There’s a loaded crop of wide receivers in this year’s draft — at least five guys could potentially go in the first round, and that’s just a safe estimation. How the Eagles decide to handle the free agent market will hinge on what happens with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. Unless the Eagles are unable to get both guys back — a scenario that’s highly unlikely — they’d probably consider a cheap, depth-providing option over a big name. Even then, they still could just address the need solely in the draft.
For now, we’ll assume that DeSean Jackson, a draft pick and either Maclin or Cooper will occupy the Eagles’ top three wide receiver spots. This then leaves Jason Avant as the fourth option.
Avant had a poor year in 2013. He caught only 38 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns, which was a far cry from his numbers in the prior four seasons. He’s due a base salary of $2.25 million, with a cap hit of just under $4 million. However, the Eagles would only see $710,000 in dead money against the cap if he’s cut.
This is prime territory for a contract restructuring, but cutting ties altogether seems like the route they’ll take. He’ll be 31 next year — his contract year no less — so Avant’s probably on his way out.
If this happens, the Eagles need to add another pass-catcher. With Arrelious Benn’s injury history, Brad Smith’s age and a lack of experience to round out the roster, the current group probably isn’t reliable enough.
So who could the Eagles get?
Since we’re talking low-budget, this pretty much rules out any of cover32’s top ten available wideouts (sans Maclin and Cooper, of course). The Eagles would be smart to look for a player who doesn’t have much leverage in negotiating a deal outside of one year.
One guy that immediately sticks out is Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn’s cap hit in 2013 with the Carolina Panthers was $1.1 million, with a base salary of only $750,000. A former top-ten pick, he certainly hasn’t done enough over the course of his career to warrant big money. He could be bought inexpensively, and utilized in various ways.
One of Ginn’s strengths is his ability in the return game. The Eagles have gone a long time without a legitimate kickoff or punt returner, and the addition of Ginn would help immensely. He averaged 12.2 yards per punt return last year — in comparison, Damaris Johnson (who will be cut) only averaged 8.3.
Ginn is a blazer, having been clocked as low as 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He’s showcased speed over the course of his career that Johnson hasn’t been able to. Judging by this video, I’d say Ginn is a poor man’s DeSean Jackson (work with me here):
From a receiving standpoint, Ginn has underachieved considering his draft status. With the Panthers last season — his third team in his seven year career — Ginn’s numbers weren’t all that bad, though. He caught 68 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns. He was responsible for 24 first downs, meaning he moved the sticks roughly 35 percent of the time he caught the ball.
His big-play potential is what makes him such a great fit for Philadelphia’s offense. Chip Kelly’s attack is predicated on spacing, and Ginn has the speed and quickness to excel in said space. It doesn’t always matter how big you are, so long as you can get open.
Ginn won’t ever be the primary receiver he was drafted to be, but he’d fit nicely into a four man rotation.
Signing him would be a low-risk, high-reward move — something that’s an ideal fit for the Eagles at this time. They could still afford to draft an additional wideout, or even sign a guy during camp, even with Ginn on the roster. If he doesn’t crack it in the Kelly offense, the Eagles would eat little salary by cutting him.
Unlike in offseasons past (see: 2011), the Eagles have started to mold themselves into a franchise more worried about fit than name power. Signing Ginn suit would this mantra, and the Eagles could eventually reap the rewards of an inexpensive piece to the puzzle.