PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' first crack at a much-needed wide receiver makeover comes during NFL free agency, which officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 18.
Carson Wentz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without a 500-yard receiver last season, as injuries hit the position hard. Of the 2019 starting trio of DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, only Jackson appears to be a lock to return. The Eagles are looking to add speed, youth and consistency to a position that lacked all three in 2019.
The free-agent receiver class is short on big names and big-time difference-makers. Philadelphia will be looking at the trade market and this April's NFL draft for help as well. But it remains a good bet the Eagles will sign a free-agent wideout.
Let's take a deeper look at four players who make some sense for the Eagles:
Cooper will be the top receiver prize if the Cowboys let him hit the open market. He's 25 and has made the Pro Bowl four times, including this past season after catching 79 passes for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he went cold late: His 26 receptions in Weeks 11-17 ranked 53rd in the NFL, and his 341 yards ranked 43rd in that time frame.
"Sometimes when you are having success, you tend to lose focus on the little things that you need to do to keep playing well," Cooper said. "For example, if you catch a lot of balls early on, it starts to feel like that's just what you do. ... When it becomes routine, you stop doing those things."
The idea of pairing Cooper with Jackson on the outside is enticing -- just think of how the middle would open up for Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders -- but the Eagles would have to be comfortable with the price tag (top-end receivers who got paid in 2019 are making between $16-$19 million per season) and convinced he can be a steady force. Plus, he's a Cowboy, and the transition to the other side of the Dallas-Philly rivalry rarely goes well.
Next-level stat: Cooper averaged .96 yards per catch after contact in 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information research, ranking 101st among receiving targets.
Perriman has crazy speed -- he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in 2015 -- and at age 26, still has plenty left in those legs. He bumped up his stock with a strong finish for the Bucs in 2019, posting 100-plus-yard performances in each of his past three games with four total touchdowns. Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl was with the Baltimore Ravens when they selected Perriman in the first round out of Central Florida. He should have a good read on how Perriman is wired, why he hasn't quite lived up to expectations of yet, and whether he'd be a good fit in Philly. From a skill perspective, Perriman checks several boxes, and would give Wentz another big-play threat.
Next-level stat: He finished third in average targeted air yards (16.1) in 2019, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and was tied for fourth in average yards per reception (17.9).
Like Perriman, Anderson's age (26) and speed (4.34-second 40 time) fit the bill. His production has been solid and he's averaged 55 catches, 824 yards and six touchdowns over the past three seasons for the Jets. If he hits free agency, the Eagles need to get to the bottom of this question: Why would general manager Joe Douglas -- the Eagles' VP of player personnel from 2016-19 -- allow one of Sam Darnold's top targets to walk, smack in the middle of the quarterback's development? Anderson has some off-the-field troubles in his past, which would need to be investigated. On the field, he's a match.
Next-level stat: Anderson finished seventh in average targeted air yards (15.3). He had two of the most "improbable" catches of 2019, per NextGen: a 36-yard reception in Week 2 (10.8% completion probability, fifth-lowest) and a 23-yard reception Week 16 (13.3%, ninth-lowest).
Robinson has already been linked to Philadelphia in the run-up to free agency. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles have Robinson "in their sights." They showed some pre-draft interest in him prior to the 2016 NFL draft, when he was ultimately selected by the Chiefs in the fourth round. Robinson, 25, has never posted 500-plus yards in a season despite working with elite quarterback Patrick Mahomes the past three seasons. But he flashed in Tyreek Hill's absence -- including a six-catch, 172-yard, two-touchdown showing in Week 2 against the Raiders -- and has demonstrated big-play ability and greater game speed than his 40 time of 4.59 seconds suggests. This group of free-agent receivers isn't perfect. The Eagles are going to have to sniff out players with upside, and Robinson has some of that.
Next-level stat: Robinson had a reception per target rate of just 7.2% in 2019, 77th among receivers. Perriman ranked 76th at 8.5%.