Contract Year for Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin Could Benefit Both Player and Team

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 25, 2013

Nov 11, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The majority of the Philadelphia Eagles' perceived "key players" are signed to long-term contracts that don't expire any time soon. The rare exception entering the first season of this new era in Philadelphia football, however, is former No. 19 overall pick and current No. 2 receiver Jeremy Maclin

Maclin indicated over the weekend that he wants to remain an Eagle beyond his 2013 contract year, but he realizes how big this season will be for him. 

From's Sheil Kapadia:

"I'm anxious," Maclin said Saturday at LeSean McCoy's charity softball game in Lancaster. "I'm ready for the season to start. This is a big year for me personally with my contract coming up and everything. So I'm just looking forward to it."

Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted on Monday that talks had taken place but indicated that Maclin sees his value increasing:

There have been preliminary discussions about a new deal, but he thinks his stock can only ascend. The 2009 first-round pick has been a steady contributor for the Eagles, but has not yet recorded a 1,000-yard season. He said he wants to stay with the Eagles and his contract status will not be a distraction this season.

"I think I can only get better," Maclin said. "I think it will be good for me to go out there and just play ball and let everything else take care of itself."

Might Maclin's value have to increase in order for his time in Philly to be extended? Remember: Maclin was inherited, not handpicked, by new head coach Chip Kelly. That's the case with every other receiver who was on the roster in 2012, but it's possible Kelly will force Maclin to prove that he can live up to being a first-round talent before gambling on him long-term. 

Kelly also has some of his own "guys" now, with potential No. 3 receiver Arrelious Benn arriving via trade and intriguing prospect Ifeanyi Momah joining the squad as an undrafted free agent. 

That might be part of the reason trade rumors swirled around the 25-year-old Maclin earlier this offseason, but those have since been squashed.

The thing about Maclin is he's been very good, but never great. He's a top-notch No. 2, but nobody knows if that's his ceiling. He's not a consistent deep threat, which is a tad troubling when you consider that he has dropped 29 passes in four seasons. 

He's been relatively healthy and there's little reason to believe injuries will plague him moving forward, but he still hasn't managed to put together a 1,000-yard season. It's easy to appreciate the fact that he's always had at least 50 catches, 750 yards and four touchdowns, but 40-50 NFL receivers hit those marks each year. 

Essentially, Maclin hasn't proven to be a special enough player to force the Eagles to panic and get something done immediately. They've got plenty of options in the receiving corps, including veterans Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. Benn and Momah stand chances, and Damaris Johnson has shown glimpses as well.

So why rush? Maclin seems to think he can finally prove how special he is this season, so make him do so. There doesn't appear to be any risk of a holdout, and you always have the franchise tag at your disposal in case the excrement really hits the fan in 2013. 

The Eagles actually have to be prudent here. They had money to burn this offseason but are now expected to be much closer to the salary cap next offseason. Most of the core is locked up, but they still have some guys to take care of, which is why Maclin is going to be auditioning throughout the 2013 campaign. 

Both sides seem to be OK with that, which is the best news of all.