Veterans Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper were re-signed to new deals, but Jackson’s release upgrades the pair from No. 2 and 3 receivers to No. 1 and 2 receivers in the offense, respectively. That may be a stretch, considering Maclin has never been the focal receiver in any offense, despite being a first-round pick. Cooper will play the same role he did a year ago, but he won’t have Jackson opposite him requiring safety help.
General manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly will assuredly draft a receiver in the draft. They’ve been linked to numerous players, notably USC’s Marqise Lee and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. It’s an extremely deep receiver class, so the organization may wait until the middle rounds to target this position.
A free-agent gamble in veteran playmaker Sidney Rice may be a worthwhile investment, especially after Rice was medically cleared to play football, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Rice is fresh off a Super Bowl championship with the Seattle Seahawks, although he played sparingly and will be attempting to come back from a torn ACL.
Rice totaled just 15 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, and his $8 million cap hit for ’14 led to his release from the Seahawks. Rice has really only had one strong season since being taken in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft, and that came in ’09 with Brett Favre. That year, Rice caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl selection.
Rice has also struggled with injuries, missing 31 of a possible 112 games since being drafted. He's played all 16 games just twice. He's missed an average of six games in each season since 2010.
Rice did run a 4.49 coming out of South Carolina in ’07, which is good speed, although obviously, he won’t be quite as fast now. Kelly has been an advocate of bigger players, and Rice and Cooper give him two solid red-zone targets, each checking in at 6’4”.
If Rice performs well in a private workout with the team, he would be a solid investment in an incentive-laden deal similar to the one Kenny Britt signed with the St. Louis Rams. Britt’s one-year deal was worth just $550,000 in guaranteed money, but it included up to $1.5 million extra in incentives. A deal slightly higher than Britt’s could be reasonable for Rice; he may get a one-year deal for up to $3 million.
The Eagles would likely use Rice as their No. 3 receiver for now, although depending where the team drafts a receiver in May could push Rice down to the fourth spot. But the release of veteran slot man Jason Avant does mean more depth is needed for that position; right now, Arrelious Benn, Jeff Maehl, Damaris Johnson and Brad Smith are competing for those final spots.
With Philly having over $20 million in cap space still, per EaglesCap.com, the money won’t be an issue. It’s simply whether Kelly views Rice as a good option for Nick Foles or if he’s content with Maclin, Cooper and drafting a receiver.