PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles general manager Howie Roseman may have found a simple solution to what he described as a "complicated" situation at wide receiver -- re-sign everyone.
A report Wednesday by the Philadelphia Inquirer indicated the Eagles were close to a new contract with wide receiver Riley Cooper, who was on the brink of free agency. The team also appears likely to sign Jeremy Maclin to a one-year deal before the former first-round pick gets to the open market.
Roseman has said all along the Eagles were open to bringing both Cooper and Maclin back. He has also said the team was intrigued by the depth of wide receiver talent in the draft this year.
Maclin, 25, was the Eagles' first-round pick in 2009. In 59 games (57 starts), he caught 258 passes for 3,453 yards and 26 touchdowns. Maclin's best season was 2010, when he caught 70 passes for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns -- all career highs.
All of those games were played under head coach Andy Reid. As he prepared for coach Chip Kelly's first season last July, Maclin tore his ACL during a training camp practice. He missed the entire 2013 season.
That created an opportunity for Cooper, a 2010 fifth-round pick who had started 10 games over his first three seasons under Reid. No sooner had Cooper moved up the depth chart then a video of him using a racial epithet at a concert surfaced on the internet. Kelly and the Eagles fined Cooper, who left camp for several days to seek counseling, but he remained with the team.
Cooper started 16 of 17 games, including the Eagles' playoff game against New Orleans. Through five games, all started by quarterback Michael Vick, Cooper had just eight catches. Once Nick Foles assumed the starting job, Cooper's production exploded. He finished with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. He also proved himself a capable blocker, which is critical in Kelly's run-first offense.
The impending free agency of Maclin and Cooper was complicated for several reasons. The Eagles have Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson under contract. Veteran Jason Avant has two years left on his deal but is considered a candidate to be released or to have his salary cut for cap purposes. Maclin's injury and Cooper's notoriety make their market values uncertain.
After the playoff loss to the Saints, both players said they would like to return to the Eagles. Maclin said he knew he might have to take a one-year deal to show that he's fully recovered from the injury.
"I'm a realist, so I understand that's a possibility," Maclin said Jan. 6. "Me and my agent, we'll get together and discuss what's best for me and then go from there."
"I want to be back," Cooper said. "I'm hoping the Eagles come into play and I'm here. It's a first for me. I don't know what it's like. I know I'm not on a team. I want to be here. It's such a great group of guys."
Bringing back Cooper and Maclin would ensure remarkable continuity for an offense that was second in the NFL in total yards. Maclin could rejoin a starting lineup that could be otherwise identical to the one that started against the Saints.