Updated: Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 9:06 AM
Basic economic reasoning suggests a reunion between the Eagles and former wide receiver Jeremy Maclin remains unlikely, despite a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying the club has expressed interest in the veteran.
With the Eagles sitting at just $5.19 million in cap room and a crowded depth chart, one would think there is another team out there with a greater demand for a receiver and a greater supply of money available to bid on one.
Maclin, per Schefter, is already scheduled to visit former Eagles assistant Sean McDermott in Buffalo, where the Bills have twice as much cap space and a need to replace free-agent departure Robert Woods. The Ravens, whom Maclin is also scheduled to visit, are tight on money, but they have plenty of incentive to make a strong bid for Maclin given a depth chart led by Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Moore. Wallace led the team with 72 catches for 1,017 yards last season, but their next two leading receivers were Dennis Pitta (86-789) and Steve Smith (70-799), neither of whom is expected back. Perriman and Moore combined for 40 catches and 445 yards.
Like the Ravens, the Eagles have enough flexibility to make a Maclin signing work, even if the 29-year-old is looking for a salary close to the $9.75 million he was due to receive from the Chiefs this year.
The NFLPA’s official salary cap numbers had the Eagles entering Tuesday with $5.19 million in room under the salary cap, which is right around the minimum teams like to keep so they have room to operate in case of emergencies. To accommodate the addition of Maclin, they’d likely have to free up some room. They should free up $4 million whenever they release Ryan Mathews (they can’t do so until he has recovered from the neck injury he suffered late last season, unless the two sides agree on a settlement). Marcus Smith is another dead man walking - his release would free up another $1.48 million.
That brings us to Torrey Smith. Releasing him would cost only $500,000 in dead money while freeing up $4.5 million. Along with the Mathews and Smith moves, the Eagles would, according to my calculations, have around $10 million to accommodate Maclin while preserving the $5.2 million cushion they have under the cap.
The question is whether doing so would makes sense given the current construction of the Eagles receiving corps. Maclin is more versatile than any of the Eagles receivers, but he isn’t a burner and does his best work in the middle of the field, which is also where Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Matthews have operated most effectively throughout their careers. The Eagles also have three tight ends on the roster making at least $2.5 million. Adding Maclin at a cap number of, say, $8 million would leave them with north of $32 million in salary cap dollars allocated to pass-catchers. That’s 20 percent of the cap.
In theory, the Eagles could look to trade Matthews for a mid- to late-round pick, but it seems like a stretch to think any GM would be willing to give up much for a free-agent-to-be who is not blessed with an elite tool (such as speed). Clearly, Maclin is a better talent than Smith, but Smith isn’t necessarily here to do the things that Maclin does best. Smith was signed to give Carson Wentz a deep threat and perhaps open up the middle of the field for Jeffery, Matthews and Ertz.
Another possibility has the Eagles keeping Smith and replacing Matthews with Maclin. That has some intriguing potential, provided Maclin is 100 percent recovered from the groin injury that hampered him last season.
Again, though, the question is whether such a switcheroo would be worth the extra salary cap dollars the Eagles would spend to make it happen. Remember, money that they do not spend this season is money that they can roll over into next season’s salary cap.
How much better do the Eagles become if they spend an extra $4 million to replace swap Matthews or Smith for Maclin? Would that money be better spent at another position?