Eagles' WR Room Is Too Thin

The top backup options for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are all unproven.
Dec 25, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA - There was no guarantee that veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker would make the Eagles’ initial 53-man roster after signing a one-year, $1.21 million deal in March.

The unexpected news of the 2015 first-round pick informing the Eagles that he is retiring to spend more time with his family did magnify just how thin Philadelphia is at wide receiver after its two stars at the position: A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

You can’t legislate injuries of course and no team will have the depth to replace top-tier players like Brown and Smith. Still, there is a lot of cushion between competent depth and the unproven group the Eagles have assembled on their offseason roster.

The slot position remains uncertain with veteran Parris Campbell, another one-year flyer in free agency at one year and $1.3M after an inauspicious five seasons with Indianapolis and the New York Giants, trying to hold off rookie fifth-round pick Ainias Smith, and perhaps third-year punt return star Britain Covey.

Outside the numbers, the top backups behind Brown and Smith are completely unproven to the point you’d have to consider Campbell the top option. Sixth-round rookie Johnny Wilson and his impressive 6-foot-6, 231-pound frame, will be thrown into the deep end with several other lottery tickets. 

The 6-3 Joseph Ngata had the most experience after spending last season on the Eagles’ practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of Clemson. Then comes futures signings, including Shaq Davis, Jacob Harris, and Austin Watkins.

Harris, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2021 who ran a sub-4.4 with a 6-5 frame has intriguing physical tools but that group as a whole is uninspiring, to say the least.

The Eagles will have three open spots on the 90-man offseason roster once Parker's retirement is made official and bet on them adding at least two bodies at WR. The organization would also have to add someone with experience. 

The speedy John Ross, the No. 9 overall pick by Cincinnati in the 2017 draft, was at the Eagles’ rookie camp as a tryout player. His 4.22 40-yard sprint at the combine was a record that held up until this year when Xavier Worthy, the 28th overall pick by Kansas City back in April, beat it by a blink at 4.21

Ross, 28, would at least have the speed to be able to stretch the field, something that head coach Nick Sirianni valued with Quez Watkins. That said, the fact that the Eagles didn’t jump at Ross with room on the offseason roster isn’t a great sign.

The best-remaining veteran free agents are Michael Thomas, a high-volume, oft-injured former star in New Orleans, who hasn’t played a full season since 2019 when he set the single-season record for receptions with an unfathomable 149, and Hunter Renfrow, who had a 100-catch season with the Raiders in 2021 but is just a slot option.

Mecole Hardman, 26, at least has some juice in his legs, albeit in more of a manufactured-touch fashion and could be an answer.

Perhaps the best option is Corey Davis, who retired before the start of the 2023 campaign with the New York Jets, but applied for reinstatement back in March and was released by the Jets. Still just 29, the 2017 No. 5 overall pick, was competent in 2022 with 32 receptions for 536 yards.

Whatever the end game, the Eagles consider themselves a contender, and counting on two Day 3 picks like Smith and Wilson to hit the ground running as serviceable depth pieces isn’t a comforting thought.

MORE NFL: Eagles Could Sign Two-Time All-Pro Free Agent To Replace DeVante Parker


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John McMullen

JOHN MCMULLEN

John McMullen is a veteran reporter who has covered the NFL for over two decades. The current NFL insider for JAKIB Media, John is the former NFL Editor for The Sports Network where his syndicated column was featured in over 200 outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Miami Herald. He was also the national NFL columnist for Today's Pigskin as well as FanRag Sports. McMullen has covered the Eagles on a daily basis since 2016, first for ESPN South Jersey and now for Eagles Today on SI.com's FanNation. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey and part of 6ABC.com's live postgame show after every Eagles game. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen