Maclin vs. Cooper: PFF weighs in

PHILADELPHIA -- The folks over at Pro Football Focus took a swing Friday at one of the more intriguing offseason issues facing the Eagles: Riley Cooper or Jeremy Maclin?

The PFF format features two writers debating which of two free agents a team should keep. It doesn’t address the possibility that both could be retained, a possibility that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has endorsed publicly a number of times.

The two wide receivers’ situations are intertwined. Maclin, a first-round pick in 2009 and four-year starter, tore his ACL during training camp last summer. That opened up a starting job for Cooper, a fifth-round pick in 2010. Both players are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March.

PFF writer Gordon McGuinness made the case for Maclin over Cooper. Acknowledging that Maclin has never had a 1,000-yard season or reached his full potential, McGuiness noted the Eagles used three wide receivers on 70.5 percent of offensive plays in 2013.

“That highlights the importance of wide receivers,” McGuinness wrote. “[Maclin] has the physical attributes to break out under Chip Kelly. He has shown the ability to beat defenses in a variety of ways and impressed as a deep threat in 2010.”

In making the case for Cooper, Pete Damilatis said the “potential well” had run dry for Maclin after four good, not great healthy seasons. As for Cooper, Damilatis wrote that he excelled in the deep passing game, which was a key part of the Eagles' offense.

“His 17.8 yards per reception was the eighth-highest rate among receivers with 20 targets, and surpassed even (DeSean) Jackson’s average,” Damilitis wrote.

Damilatis also pointed out Cooper’s relative affordability, especially if another team decides to splurge based on Maclin’s perceived potential. But another report, this one from Pro Football Talk, suggested the market for Cooper may be stronger than expected.

Roseman is in an interesting spot. Maclin has said he would like to stay in Philadelphia, but it is expected to take a market offer to keep him. If someone else is willing to offer more long-term security, the Eagles could be forced to make a tough call. And while Cooper emerged as a favorite target for Nick Foles, it is doubtful Roseman will overpay for a guy who likely benefited greatly from the system he was in.

With a strong crop of wide receivers in the 2014 draft, Roseman could opt to go young. Draft a couple of wide receivers, keep Arrelious Benn in the mix and build a new group of receivers.

The Eagles could sign Maclin, Cooper, both or neither. With free agency three weeks away, it’s impossible to rule out any possibility.