DeVonta Smith is the Eagles’ clear WR1.
He proved it with his dominant play throughout his rookie season, breaking the franchise rookie receiving yards record, and finishing with 916 yards. The 2020 Heisman Trophy award winner is an alpha-type wide receiver, who is capable of making all the difficult catches.
But what about the rest of the group?
In three consecutive years, the Eagles have spent premium draft picks at wide receiver. They selected JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 draft, Jalen Reagor in the first round of the 2020 draft, and Smith with their top pick this past April.
Smith has been a smashing hit, but the other two selections mentioned haven’t panned out.
Arcega-Whiteside (No. 57 pick) and Reagor (No. 21) have disappointed tenfold when compared to the other wideouts selected in their respective draft classes. Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (No. 64) and Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (No. 22) are common comparisons, but the front office’s missteps drafting receivers in recent years goes beyond those two players.
In Reagor’s case, seemingly taking any other receiver on the board might’ve been the better decision (see: Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Michael Pittman, Chase Claypool, and Tee Higgins, among others).
The 2021 Eagles were centered around a run-heavy offense, thanks to their stout offensive line and a dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts. But too often, we’ve witnessed today’s modern NFL revolve around success in the passing game.
Exactly how do the Eagles plan to supplement Smith and Hurts in that department?
“I’m pleased with this group,” coach Nick Sirianni said earlier in the week. “You’re not going to have the same statistical output when you’re the type of offense that we were this year, but I am very pleased with this group. I know that this is a good group. Are we always going to look to add talent to the group and play-makers to the group? Of course.
“But I like where we sit right now as the wide receiver group, and I think we can continue to grow at that group because of the talent we have and the guys that we have in that room.”
Sirianni and general manager Howie Roseman made it clear they are standing by Hurts as their starting quarterback in 2022.
However, it is counterintuitive for Roseman to say the Eagles want to “do whatever they can to continue to help [Hurts] develop” and “surround him with really good players,” only for Roseman to keep the wide receiver corps as is heading into next season.
It would be a disservice to the 23-year-old Hurts to keep Reagor as the team’s No. 3 wideout, as labeled by Sirianni. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside has yet to develop as a pass catcher or route runner; he’s been handcuffed to blocking and special-teams roles.
The team has a pair of reliable offensive weapons in the passing game in Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. Wideout Quez Watkins is a speed option, who hauled in a respectable 647 receiving yards, but can he develop into a viable WR2?
Improving the defensive personnel should be the team’s top priority, but finding a receiver to star alongside Smith should be next on the list. The Eagles are loaded with draft capital — 10 total picks, including three first-rounders in the top 19.
They also currently have roughly $12.2 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap. That figure can fluctuate throughout the offseason based on roster moves and potential cuts. If the Eagles opt for veteran help, Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Mike Williams, and Michael Gallup headline a loaded free-agent wide receiver class.
During his season-exit interview with reporters, Roseman admitted his disappointment in Reagor, stating he will be expecting more out of the former first-round pick heading into his third season. But the general manager appeared to walk back his line of thought just moments later while he discussed the need to surround Hurts with premium talent.
“How they are in their second year is not how they are going to be in Year 4, 5, 6, and 7,” Roseman said. “And they are also products of the people around them.”
Will Reagor ever reach ‘Year 4, 5, 6, and 7’ with the Eagles? The lack of production — whether it be his pair of infamous touchdown drops versus the Giants or his one catch for 2 yards and pair of muffed punt returns in the NFC wild-card round — says otherwise.
Roseman concluded: “That’s on us to continue to build this team.”