Riley Cooper came through with a breakout season for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, and he was rewarded for his efforts as the Philadelphia Eagles signed the receiver to a five-year, $25 million deal, according to the Eagles' official Twitter feed:
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news:
Eagles reached agreement with WR Riley Cooper on a five-year, $25 million deal, per a league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2014
Cooper was originally slated to enter the year as the Eagles' No. 3 wide receiver behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but plans changed when Maclin suffered a torn ACL in July. That opened the door for Cooper, and he busted through with what was easily the best campaign of his career.
The 26-year-old University of Florida product had never been a focal point in Philly's offense, but that changed out of necessity. Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy still got the bulk of the touches, but Cooper got his opportunities since opposing defenses didn't key on him quite as much.
Is Cooper worth the contract that he signed?
Cooper's season truly took off when Nick Foles took over the reins at quarterback. He was a big-play target for the young signal-caller, averaging nearly 18 yards per catch, and he finished the regular season with 47 receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.
The former fifth-round pick had never topped 23 catches or 315 yards in his previous three seasons, so 2013 was obviously a huge step up for Cooper, and it came at an advantageous time prior to hitting free agency.
Cooper owed a great deal of success in 2013 to the offensive scheme of head coach Chip Kelly. The former Oregon Ducks head man re-energized the team this past season, and he helped Cooper develop into a quality NFL starter. Because of that, Cooper made no secret of the fact that he wanted to remain in Philly once the season came to an end, according to Andy Schwartz of CSNPhilly.com.
"I want to be back. I want to be back. I love the system. I flourish in this system. I feel like blocking. I do all those things and I play the game so hard. I want to be back, for sure," Cooper asserted.
Most figured that the Eagles had a decision to make between re-signing either Cooper or Maclin, but general manager Howie Roseman didn't rule out the possibility of retaining both prior to the beginning of free agency, per Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Howie Roseman is saying the door is open to the #Eagles bringing both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper back.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 6, 2014
It remains to be seen if Cooper will be able duplicate and perhaps even improve upon the numbers that he put up in 2013, but his performance on the field wasn't even the biggest question regarding the wideout entering last season.
Cooper made headlines last offseason after he was caught using racial slurs on camera at a Kenny Chesney concert in July. It was a huge story that caused many to question Cooper's character, but it was ultimately pushed aside thanks to Cooper's strong production on the field.
The fact remains that Cooper made a massive mistake, though, and he must continue to prove that it was a one-time transgression. Cooper was seemingly a model citizen after that incident, so there is reason to believe that he has moved on and bettered himself.
If that is the case, then it is exciting to think about how much more he can develop as a player. Cooper is extremely difficult for any cornerback to cover at 6'3" and 222 lbs., and now that he has figured out how to set defensive backs up at the NFL level, the sky is the limit.
Some might argue that it wasn't a good idea to pay Cooper after one solid NFL season, but he could end up being the best value of free agency.
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