The Eagles are expected to bring wide receiver Jordan Matthews back for a third stint with the team after DeSean Jackson was placed on injured reserve, NFL sources said Wednesday.
While Matthews will, in essence, take Jackson’s spot on the 53-man roster, he won’t be expected to replace the speedy receiver’s ability to stretch defenses. But what he should bring is some stability to a position that has lacked consistency since Jackson suffered an abdomen injury in Week 2.
Matthews worked out for the Eagles on Tuesday around the same time that Jackson was undergoing surgery for his core muscle injury. Matthews was released by the 49ers last month. They had signed Matthews as a free agent to a one-year contract in March and initially cut him before the season. But they re-signed him for one game, in which he had no catches.
The 27-year-old Matthews was selected by the Eagles in the second round of the 2014 draft. He spent his first three seasons in Philadelphia and had 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. But he was traded along with a third-round pick to the Bills during the 2017 preseason for cornerback Ronald Darby.
Matthews played in only 10 games for Buffalo because of a broken thumb and a season-ending knee injury. He signed with the Patriots the following offseason, but was released during training camp after suffering a hamstring injury.
The Eagles signed Matthews a month later, after they lost Mike Wallace to a broken fibula in Week 2 last season. Matthews and Carson Wentz had developed a close friendship during their initial time together in Philadelphia. And while he was no longer the quarterback’s first option upon his return, the receiver caught 20 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, including a 56-yarder, in 14 regular-season games.
His lone catch in the playoffs was a 37-yard touchdown against the Saints.
No Eagles receiver, aside from Jackson in the opener, has caught a touchdown as long this season. Starters Nelson Agholor (43) and Alshon Jeffery (38) have just one catch apiece longer than 35 yards. Jeffery has caught 34 passes for 353 yards (10.4 average) and three touchdowns, and Agholor has caught 32 passes for 282 yards (8.8 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Jeffery’s and Agohlor’s per-catch averages would be the lowest of their careers if the season ended today.
The Eagles have also gotten very little production from reserves Mack Hollins (10 catches for 125 yards) and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2 catches for 14 yards). Matthews, at the least, should play ahead of them as the third receiver. While he spent most of his early career in the slot, he played mostly on the outside last year.
The Eagles’ options to upgrade at receiver this week were slim. They weren’t able to acquire one before last week’s trade deadline, although they were expecting Jackson to return from a six-game layoff. But he aggravated his injury on the opening drive of Sunday’s Bears game and, after just four snaps and one catch, was sidelined yet again.
A few notable receivers switched teams before the deadline. The Patriots acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons for a second-round pick, and the 49ers got Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick from the Broncos for third- and fourth-round picks.
The Eagles also could have claimed Josh Gordon off waivers from the Patriots last week. He eventually went to the Seahawks. Antonio Brown remains a free agent, but the receiver’s behavior and alleged off-the-field incidents had him exiled by the Raiders and Patriots over the last few months.