It all started with a text from Eagles coach Nick Sirianni.
The body of Sirianni’s message to wide receiver Zach Pascal contained only an eyes emoji: “👀.”
The pair of eyes represented the beginning of Sirianni’s recruiting pitch to Pascal, in an effort to convince his former mentee to rejoin him on the Eagles. The player-coach duo had previously worked for the Colts from 2018-20; during that span, Pascal recorded 12 receiving touchdowns.
Pascal was eventually swayed and signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with the Eagles. On Thursday, the team formally introduced him at the NovaCare Complex.
“Knowing the relationship we had in Indy and being able to talk throughout the season last year, connecting and growing all the time — that played a big part,” Pascal said of Sirianni. “I entered free agency just trying to get better at my craft. I didn’t know where I wanted to go.
“But hearing from Nick and the conversations we had, I’m excited to be here; I’m excited to be in Philly.”
Pascal, 27, reunites with Sirianni, who previously served as his offensive coordinator for three seasons. The 6-foot-2 receiver has been primarily featured in the slot throughout his career. This could bode well for the Eagles, who’ve lacked a true weapon from the slot over the last several seasons, especially when considering the struggles of former first-round pick Jalen Reagor. Pascal has 15 career touchdowns; with Carson Wentz as his quarterback last season, he recorded 38 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns.
Pascal declined to discuss his potential role nor his past success from the slot. Rather, he offered a team-first reply that fits the culture Sirianni has implemented across the locker room. “I go into every season not thinking of a role, but to do whatever is asked,” he said. “If that’s blocking 50 people, then I’ll go block 52 people. If they want me to make catches, I’m going to make spectacular catches.”
Asked why he thinks Sirianni is a big believer in his abilities, Pascal replied: “He’s explained this to me — my work ethic, how I face adversity, how to be tough in certain situations and not fold, how to be successful despite dealing with whatever you’re dealing with. Just continuing to grind it out and also competing. That’s where it comes from ... Nick puts guys in great positions to succeed. If he sees me as a red-zone target ... I’m always ready to find the end zone.”
With his base salary of $1.035 million — the league minimum for a player with his years of service — Pascal is a low-risk signing who won’t break the bank. But he is only the second free agent to join the Eagles since free agency kicked off at the beginning of last week.
The Eagles have reportedly pursued others, including safety Marcus Williams and receiver Christian Kirk, but they’ve yet to make a splash signing. General manager Howie Roseman indicated during the scouting combine that the front office would be active in pursuing a pass rusher, so the addition of Haason Reddick shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Still, the team’s lack of outside additions is concerning. There are lingering needs at safety, linebacker, and cornerback.
Pascal will provide experience and leadership to the receiver room, but can the team be truly satisfied moving forward with the current depth chart? Besides No. 1 wideout DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, there aren’t any proven options in the passing game.
The coaching staff holds high regard for an emerging Quez Watkins, who could star on the opposite side of Smith, but the Eagles would desperately benefit from additional talent. The team could potentially fill some of those holes in the NFL draft; Philadelphia has 10 selections, including three first-round picks.
Pascal cited Sirianni as the main driver behind him joining the Eagles, but also pointed out how he is now closer to home. Pascal, who is soon expecting his first child, grew up in Upper Marlboro, Md., about 100 miles away from Philadelphia. He has spent the past two days meeting some of his new teammates and coaches, and also exploring the city.
Upon signing with the Eagles, Pascal asked Sirianni for Jalen Hurts’ phone number and proceeded to shoot his new quarterback an introductory text. The two players exchanged several messages and exuded excitement.
“I hit [Hurts] up and told him I can’t wait to make things happen,” Pascal said. “He responded, ‘Yo! We’re going to put on, for sure.’ Watching the film, he’s a very dynamic quarterback. I’m very excited to get here and work with him.”