Jeremy Maclin leaves another hole on offense for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Philadelphia Eagles conduct their first on-field drills this spring, their starting offense will include Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez at quarterback, Frank Gore at running back, and Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews at wide receiver.

No DeSean Jackson.

No LeSean McCoy.

No Jeremy Maclin, who agreed to a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, according to a report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Head coach Chip Kelly has said goodbye to three players who amassed a total of 5,576 yards and scored 33 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Jackson was released. McCoy was traded to Buffalo. With Maclin, Kelly and the Eagles tried to get a new contract worked out. All indications were that Maclin wanted to return as well.

But Maclin watched Jackson, who had three years left on his contract, get cut loose last year. He watched McCoy, who had three years left on his deal, get traded last week. Clearly, Kelly doesn’t see the need to pay top dollar for his offensive skill-position players. Kelly seems to believe his system will be successful, no matter who is on the field.

He looked right in 2014. The loss of Jackson left Maclin as the No. 1 wide receiver. He delivered a career year, catching 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Maclin also had McCoy to put pressure on opposing defenses.

Can Gore, signed from the San Francisco 49ers, Cooper and Matthews produce as much as their predecessors? It is an interesting question and one that will not be answered until the season begins.

At some point, the exodus of talent will catch up with the Eagles. Jackson, McCoy and Maclin represent two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder. Those are valuable assets. Simply letting them walk away -- or in the case of McCoy, getting one player back in trade -- is not good resource management.

The departure of Maclin is different because he was the first of these key players to choose to leave. That didn’t happen in a vacuum.

For Maclin, seeing Jackson and McCoy go must have made an impression. His agent was negotiating with the Eagles on a five- or six-year contract. What were the chances he would still be here for the third year? The fourth? Meanwhile, in Kansas City, he is reunited with Andy Reid, the coach who drafted him and for whom he played three seasons.

Matthews, a second-round pick last year, had a good rookie season. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder caught 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. Matthews was especially effective in the red zone, where he caught 10 passes for 96 yards and six of his touchdowns. Maclin’s red zone numbers: six catches, 41 yards, three touchdowns.

Cooper, 27, caught 55 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns. He caught more passes than in 2013 (55 to 47), but gained 268 fewer yards and averaged 10.5 yards per reception. In 2013, he averaged 17.9 yards per catch.

The other wide receivers on the roster: Josh Huff, a 2014 third-round pick who caught eight passes for 98 yards for the season, and Jeff Maehl, an exclusive-rights free agent.

This year’s draft is considered rich in wide receiver talent. That could help, but Kelly’s recent flurry of roster moves have left the Eagles with a longer list of needs and the same number of draft picks.