When Jeremy Maclin signed a one-year deal with the Eagles, he tried explaining how he would increase his value despite what seemed to be a surplus of offensive weapons. After the Eagles released DeSean Jackson, Maclin's one-year signing proved prescient.
He is now the team's No. 1 receiver, poised to fill the role that spurred Jackson to the best season of his career. And it should only increase Maclin's value for a bigger payday.
"I didn't really think about it," Maclin said Thursday at teammate Todd Herremans' charity event, hours before Jackson was released. "I think my value is my value, regardless of who I have playing around me. That's my mind-set and how I approach the situation."
The Eagles were optimistic about how Maclin would fit in the offense in 2013 before a torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered in training camp cost him the season. Maclin rejected a multiyear deal, hoping to boost his stock in 2014 and potentially renegotiate before the season concludes.
From all indications, the 6-foot, 200-pound Maclin will be healthy by training camp in July. It is not known how much he'll be able to participate during the offseason program, but he's already moving without issue.
"In terms of the exact timetable, my understanding is with an ACL, when you get to this point this far along, then the process . . . comes in weekly increments," general manager Howie Roseman said. "I think we'll know more as it goes. Obviously, we feel really good about his progress. We signed him. We were aggressive trying to bring him back."
Although Maclin becomes the focal point of the offense, replacing Jackson is not a one-for-one exchange. Maclin and Riley Cooper are the top receivers. The Eagles are expected to add at least one receiver from a loaded draft class. They have confidence in the development of tight end Zach Ertz. Running back Darren Sproles also will be a big part of the receiving game.
"I don't think our offense has ever been predicated on one player," coach Chip Kelly said last week. "We used three quarterbacks last year, we used multiple running backs, our tight ends are integral into what we do. I think we have an outstanding offensive line. It's never been about just one guy."
Kelly's offenses at Oregon seldom had one dominant receiver. The Ducks had only one 1,000-yard receiver in six seasons with Kelly running the attack. They spread the ball among the skill-position players. A running back once led the team in receptions and yards.
Maclin played with Jackson for every season of his five-year NFL career. The two seemed to complement each other, but Maclin rejected the idea that he needs Jackson - or a player similar to him - on the other side to avoid double teams.
"There's one guy that gets double-teamed, and that's [Detroit's] Calvin Johnson at the goal line," Maclin said. "Guys don't get double-teamed in this league. If you weren't out there and you weren't able to make plays, you wouldn't be out there."
Kelly focuses on man-to-man coverage when evaluating wide receivers. He said a player's ability to get open in one-on-one situations is the first question his coaches ask when evaluating a wide receiver, because Kelly thinks the Eagles see more man coverage than any other team in the NFL.
Kelly said teams play more man-to-man because of the Eagles' tempo. Defenders can line up quickly if they know they have a single assignment. From that point, Kelly said it's just about who wins the matchup.
Maclin is "one of those guys that, if we're going to see a lot of man coverage, I think can do a really, really good job because he's such a precise route runner, has outstanding speed, is good after the catch," Kelly said.
It's also relevant when determining how the Eagles will replace Jackson on the roster. The draft is full of receivers with different styles.
Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin is an imposing, big-bodied threat at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks is a speedster in a Jackson-like body (5-10, 189 pounds), although his 4.33-second 40-yard dash and single-season Pac-12 record for receptions and receiving yards are appealing. Southern California's 6-0, 192-pound Marqise Lee is another dynamic option who could thrive with the run after the option. All could be in play for the Eagles, who have the 22d pick in the first round.
"It can be the speed element of it," Kelly said of what he looks for in a receiver. "It can be the power and size element of it. There's a lot of different ways to cut it. There's certain guys in this league that have both, and that's why they're elite."