Riley Cooper is on the verge of a multi-year deal to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeff McLane of the Inquirer reported. Jeremy Maclin also may be back on a one-year contract of his own, though Cooper "likely will be locked up first," according to McLane.
There was some sense that Cooper and Maclin were an either-or proposition for the Eagles this offseason -- McLane actually reported from the combine that the franchise favored the more electrifying Maclin over Cooper. In bringing back both guys alongside leading receiver DeSean Jackson, the Eagles could roll out one of the more dangerous offensive units in the league.
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"It’s complicated," said Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman at the combine of trying to retain Cooper and Maclin. "You have guys on our roster that we drafted and that we like as players and certainly fit into the chemistry of our football team.
"We’re trying to figure out the whole dynamic of it. You can only put a limited amount of resources into the position before it starts taking out from other places. And you have to factor in also the quality of the depth in the draft and the opportunities possibly in the draft to get good players. ... So, we set prices for guys and we try to stick to those and have walkaway numbers."
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Cooper stepped up after Maclin suffered a season-ending ACL injury in July. He finished with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, all career-highs that came after a turbulent offseason for the former fifth-round pick, who was caught on tape yelling a racial slur. Cooper's height (6-foot-3) and leaping ability made him a reliable red-zone option for QBs Michael Vick and Nick Foles throughout 2013.
Maclin had averaged 67.3 catches from 2010-12 plus seemed to be a terrific fit for Chip Kelly's offense. Rather than hit free agency off a lost season, the 25-year-old Maclin appears ready to give it a go a year late.
A report earlier Wednesday indicated that the Eagles were prepared to part ways with veteran receiver Jason Avant (38 catches in 2013). That move would save Philadelphia more than $3 million next season, including a $1 million roster bonus due Avant on March 15. Though they're already projected to be upwards of $25 million under the 2014 cap at the current time, freeing up that extra cash obviously would leave more room to keep both Cooper and Maclin.
Kelly's offense breathed life into an offense that had finished 29th in points in 2012. The Eagles bumped that ranking up to No. 4 last year behind the unexpectedly stellar play of Foles. He will enter next season with the starting QB gig and now could have a full complement of targets around him.
The franchise tag for Maclin was never an option given the severity of his injury. Should the Eagles fail to get him under contract before free agency begins, odds are he would land a similar deal to that discussed by McLane -- a single-season offer that would leave him looking at free agency again in 2015. Few situations, if any, would present him the opportunity to thrive like the one awaiting him in Philadelphia.