ANAHEIM, Calif. – Carson Wentz heard about Alshon Jeffery’s contract extension on Saturday morning and made a beeline to his top wide receiver to congratulate him. Teammates offered some good-natured ribbing about Jeffery’s four-year, $52-million contract, but Wentz made sure Jeffery knew how happy he was.
The contract doesn’t just enrich Jeffery; it ensures that Wentz’s development will include stability at wide receiver.
“We’re both pretty stoked about what the future holds,” Wentz said. “At the same time, we’re really focused on this year, too. But I’m really thrilled that he’s going to be here for a couple of years.”
The Eagles are in the playoff hunt, and that has devoured all their focus during this week in Southern California while preparing for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. But a game against second-year quarterback Jared Goff and the upstart Rams also offers another example of the importance of surrounding a young quarterback with talent.
The Rams and the Eagles were the two teams most active upgrading pass-catching weapons after their quarterbacks’ rookie seasons. The Eagles overhauled the position with the addition of Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and two rookies. The Rams traded for Sammy Watkins, signed Robert Woods, and drafted two receivers and a tight end. Both teams are seeing the benefits.
“Watching the Eagles last year, just seeing what they have with Carson, a few pieces here and there I felt we needed,” Jeffery said. “I felt I was a big part of that.”
The Rams have a big decision looming this offseason with Watkins, who would have joined Jeffery as one of the top wide receivers on the free-agent market. The Eagles didn’t want to risk Jeffery hitting the open market. Jeffery’s “love” for Philadelphia and playing for the Eagles was evidenced by his decision to forgo another round of free agency and sign on the dotted line.
“For a lot of reasons,” coach Doug Pederson said about the importance of the contract extension. “You go back to the offseason, he was one of the guys we targeted in free agency and wanted him in here and got him in here. And then watching him work and he and Carson getting more and more comfortable with each other. And then just having these guys around Carson for many years to come, I think is so important for the progression of the offense, but also the progress and the success that those two can have.”
The Eagles are earnest about ensuring that Wentz has help and that these years don’t go to waste. Wentz and Jeffery worked during the offseason to develop a connection, but it wasn’t so fruitful until recent weeks. In the past four games, Jeffery has caught 19 of 33 targets for 264 yards and four touchdowns. In the previous four games, he caught 11 of 28 targets for 201 yards and one touchdown. And in the first four games of the season, he caught 17 of 34 targets for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery didn’t want to speculate what his value could have been if he built on those numbers in the final four games and playoffs. There’s reason to believe that he can be even better because free agency isn’t looming.
“I think it’s a little pressure, a little, ‘Phew, thank you,’ off your back a little bit,” Pederson said. “Any time a player can sign and stay somewhere for multiple years is a credit to not only his play but to the confidence in the organization for extending that.”
Jeffery emphasized that the Eagles can “build something special here” and reiterated how much he enjoys playing in Philadelphia. Jeffery said on his first day with the Eagles, he knew he wanted to stay with them for a “long time.” The locker room had much to do with it. Jeffery quickly assimilated with his new teammates, and he insisted his new contract was a tribute to all of them.
“I’ll treat those guys to dinner,” Jeffery said. “The whole locker room.”
It also helps to have Wentz. Jeffery said the “sky’s the limit for Carson,” who Jeffery predicted in March could win the MVP award. Wentz’s presence was part of the reason he initially signed with the Eagles and it was a reason he wanted to stay when the price was right.
“It was a huge factor,” Jeffery said. “For a second-year player, his maturity level is up there with some of the best, some of the greats.”
Wentz hasn’t been shy this season about how much it helps to have Jeffery. He said he does not get involved in contract decisions, and he has enough to worry about during the season that he doesn’t involve himself in personnel decisions. But Pederson and Wentz have spoken about the way Jeffery fits and offensive concepts that can accentuate the wide receiver.
Wentz already experienced changes at the position last offseason. If Jeffery left, it would have been another year adjusting to new receivers.
“Continuity is always great, but in this league that’s really hard,” Wentz said. “Without a doubt, a guy like Alshon, I’m thrilled we’re going to have continuity there for years to come.”
The Eagles can now enter their final four regular-season games confident that the leading receivers – Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor – will be the same group they have next season and possibly the year after. So while Jeffery earned congratulations on the new contract, Wentz could have accepted congratulations, too.
“These two, these three guys, can now really begin to — not only the remainder of this season, but even going forward — looking to the offseason where they can get together and start throwing and working and really kind of dialing it in,” Pederson said. “That’s exciting for Alshon to be in a spot that he can call home for the next few years, and then we’ve got him and they can really start growing together.”