Reports are emerging out of Philadelphia that veteran receiver Alshon Jeffrey could be on the move.
Given the already depleted nature of the Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver room, if the former Chicago Bear is traded away from the City of Brotherly Love this offseason, it might increase the likelihood that general manager Howie Roseman takes a wideout in the first round of the draft in April. Given the depth of talent at the position amongst draft prospects, the Eagles could find themselves walking away with someone like Henry Ruggs III or Laviska Shenault Jr with the 21st overall pick.
The problem is that for the Eagles, several factors are likely to mean they get very little in return in a Jeffrey trade.
Firstly, is Jeffrey’s contract. According to Spotrac, his current contract pays him a base salary of $9.9 million this season, and he will count over $15 million against the cap. Any team willing to give up draft capital for Jeffrey would want to renegotiate his contract.
That brings me to the second point. Jeffrey is 30 years old and coming off a season in which he played in only 10 games, putting up a total of 490 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. No team is going to pay that amount of base salary for an ageing receiver with a troubling injury history. It may even give them cause to reconsider handing over any draft picks for the South Carolina alumnus.
Further depleting Jeffrey’s trade value is the fact that he seems to have been outed, according to Bleeding Green Nation, as the source within the Eagles locker room who criticised quarterback Carson Wentz the past two seasons. So not only does Roseman need to convince a team to give him draft picks for an oft-injured receiver in his age 30 season, who last put up over 1,000 receiving yards in 2014, he also has to throw in potential locker room distraction to that mix.
The real kicker for the Eagles is that they will eat $26 million in dead money if they move on from Jeffrey. That alone should be a buyer beware situation: his current employer is willing to accept a monumental amount of dead money just to get him off the roster.
Nonetheless, this is the NFL, and there will be many coaches and GMs who will see a role for Jeffrey on their roster. Where might he find a home if the Eagles do move on?
Championship contenders: Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens
Both the Chiefs and the Ravens would like to diversify their receiving options. Both franchises already have a lot of speed at the wideout position, with Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman (Chiefs) and Marquise Brown (Ravens). They are also good examples of organisations where the locker room is strong enough to avoid any possible strife and the position and standing of their quarterbacks is beyond question.
In fact, the Ravens are an interesting proposition given Jeffrey’s ability to contribute in the run game as a blocker, but also given the success of Lamar Jackson in a tight end heavy offence. Jeffrey’s size at the wideout position may appeal to Baltimore for these reasons.
The Chiefs and the Ravens could be willing to take a flyer on Jeffrey on a one year prove it deal, without having to rely on him as a full-time starter.
Coach connections: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts, whilst having questions at the quarterback position, fit a number of the criteria mentioned for the previous two organisations: a respected coach who can manage the locker room, and a run heavy offence where they don’t need Jeffrey to be a game changer every week.
In addition to that, the Colts need to add a complement to WR1 T.Y. Hilton and the addition of big bodied receiver Devin Funchess from the Panthers didn’t have the effect the team hoped for. Jeffrey has a better track record of production and so could add the elements to the passing attack that general manager Chris Ballard hoped from Funchess.
A key ingredient here, is the hiring of wide receivers’ coach Mike Groh by the Colts. It was under Groh in 2013 and 2014 that Jeffrey emerged as a bonafide receiving threat for the Bears. The two also worked together during their time in Philly. It could be that Groh bangs the table for the signing of one of his former charges, or that he warns Ballard away given the problems Jeffrey was linked to in Philadelphia last season.
Other teams like the Bills, Raiders and Redskins should be doing their due diligence on Jeffrey given the lack of quality those teams have at wide receiver.
Those organisations may see Jeffrey as someone who can be added to the mix in a young receiver room to provide leadership to younger contributors. In that situation, the former Bear may need to convince the regimes in charge of those franchises that he can be a positive influence amongst his teammates. It may also be the case that Jeffrey is added to a number of free agent and draft pickups by receiver needy teams who choose to throw multiple, low cost options at a problem and see what sticks.