Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Eagles working to keep offense together
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman could ensure remarkable continuity for Chip Kelly's offense with a series of contracts that reportedly are in the works.
According to multiple reports, the Eagles could announce a new deal with wide receiver Riley Cooper as soon as Thursday. The team also appears likely to sign Jeremy Maclin to a one-year deal before the former first-round pick gets to the open market.
Center Jason Kelce, who had one year left on his rookie deal, was also close to a new contract, a source confirmed Wednesday night. The Eagles extended Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters' contract Wednesday.
The Eagles are reportedly working to keep Riley Cooper and their offensive lineup intact.
Keeping Cooper and Maclin from the free agent market means the Eagles could start the same offensive lineup in 2014, with the addition of Maclin, as the one that started the playoff game against New Orleans.
"We're going to try to keep our best players and the guys that we feel are part of our culture and that fit well into the chemistry of our football team on and off the field," Roseman said Wednesday. "It's an important message for us this offseason. We know these players. We've lived with them."
Roseman has said all along the Eagles were open to bringing both Cooper and Maclin back. He has also said the team was intrigued by the depth of wide receiver talent in the draft this year.
Maclin, 25, was the Eagles' first-round pick in 2009. In 59 games (57 starts), he caught 258 passes for 3,453 yards and 26 touchdowns. Maclin's best season was 2010, when he caught 70 passes for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns -- all career highs.
All of those games were played for head coach Andy Reid. As he prepared for Kelly's first season last July, Maclin tore his ACL during a training camp practice. He missed the entire 2013 season.
That created an opportunity for Cooper, a 2010 fifth-round pick who had started 10 games over his first three seasons under Reid. No sooner had Cooper moved up the depth chart then a video of him using a racial epithet at a concert surfaced on the Internet. Kelly and the Eagles fined Cooper, who left camp for several days to seek counseling, but he remained with the team.
Cooper started 16 of 17 games, including the Eagles' playoff game against New Orleans. Through five games, all started by quarterback Michael Vick, Cooper had just eight catches. Once Nick Foles assumed the starting job, Cooper's production exploded. He finished with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. He also proved himself a capable blocker, which is critical in Kelly's run-first offense.
The impending free agency of Maclin and Cooper was "complicated" (in Roseman's words) for several reasons. The Eagles have Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson under contract. Veteran Jason Avant has two years left on his deal, but is considered a candidate to be released or to have his salary cut for cap purposes. Maclin's injury and Cooper's notoriety make their market values uncertain.
After the playoff loss to the Saints, both players said they would like to return to the Eagles. Maclin said he knew he might have to take a one-year deal to show that he's fully recovered from the injury.
"I'm a realist, so I understand that's a possibility," Maclin said on Jan. 6. "Me and my agent, we'll get together and discuss what's best for me and then go from there."
"I want to be back," Cooper said. "I'm hoping the Eagles come into play and I'm here. It's a first for me. I don't know what it's like. I know I'm not on a team. I want to be here. It's such a great group of guys."