Eagles favor keeping Maclin over Cooper

Inquirer Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - The Eagles have prioritized retaining Jeremy Maclin before Riley Cooper as the wide receivers near free agency, according to NFL sources.

If all goes to plan, the Eagles will sign Maclin to a one-year contract and attempt to acquire another starting-caliber receiver via free agency. Cooper remains on the radar, and the Eagles could circle back if they don't land another target, but securing Maclin will take precedence.

There is a market for the 25-year-old Maclin despite the fact that he suffered a season-ending knee injury last July. But he will likely have to accept a prove-you're-healthy one-year deal, something he has said he had come to terms with.

Maclin would have likely received a multiyear contract had he played out his fifth season. While he never topped 1,000 yards receiving in his first four seasons, Maclin entered the 2013 season ready to "prove his worth."

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  • He had high expectations playing in Chip Kelly's fastbreak offense, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first full day of training camp on July 27. It was the same ACL he tore as a freshman in college at Missouri.

    "Doubted me once . . . played 2 years 2 time All-American," Maclin tweeted earlier this month. "Doubt me again shame on yall."

    Even though Maclin had only limited time practicing in Kelly's offense, the Eagles coach saw enough of the receiver to be convinced that he would thrive in his system, a source close to the situation said.

    Maclin has said several times since the season has ended that his preference was to remain in Philadelphia and that the Eagles had remained in touch with him and his agent, Ben Dogra. He has stayed in the area and rehabbed at the NovaCare Complex thus far this offseason.

    When Maclin went down in July, Cooper was promoted into his starting spot opposite DeSean Jackson. He caught just nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in the first five games, but pulled in 39 receptions for 742 yards and seven touchdowns in the final 11 games after Nick Foles took over for Michael Vick at quarterback.

    Cooper averaged a third-best-in-the-league 17.8 yards per catch and did strong work as a downfield blocker.

    He has already drawn interest from several teams other than the Eagles, league sources say. But his resume isn't as accomplished as Maclin's - he was essentially the fourth receiver in his first three years - and he does come with baggage.

    The Eagles were able to weather the storm after video of Cooper using a racial slur surfaced, though, and the receiver avoided further incident. Some teams could be wary of adding him to their locker rooms.

    Cooper is one year older than Maclin - he'll be 27 in September. He played all 16 games last season, but missed the first five of the 2012 season with a broken collarbone. Maclin was inactive for only one game in his first two seasons, but missed four the next two seasons with various injuries before sitting out all of 2013.

    Eagles general manager Howie Roseman admitted that keeping both Maclin and Cooper would be "complicated" and that the wide receiver depth in the draft was just another "piece to the puzzle."

    "We're trying to figure out the whole dynamic of it," Roseman said Thursday at the NFL combine. "You can only put a limited amount of resources into the position before it starts taking out from other places. And you have to factor in also the quality of the depth in the draft."

    If the 6-foot Maclin were to return and start alongside the 5-10 Jackson, the Eagles would have two of the smaller starting wideouts in the NFL. The 6-3 Cooper is one of the larger free-agent receivers, along with Eric Decker (6-3) and Kenny Britt (6-3).

    Hakeem Nicks, Anquan Boldin, James Jones, Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate are some other free-agent options at receiver.

    The Eagles are also expected to be in the market for a slot receiver with the 30-year-old Jason Avant likely to be waived. Avant's offensive production slipped last season, but he contributed in other ways and his presence in the locker room will be sorely missed.

     


    jmclane@phillynews.com

    @Jeff_McLane

     

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