastation is amplified. Finally, there's the contract year component to the situation.
On the topic of the contract year, let's clear something up: Maclin theoretically could have held out, but he wasn't going to hold out. And it was not just for the earnest, team-first reasons. Maclin wanted to play out the final year of his contract. From multiple conversations with Maclin, he was bullish about how he could perform this season -- especially relative to past seasons. Had he signed an extension before the season, it would have been a nice deal -- maybe in the area of Mike Williams' contract -- but it would not have been the type of contract Maclin could have earned with a healthy, 1,000+-yard season in 2013. And he knew that. Maclin is smart, and he was aware of his situation. He wanted a better season to increase his value. It could be the difference between $10 million guaranteed and $20 million guaranteed.
So now what will he earn? An ACL is not the type of injury that can preclude a player from getting a big contract (see: Darrelle Revis), but certainly he's not going to get what he could have earned with a big season. A good place to look is Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas. Thomas was also an emerging player in a contract year, and he tore his ACL during the preseason. Similar to Maclin, it was the same ACL that was torn in college.
The following offseason, Thomas procured a four-year deal with a max value of $28 million. Only $1 million was guaranteed, though, so it was a deal that protected the team. (And it was for good reason: Thomas sustained another injury.) The market is different for wide receivers, but Maclin likely won't earn significant guaranteed money up-front. His other option is taking a one-year "show me" deal -- a good situation for him to prove he's healthy and get another change at a big pay day.
But an ACL in 2013 is not a career-threatening injury, especially because it happens at age 25. It's complicated by the fact that it's his second torn ACL, but Maclin can still return from this. However, there will be hurdles before he gets a big pay day.
FOR THE EAGLES: The Eagles are unlikely to find a player elsewhere who can duplicate Maclin's skills. The free agent market is weak at this time of year -- Brandon Lloyd and Randy Moss are names you'll hear, but the name is bigger than the production. The Eagles also need to determine the value of a one-year band aid. They could attempt to make a trade at this point; remember, they acquired Donte Stallworth in late August in 2006. But they need to find a player who falls out of favor, and it's unlikely to be a difference-maker. Plus, that doesn't usually happen until after training camp.
So let's look at internal options. The best option might be Arrelious Benn, if he can stay healthy. He has the size and talent to be a strong player, but Benn has not been able to stay consistently healthy. He's already injured, although he's a name to watch. A big asset with his is run-after-the-catch abiility. He averaged more than 6 yards after the catch in each of his three seasons. Then there's Riley Cooper, who's a big receiver and a reliable blocker, which Chip Kelly values. He lacks the speed the team is looking for, but he has experience. Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell was impressed with him during the spring.
Damaris Johnson could be intriguing, but not to fill Maclin's spot. He's 5-foot-8, and he's awfully similar to DeSean Jackson. Johnson can have a role in the offense, but it'll unlikely be Maclin's role. What he does well and what Maclin does well are different, and Johnson's role will probably remain what Kelly envisioned even better the injury.
The Eagles might hope an unproven player emerges in the preseason. There's intrigue on the coaching staff about Ifeanyi Momah, who is 6-foot-7 and 239 pounds. He's awfully raw, and how often does a player come out of nowhere in his first year to excel? (You can say Victor Cruz, but even he spent his first year on injured reserve. Cruz's rise didn't come until year two.)
There are not too many young, solid receivers on the roster. In the past three drafts, the Eagles have had 28 picks. Only one has been a wide receiver.
The best bet is to look at the Eagles' tight ends. There can a bullpen-by-committee, so to speak, among the wide receivers on the opposite side of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant in the slot, and run a tight end-centric passing game. James Casey and Zach Ertz are versatile enough to split wide, which can happen. But with multiple tight end sets, Kelly has options. Kelly admired what Bill Belichick and Bill O'Brien have done in recent years, so you can see more of that look. Ertz is especially a player to watch. Don't be surprised if he's among the Eagles' leading receivers. Celek can stay in the role of the traditional tight end, and the other two
The next few days will be crucial for the receivers on the roster. But the best here is to look at the tight ends.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.