Eagles Stay or Go 2021: Wide receivers

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Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro
·10 min read
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Eagles Stay or Go 2021: Disagreeing on a few veteran WRs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2021, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.

Today, we’ll look at wide receivers:

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Roob: I have a feeling Nick Sirianni is going to look at JJAW and focus on the things that made him a 2nd-round pick a couple years ago - his size, his wingspan, his hands - and believe he can salvage him. Heck, I would. There are some tools there. I don’t know if Arcega-Whiteside will ever be a productive player here, but maybe a fresh start in a new scheme with a new coach who has a background as a WR coach will jumpstart his career. I doubt it. But he doesn’t cost anything, and it’s like getting a free 2nd-round pick, so they may as well try.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The Eagles used a second-round pick on JJAW but he’s been incredibly unproductive since he was drafted in 2019. The problem here is he had a good training camp last year and it still didn’t translate into regular season production. The other problem is that he doesn’t contribute on special teams so the Eagles have basically been wasting a roster spot on him for two years. I think the Eagles would probably like to keep him around on the practice squad and try to develop him with a new staff but unless he’s undeniable this spring and summer, his time should be up, especially if Sirianni’s staff wants to bring in their own players.

Verdict: Goes

Deontay Burnett

Roob: Burnett has had a cup of coffee in each of the last couple years and caught a few passes each year, but it’s hard to imagine that he’s a big part of the Eagles’ future. He’s one of those guys who’ll probably be on the fringes of the team — cut and re-signed a couple times, injury replacement late in the season, practice squad here and there — but I wouldn’t expect him to be on the initial 53-man roster.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I wish we would have seen more of Burnett in the 2020 season, especially with how much the Eagles were struggling at that position for a while. But he never got his chance, which is a shame. I think he can play a little bit. But I don’t think it’s gonna be here. Remember, he had a tremendous training camp last summer and it still wasn’t enough for him to make the roster.

Verdict: Goes

Travis Fulgham

Roob: Fulgham gets a clean start with a new coach who inherits a guy who had an unprecedented five-game stretch early in the season before winding up riding the bench and mired in Doug Pederson’s doghouse. I’d be surprised if Nick Sirianni doesn’t give Fulgham every opportunity to regain his form from October. Despite his gradual decline in November and December, Fulgham remains an intriguing prospect. There’s clearly something there. If he can produce at just 70 percent of that five-game stretch over a full season, the Eagles have a 1,000-yard receiver.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: What a weird season from Fulgham, who was the best receiver in the NFL for a month before dropping off. I can’t wait to see what the new coaching staff is able to do with Fulgham, because a five-game stretch can’t be a fluke, can it? That stretch is enough to keep him around and figure out if the Eagles can bring that out of him again. Fulgham also had surgery after the season, so I’m also wondering if an injury might have slowed him down after that hot stretch. In any case, he’s one of the more intriguing players returning in 2021 and I can’t wait to see what Sirianni can pull out of him.

Verdict: Stays

Marquise Goodwin

Roob: Goodwin is 30 years old now and after opting out in 2020 is three years removed from his only productive NFL season. Goodwin had a big 2017 but has really done little else since the Bills drafted him in the 3rd round in 2013. I don’t see where an inconsistent 30-year-old wide receiver fits into a team that’s rebuilding and needs to see its young WRs take big steps in 2021.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: You probably forgot about Goodwin and I almost did too. After opting out in 2020, Goodwin’s contract tolled so the Eagles will have to make a decision on him. This is a hard one to project because of a lot of factors. But ultimately, it probably makes more sense for the Eagles to cut Goodwin and go younger at the position.

Verdict: Goes

John Hightower

Roob: After recording a 50-yard catch in back-to-back games, Hightower had just one catch for one yard the second half of the season and honestly he just looked over-matched much of the year. It’s pretty clear upgrading the WR position is a big priority for this team, and unless Hightower lights it up in training camp and shows more toughness and proves that he can use his world-class speed to get open and make catches, it’s hard to imagine him sticking around.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The Eagles played Hightower a ton early and it really appeared like he wasn’t ready for that. Hopefully, they didn’t stunt his growth. Again, the new staff combined with the return of Aaron Moorehead is good for these young wideouts. If other receivers come in, he might be fighting for his job, but for now …

Verdict: Stays

DeSean Jackson

Roob: This is going to sound crazy, but I think the Eagles are going to restructure Jackson’s contract and keep him around another year. If D-Jack wants to keep playing, it might be his only chance. And if the Eagles want a veteran WR around all these youngsters, it might be their only chance. DeSean can still play, the only issue has been injuries, and they’ve been constant the last two years. But if he’ll agree to a bare-bones contract packed with incentives for a chance at extending his career, why not? Nothing to lose.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: It’s time. DeSean is an all-time Eagles great but this reunion just hasn’t gone as planned. There were a few flashes to remind us that Jackson can still be productive when healthy but enough injuries to remind us that he can’t stay on the field. Jackson is 34 and the Eagles are rebuilding with a young nucleus. Time to cut him and save $5 million in cap space. See ya when you go into the Eagles Hall of Fame, DeSean.

Verdict: Goes

Alshon Jeffery

Roob: Alshon isn’t even that old. He’s 30 for a few more days. But he plays a lot older. His production has declined pretty steadily over the years, and he’s now seven years removed from his last season with 850 yards. He’ll go down in Eagles history as a Super Bowl hero but also grotesquely overpaid. He’s earned over $47 million for his four years with the Eagles. Worth a Lombardi Trophy? That’s for Jeff Lurie to answer. But however you add it up, his time here is over. I’m sure he’ll wind up in somebody’s training camp and maybe savvy his way to a roster spot somewhere, but his days as a big-time NFL receiver are long gone.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I honestly can’t believe Jeffery lasted this long. I never thought he’d play for the Eagles in 2020. But the Eagles are going to cut him, which is the right and obvious decision. Jeffery has gotten a lot of hate recently and I understand why but the Eagles wouldn’t have won a Super Bowl without him. I think eventually he’ll be remembered more favorably in Philadelphia but for now, he’ll be remembered as the guy Howie Roseman foolishly overpaid.

Verdict: Goes

Jalen Reagor

Roob: This is a huge year for Reagor. He gets a pass for his rookie season considering the pared-down offseason, the issues at quarterback and his injuries. But he’s got to look like a 1st-round draft pick in Year 2. And he may not like the constant comparisons to Justin Jefferson, but he better get used to them because they’re not going away. That’s life in the NFL.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: We saw some encouraging flashes from Reagor as a rookie. Was he as good as Justin Jefferson? Not close. And that will probably follow him for a while. But Reagor still has explosive traits and his rookie season was altered by a few injuries. Sirianni will hopefully use Reagor better than the previous coaching staff. He has a chance to be a good player, but it’s going to take coaching. He has the raw skills but he needs to refine them.

Verdict: Stays

Greg Ward

Roob: Ward is a great story and has a knack for finding the sticks, but I have a hunch the new coaching staff is going to want to upgrade the slot position with a little more speed and playmaking ability. Ward knows how to get open and he catches everything, but his 7.9 yards-per-catch last year was 54th out of 55 WRs with at least 50 receptions, and his 8.3 career mark is 160th out of 164 active WRs with 50 catches. He gets the most out of what he has, but he’s just limited by his size and speed, and the Eagles could use more explosion in the middle of the field. The Eagles need more.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Ward is an exclusive rights free agent, which basically means he can either play for the Eagles for the minimum in 2021 or he can sit out. So Ward will be with the Eagles this coming season as long as they want him. And why wouldn’t they? No, Ward isn’t explosive from the slot but he's reliable and the Eagles need as much of that as they can. Eventually, they could use an upgrade at this spot — I like the idea of a more explosive weapon in the middle of the field — but Ward is a good player and it’s a good idea to keep him around.

Verdict: Stays

Quez Watkins

Roob: Watkins finally got a chance to play the last month of the season and did enough good things to earn a longer look in 2021. He looked more comfortable than Hightower, the other speedy late-round rookie, and seems to be better equipped to turn his wheels into playmaking. It’s still a small sample size, but with a full offseason and preseason games, I think Watkins has a chance to be a significant contributor.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: It took a while for Watkins to see the field but he made the most of his opportunity late and passed Hightower on the depth chart. Not a bad rookie season for a 6th-round pick, who showed off his jets. He has the raw tools — he’s super fast — so bring him back and see if you can develop the rest of his game.

Verdict: Stays

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