Before Jeremy Maclin agreed to a one-year contract with the Eagles on Friday, the team offered him a five-year deal. He declined. One year made sense for Maclin, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament and did not play in 2013.
"Here's the thing: I don't think it's just for one year," Maclin said.
Maclin, who will turn 26 in May, will earn $5.5 million this season, with incentives that could bring the deal to $6 million. There is $3.5 million guaranteed in the contract.
He could have waited another week to gauge interest elsewhere, but he thought Philadelphia was the best place for him this season and beyond. He plans for a healthy campaign while thriving in coach Chip Kelly's offense, and then to receive a multiyear extension that will keep him with the Eagles.
"By them offering me a long-term deal [this season], I felt like that made me comfortable enough to know that I'm in their long-term plans," Maclin said. "So hopefully, come midseason, we'll be able to do something where I'm here long-term."
The team did not offer Maclin a long-term deal satisfactory to him, and a strong season would certainly boost his stock. He has never recorded a 1,000-yard season, but he's also one of only eight players to record at least 55 catches and 750 yards in his first four seasons.
Maclin bristles at the term "one-year prove-it deal," because he doesn't think he needs to prove anything. However he wants to label it, that's essentially what this pact is. And playing in Kelly's offense could prove to be a shrewd business decision.
"I think this is a place where I can showcase my skills, and I'm comfortable around all my teammates, guys who've been here, and I think this was just the right spot for me," Maclin said.
The Eagles have remained bullish on their 2009 first-round pick. Maclin did not seek an extension entering 2012 because he wanted to enhance his value. When Kelly arrived, the team thought Maclin was poised for a breakout season. Even after the knee injury, the Eagles expressed a desire to keep Maclin.
"We were enthusiastic about our interest in him and his fit in our football team, and we didn't hide those emotions much to Jeremy or his agent," general manager Howie Roseman said. Maclin is "a guy we'd love to have around long-term."
The knee injury did not appear to be a major concern in the negotiations.
Maclin stayed in Philadelphia to do his rehabilitation and has been under the care of the team's trainers and doctors throughout that process. That alleviated some of the risk of signing a player returning from an injury.
It also made an impression on Kelly, who said in a statement that Maclin was "literally here every single day since being injured."
Roseman said the team researched the history of ACL injuries of players who were 26 and under and was encouraged by the results. Maclin still must be cleared by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews before knowing whether he can participate in the offseason program beginning April 21, but he expects to be fully healthy by training camp.
Still, there is risk. For Maclin, he's playing on a knee that has twice required major surgery. For the Eagles, they only have Maclin locked up for one season and might be forced to give him a substantial raise if he plays well in 2014.
Kelly said he's "excited to see Jeremy play in our offense," which could showcase Maclin's versatility. Maclin rejoins a receiving corps with DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, and the players will move around and play different spots. Expect to see Maclin take more snaps in the slot.
"My ability to be versatile and do everything that a receiver needs to do is what's going to help," Maclin said. "I know my ability to beat man-to-man coverage is a big one."
Maclin did not agree to the deal until 3 p.m. Friday, but he said he was not concerned that the negotiations would hit an impasse, even after the Eagles spent money on Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Riley Cooper.
When Roseman returned to Philadelphia this week from the NFL scouting combine, he was "cautiously optimistic" that he could make all four signings this week.
"This close to free agency, you're always concerned the player is just going to wait and say, 'I've gone this far, and I'm going to wait 10 days,' " Roseman said.
The Eagles still have eight free agents on their roster, but it appears the flurry of activity is complete - at least for the next few days.