In July, the Philadelphia Eagles were facing adversity on the field, off the field, and in the locker room. On July 27, Jeremy Maclin tore his right ACL and underwent reconstructive surgery on Aug. 6. In the interim, Riley Cooper’s now infamous rant at a Kenny Chesney concert was exposed on the Internet. It was a tough week for the Eagles franchise.
As a media circus tent was raised outside the Eagles’ team facility, its players had no choice but to band together to defuse the controversy before it could negatively impact their season. No one benefited more from the team’s adept handling of the situation than Cooper. In 2013, rather than being banished from the league, he took a step forward, showing good rapport with Nick Foles, excelling as a blocker and grading out as a top-40 wide receiver on profootballfocus.com. Despite his inability to get consistent separation on the field and his controversy off the field, he remains in line to receive a big payday in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, Maclin’s per-game production actually trumps Cooper’s breakout season. In his last three years as a starter from 2010-12, Maclin averaged 60.3, 66.1, and 57.1 yards per game, compared to Cooper’s 52.2 per game average in 2013. However, Maclin played in all 16 games just once, and his ability to stay healthy was a concern before his most recent knee injury.
Maclin’s knee reconstruction is on-schedule, and he plans to be ready in plenty of time for training camp. Unfortunately, NFL GMs are currently pouring over 2013 highlight reels (not 2012), so Maclin will have to settle for a one-year “prove it” deal to re-establish himself as a productive starter in the league. If fact, Maclin is already rumored to have a short-term deal in place with the Eagles.
On the other hand, Cooper showcased numerous big plays in 2013, and one of the 31 other NFL teams is sure to out-bid Philadelphia by offering him a $20 million-plus multi-year deal. Given the choice, the Eagles are understandably more willing to take a flier on the undervalued Maclin than overpay for Cooper. Though he was a key player in Chip Kelly‘s offense last season, Cooper’s big payday is unlikely to come from the Eagles.