Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and the Philadelphia Eagles appear to be well on their way toward a messy divorce. The split might be painful, but it would be best for both parties.
It's an odd situation on the surface because the Eagles need all the help they can get at wide receiver, while Jeffery's contract makes a potential trade preventative. There are times, though, when a situation reaches a point of no return, and that's where these two reside.
According to The Athletic's Connor Hughes, the Eagles "are looking to move Jeffery" and the receiver "would welcome the change of scenery."
Obviously, the wording of the report doesn't do any irreconcilable damage in either case. A team potentially shopping a player is different than actively trying to trade him, whereas Jeffery's preference of possibly playing for another team is different than demanding a trade.
These are subtle yet necessary differences if a deal can't be reached, mainly because of Jeffery's current financial implications. The odds of Jeffery's return to the Eagles lineup in 2020 with an eye toward a 2021 breakup might be as good or greater than being traded to another squad.
The game is afoot, and both sides are playing it, as evidenced by Jeffery's agent publicly refuting the previous report:
Basically, the Eagles must be willing to endure a $15.70 million cap hit this season based on the prorated portions of the guaranteed money included in his current deal while a new team takes on his $9.91 million base salary. That's a tough pill to swallow, especially for a team that doesn't have the most financial flexibility compared to other organizations.
If the current collective bargaining agreement remains in place, the Eagles have $48.56 million in projected salary-cap space, per Spotrac. While that number seems like a lot, it really isn't. The Eagles rank smack-dab in the middle of the league in cap space. They also have significant free-agency questions to answer with Ronald Darby, Jason Peters, Nelson Agholor, Timmy Jernigan, Jalen Mills, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Rodney McLeod about to hit the open market.
The front office isn't going to re-sign all of those names and maybe not even the majority of them, but the team still has priorities, like cornerback and wide receiver, to address.
A decision regarding Jeffery's situation won't be made in a vacuum. At the same time, issues between these two parties run deeper than just an aging (30) target with an injury history who no longer lives up to his contractual status.
Hughes further reported, "[quarterback Carson] Wentz and Jeffery never saw eye-to-eye and their relationship was testy."
Wentz came under fire during the 2018 campaign as a result of the Eagles' downturn after a Super Bowl victory and his overreliance on tight end Zach Ertz. Another source complained about Wentz's tendency to overcomplicate the offense during the early part of this past season. Jeffery is believed to be behind those complaints, as the Philly Voice's Jimmy Kempski seemingly confirmed.
The franchise is built around Wentz. General manager Howie Roseman can't have the team's supposed top wide receiver undermining its quarterback.
So, financial implications be damned. The Eagles should be looking to move Jeffery and amenable to taking whatever another franchise is willing to trade in an attempt to rid the organization of a potential instigator while simultaneously starting over at a position that needs a considerable upgrade with or without him.
But the Eagles will likely have to give away something else for another organization to be interested in the eight-year veteran, as former agent and CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry explained Kempski:
"That's the only way a trade would work. You'd have to be giving something as well. 'Here, take this guy'… How big of an asset do you want to give somebody to try to get rid of him I guess is the question. Because if (the acquiring team) doesn't know what they got, and if all goes well, he's still going to miss practically the whole offseason, what kind of contribution is he going to make the first half of the year for somebody else?"
The list of teams in need of a wide receiver, capable of taking on Jeffery's salary and with a willingness to make a forward-thinking deal not often seen in the NFL isn't long.
Familiarity helps with any transition. No team outside of Philadelphia is more familiar with Jeffery than the Indianapolis Colts.
Head coach Frank Reich served as the Eagles offensive coordinator when Jeffery joined the Eagles. At the time, Mike Groh was Philadelphia's wide receivers coach before becoming the team's offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. He was also Jeffery's wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears. Now, Groh serves as Indianapolis' wide receivers coach.
Clearly, ties to potentially bind the Colts to Jeffery exist. Some of the coaching staff already knows who the person is and how/if it can work with him.
The Colts clearly need help, too.
Jeffery's acquisition would actually cost the team slightly less financially than last year's wide receiver addition, Devin Funchess. The Colts signed Funchess to a one-year, $10 million deal in 2019. He played in one game and made three receptions before suffering a broken clavicle the first week of the season. Obviously, the franchise would like a little more return from its investments.
Wide receiver is lacking in Indianapolis.
T.Y. Hilton is a consummate professional, but he's coming off an injury-plagued season, too. Zach Pascal, meanwhile, developed into a nice target, but he should be the Colts' third or fourth option, not their leading receiver. Plus, Jeffery adds size and physicality to the position, much like the Colts wanted in Funchess.
With over $86 million in available salary-cap space, a Jeffery trade makes sense in this instance.
Proposed Deal: Colts acquire Jeffery and 2020 third-round draft pick from the Eagles for 2020 fifth- and seventh-round draft picks.
New York Jets
Much like the Colts, the New York Jets already have inside knowledge regarding the 30-year-old target. Jets general manager Joe Douglas previously served as the Eagles vice president of player personnel and was part of the group that brought Jeffery to Philadelphia.
Unlike the Colts, the Jets are in a bit of a bind regarding the wide receiver position. Whereas the Funchess experiment failed, New York would like to retain Robby Anderson, who is an impending free agent.
"I know they've communicated that they do want me back," Anderson said last month, per Newsday's Bob Glauber. "So, we've just got to see how it plays out."
The 26-year-old wide receiver knows his services will be in demand, though.
"I want to be where I feel like the best situation for me to be great is, to be the person I can be outside of football," he said.
If Anderson tests free agency and signs a sizable deal elsewhere, Vyncint Smith will be the team's second-leading receiver behind Jamison Crowder. Smith secured 17 receptions for 225 yards during his second campaign.
The Jets already signed Josh Doctson as a pseudo-lottery ticket that could pay off, but a more stable presence is needed in the passing game to help with Sam Darnold's maturation. Jeffery is a big-bodied target New York's offense lacks.
Obviously, Douglas knows exactly how Jeffery's contract is structured and the general manager's current team has enough salary-cap flexibility at $56.26 million to absorb it.
Proposed Deal: Jets acquire Jeffery and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick from the Eagles for 2020 sixth- and seventh-round picks.
The Bills have a totally different perspective compared to the Colts and Jets, since the staff doesn't have previous working experience with Jeffery. What the team does have is plenty of room to manuever and arguably the biggest need at wide receiver.
At $83.07 million, Buffalo currently has the fourth-most projected salary-cap space for the 2020 campaign. The team is also in the sweet spot where, yes, it still needs to address a couple of its free agents, but its starting quarterback is operating under a rookie deal. Like the Jets, now could be the time to acquire Jeffery because it's far more affordable and could help Josh Allen with his development.
Allen is known for having one of the league's biggest arms, yet scattershot accuracy. At the same time, the Bills don't have the biggest or best targets working outside the numbers or down the field.
John "Smokey" Brown and Cole Beasley are very good professional receivers. However, another receiver with a much larger catch radius and ability to win 50-50 balls would add another dynamic to the Bills offense.
"With all of our wide receivers, they're kind of like Smurfs," head coach Sean McDermott told reporters during last year's training camp. "If you ever watched The Smurfs, they live in a small village so they can separate in small spaces."
McDermott was joking at the time, but a kernel of truth exists in what he said. Buffalo's top three wide receivers—Brown, Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie—are 5'11" or shorter. The physicality Jeffery brings to the position would be a welcome addition.
Proposed Deal: Jets acquire Jeffery and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick from the Eagles for a fifth- and sixth-round draft picks.
Multiple teams throughout the league could use a wide receiver upgrade.
The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders immediately come to mind as other potential destinations for Jeffery, though none of the three have the same familiarity and/or financial means to get a deal done in comparison to the previously mentioned franchises.
Some squads might not even consider the possibility based on the difficulty of Jeffery's unwieldy contract, especially since he's coming off a Lisfranc injury. It's not the easiest deal to sell.
At the same time, the Eagles aren't necessarily a better team and locker room with Jeffery on the roster. As long as he checks out medically, he still holds some value around the league.
Whatever the Eagles can get for Jeffery's services should be enough so everyone can start fresh.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.