Jeremy Maclin’s 2013 season ended Saturday, when Maclin stepped hard off the line during a 7-on-7 drill, and crumpled to the ground with a torn right ACL.
It will be a while before we can accurately assess what this means for Maclin or for the Eagles. Maclin, 25, heading into the final season of his rookie contract at $1.6 million, might now be more likely to re-sign with the Birds; he’s hardly going to break the bank, coming off the second torn right ACL of his career (he tore it as a freshman at Missouri). No team will have a better take on Maclin’s rehab, where he stands when free agency rolls around.
Those concerns aren’t immediate, obviously. The Eagles have lost a starting wide receiver, a steady contributor whose 258 catches are the most by any receiver in his first four years in franchise history. The team is hardly going to change its offense or run out and sign the fossilized remains of Ochocinco or Terrell Owens; there is no one on the free agent market who comes close to Maclin’s relatively young age and skillset.
As many people have noted, Chip Kelly’s offense is likely to have a lot to do with tight end types, such as James Casey, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. Maclin’s absence puts a tighter focus on DeSean Jackson as the explosive, vertical threat – is Jackson still going to return punts, as he has said is the plan, now that Maclin’s gone? It also opens up opportunity, probably at first for Riley Cooper, a different type of receiver at 6-3, 222, but one who really progressed toward the end of last season and is said to have had a good offseason. A hard worker like Russell Shepard or a project such as Ifeyani Momah might have a clearer path to a roster spot now. Damaris Johnson also factors into the mix somehow. Arrelious Benn, the former second-round pick of the Bucs, is sidelined right now with a knee injury, but Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said it isn't serious.
When Roseman spoke with repiorters Sunday before the first live practice of training camp, at Lincoln Financial Field, Roseman listed the tight ends and running backs first, in illustrating the remaining offensive options.
Certainly, the Birds will be looking for wideout help when teams cut down. They have decent depth, but they certainly didn’t factor being without Maclin in their draft or free agency blueprint this offseason. In fact, they haven't drafted a wideout in the first four rounds since Maclin arrived as a first-rounder, 19th overall, in 2009.
"We have a lot of faith in our skill position group as a whole, and that's kind of how we look at it," Roseman said. "Obviously, at the tight end group we brought in some guys -- talking about James Casey and Zach Eertz, drafting him (in the second round) as well. Some of our younger guys that are on the roster that we felt could make a little bit of a jump in this offense."
Maclin was on Twitter Saturday evening, vowing to overome the setback, thanking teammates and players from around the league who'd wished him a speedy recovery. Maclin has had some tough luck healthwise, including an infection in the 2011 offseason that led to a long layoff and concerns about a serious iillness. Maclin's conditioning was affected and he ended up playing much of that season with a bad hamstring.
Still, Maclin has played in 59 of a possible 64 regular-season games, which hardly makes him fragile. You'd never know that from the handful of bozos on Twitter who decried his "softness" in the wake of his ACL tear, as if somehow there were soft and hard ACLs.
Roseman was questioned closely about the fact that Maclin didn't get an extension. He indicated that was partly because Maclin wanted to go into free agency off a breakout season, but he also said the organization has high regard for Maclin.
"Jeremy did all the right things," Roseman said. "When you look at the history of guys who have held out, things don't necessarily work out for those guys, too ... we care a lot about Jeremy Maclin."