With Jeremy Maclin Contract in Place, Eagles Keep Building Where It Matters Most

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

We might as well just call this "Eagle Week." The defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles have hit one in-house home run after another to close out the month of February, and according to the team's Twitter account, they put the cherry on top of what's already been an immensely successful 2014 offseason by re-signing wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a one-year deal Friday. 

By doing so, the Eagles have managed to get better before both free agency and the draft, which isn't an easy feat. Not only did they lock up key offensive lineman Jason Peters and Jason Kelce to extremely long-term, team-friendly, cost-affordable extensions earlier this week, but they also ensured that breakout wide receiver Riley Cooper would be back. 

Take last year's playoff team and add Maclin, who has Pro Bowl-worthy talent and four 750-yard seasons under his belt but missed the entire 2013 campaign due to a torn ACL, and you've got something special. 

“I’m excited to see Jeremy play in our offense,” said Kelly in a statement, per PhillyMag.com. “You saw the potential of that in the spring and summer but obviously he didn’t get an opportunity last year. However, what was great to see was how he was literally here every single day since being injured."

With Cooper and DeSean Jackson serving as the team's top two receivers, the Eagles had the league's No. 2-rated offense in 2013. But they'll have a target on their back and will need to give third-year quarterback Nick Foles as much support as possible in 2014, because in this division and this parity-stricken league, if you're not getting better you're usually getting worse. 

With Jackson, Cooper, Maclin, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, Foles will have one of the most talented groups of pass-catchers in the NFL. Only Celek is over the age of 27, and none of them have reached 30.

Jackson is the lightning bolt with big-play ability, Maclin is the reliable multipurpose wideout, and Cooper is the physically imposing red-zone option at 6'3". If all three are healthy—and Maclin expects to be 100 percent by June, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirerthat's scary. 

Top three Eagles receivers (career-high stats)
1. DeSean Jackson$9.7M2782133210
2. Jeremy Maclin$5.5M257096410
3. Riley Cooper$5.0M26478358

In fact, you could make a perfectly reasonable argument that Foles will enter 2014 with the best offensive line, the best receiving corps and the best running back in football, which is simply ridiculous. 

Maclin is guaranteed $3.5 million if he makes the roster, according to McLane, but he'll make between $5.5 and $6 million for one season of work, depending on incentives. As a result, the Eagles are now committing at least $20.2 million in average annual salary to their top three receivers, which is more than anyone else in the league and is 15 percent of the projected $134 million salary cap for 2014. 

Brad Gagnon/Spotrac

But why not? Again, this is about supporting Foles and building the passing game, which is how you win in today's NFL. Foles' rookie contract still has two years remaining, and the Eagles will still have approximately $20 million cap space entering free agency, per Spotrac.

If they're smart with that money, they should have enough rollover into 2015 and 2016 to take care of that sparkling 2012 rookie class (Foles, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry, all of whom possess contracts that expire in 2016).

They would also be giving long-term deals to defensive starters Bradley Fletcher and Cedric Thornton, both of whom are currently slated to become unrestricted free agents next offseason. 

March has yet to arrive. More damage can and likely will be done in free agency and the draft, where Philly has performed well ever sense general manager Howie Roseman rose from the shadow of Andy Reid and Joe Banner two years ago.

And by the time all of that is said and done and we're looking ahead at training camp, it's hard to imagine anyone picking a team other than the Eagles to win the NFC East title. 

In fact, thanks to Roseman's moves this week and especially his ability to lure Cooper and Maclin back. I'd say the Eagles are quickly becoming a Super Bowl-worthy team.