Reggie Brown’s contract states that he will be a Philadelphia Eagle until 2014.
Now is his chance to prove why he deserves that honor.
Even the most knowledgeable of insiders believes that it’s at least somewhat truthful to suggest there are exactly 10 million reasons Brown remained an Eagle for the 2009 season—those being every single dollar he’s still guaranteed from the huge contract extension he signed in November of 2006.
Unfortunately, he’s been almost relatively useless since then, and in the one major sports league where almost nothing is guaranteed, his contract is an veritable iron-clad albatross.
But with only five active (and four healthy) receivers on the roster, Brown now has a chance to show why he was heralded as the future when the Birds plucked him in the second round of the 2005 Draft.
It’s been a long, strange road for Brown. Coming out of Georgia, he was heralded as the classic “underrated underachiever”—a player who had tremendous potential masked by superior talent around him. But boy, did he have potential.
When he got the opportunity to step into Terrell Owens’ starting spot midway through 2005, Brown seized it—to the tune of 43 catches, 571 yards and four TDs. He seemingly got even better after Owens left in 2006, racking up 46 catches for 816 yards and eight TDs while starting all 16 games.
That was when he signed his extension…and his career seemingly fell off the cliff.
2007 wasn’t terrible—61 catches, 780 yards and four TD—but it was a regression. The Eagles had signed Kevin Curtis that off-season, and as both he and Brown were the same type of receiver (and neither was a true No. 1), most thought they would have interchangeable success as “No. 1A and No. 1B.”
Instead, Curtis had a career year, Brian Westbrook had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and Brown slid back a bit and clearly became the No. 2 receiver (and really, the No. 4 option) for Donovan McNabb.
If only he knew how good it was.
2008 saw injury and ineffectiveness cripple Brown’s status. He only played 10 games and was limited to 18 catches for 252 yards and only one touchdown. Four games saw him held without a catch, three more saw him nab only one, and he was inactive for the biggest game of his career, the Eagles’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Cardinals.
It hasn’t gotten any better this year. When the Eagles kept seven receivers out of training camp—opting to hold onto sixth-round draft pick Brandon Gibson for some reason—many speculated Brown was on his way out. Those whispers got even louder when Michael Vick came aboard, and louder still when Jeff Garcia was brought in out of necessity.
Instead, Hank Baskett was released, Gibson was traded to St. Louis, and here Brown remains, active more by default than desire.
He’s been inactive for half the Eagles’ games and not even looked in half of the ones he’s played. With only one catch, he’s been targeted less than Leonard Weaver—a fullback whose numbers in Seattle’s pass-deficient scheme last year nearly outranked Brown’s.
Brown doesn’t have the speed or big-play ability of DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin, doesn’t make tough catches out of the slot as well as Jason Avant, and clearly fell behind Curtis as the possession receiver.
But with Curtis injured, Maclin struggling a bit, and tight end Brent Celek back in an “off” cycle of the offense, now is Brown’s time to get on the field and show why he’s the $10-million man.
If he doesn’t, he is more than likely to end up as the next Todd Pinkston or Freddie Mitchell, destined to ride out the string on the bench until his contract becomes manageable enough to eat or someone desperate for receiving help plucks him in hopes of a renaissance.
Eerily, his career numbers (and trajectory) actually parallel Pinkston’s with alarming accuracy. But at least Pinkston played in a Super Bowl, and Mitchell has perhaps the biggest catch in Eagles’ history.
Two years ago during a game in Dallas, Brown kept running after missing a pass and jumped in the giant Salvation Army bucket set up on the Texas Stadium sidelines.
While in the end that leap might be apropos of his career, it would be a shame if that was his “fourth-and-26” moment.
Go get ‘em, Reg.