NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
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Trade, Cut, Keep? The Eagles and drop-happy wide receiver Nelson Agholor

The Philadelphia Eagles cut eight players on Sunday to get their roster to 73, with another 20 players to be cut or signed to the practice squad by the start of the season. Of the eight players released, two were wide receivers.

Neither was Nelson Agholor.

So far this preseason, the second-year receiver has been on the field for a combined 69 snaps. He has two receptions on six targets, with two terrible, horrible, no good, very bad drops.

The interview above was after the Steelers win, in which Agholor was clearly agitated that people keep asking him why he’s having so much trouble catching onto the football (an important skill for a receiver to have in the NFL!).

In the victory over Indianapolis on Saturday, Agholor was on the field for 21 snaps and was targeted once. On that play, this happened:

Head Coach Doug Pederson was asked about Agholor on Monday, and told reporters he won’t play in the final preseason game. “That’s just my decision,” Pederson said. “One I don’t want to risk an injury. Two, he’s, he’s right on track where he needs to be. So I’m not concerned with Nelson.”

He should be, and given the tone of his voice when answering questions about Agholor when compared to any other question about any other player, it’s clear Pederson is concerned. Or the team is planning to make a move. Soon.

“Every day he comes out here and he puts in a quality day’s work and he works extremely hard,” Pederson told reporters. “And I’ve seen what he can do in practice.

“Is there the occasional drop here or there, yeah, but it doesn’t let him — What he did after the drop [on Saturday that led on a Colts interception] you probably didn’t notice. The blocking he did down the field. The things he did away from the ball. You know, more than being a receiver. Yeah catching the ball is No. 1…the things he did in this football game put him in a really good position going into the regular season.”

That is hard to believe, which is probably why it sounded so hard to say. And the problem is, this isn’t just a bad pre-season. So far, small sample size and everything, it’s a bad career.

Rookie Drops

In 2015, Agholor was on the field for 669 plays, nearly 58 percent of all offensive snaps for the Eagles. He was targeted 44 times last season and caught 23 balls, dropping four.

By comparison, tight end Zach Ertz also dropped four passes last year, on 112 targets and 75 catches. Darren Sproles had three drops, on 83 targets and 55 receptions. To be fair to Agholor, the entire receiving corps had issues holding onto the ball last season. Jordan Matthews, for example, finished with one more drop than Agholor in 2015, but his five came on 128 targets and 85 catches.

Agholor was so concerned with drops after last year he purchased a JUGS machine, and invited teammates over during the off-season to use it.

So far this preseason, it hasn’t helped, and Agholor’s inconsistency and lack of dynamism has led many to question if he’s even worthy of a roster spot. Is he, already, a bust?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles
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Another First-Round Bust?

Howie Roseman took over as Eagles general manager in January, 2010. In his six years working as either GM or executive vice president of football operations, the Eagles have made the playoffs twice since, once in his first season as GM and once in Chip Kelly’s freshman campaign, just before Roseman had his authority stripped by the very coach he helped hire.

The Eagles have not won a playoff game in the Howie Roseman Era, and, with Pederson’s hire, Roseman’s tenure crosses the timeline of three different head coaches.

This off-season, Roseman was rated as the “worst” general manager in football by Vinny Iyer of Sporting News, perhaps an unfair assessment of his abilities to generally manage the Eagles when he is actually given the authority to do so. He was ranked 10th worst by Steven Ruiz of USA Today in April, 10 days before the 2016 NFL Draft.

Since regaining organizational power, Roseman made shrewd moves to jettison the questionable signings Kelly brought in, while looking to bolster positions of need in free agency.

And then there’s the draft.

Over the last six seasons, the Eagles have done a decent job at finding diamonds in the seven-rounds deep rough, but the first round picks over that span have been hit or giant miss.

Brandon Graham is just starting to come into his own after being drafted 13th overall in 2010. But the Eagles picked Graham over Earl Thomas and Jason Pierre-Paul that year. (And Dez Bryant, for what that’s worth.)

In 2011, the Eagles picked Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick.  Literally almost anyone else in the entire draft would have been a better pick.

2012 was a great draft for the Eagles, led by Fletcher Cox going 12th overall. In 2013, the Eagles took Lane Johnson fourth overall and it’s safe to say the jury is still out on Kelly’s first pick. That said, the first round that year was odd, and the Eagles probably did well with taking Johnson, suspensions notwithstanding.

Those next two drafts have been attributed more to Kelly and less to Roseman, as the rift between the two widened. Regardless, the Eagles traded back to draft Marcus Smith in 2014, teetering on the fence between being merely a draft disappointment and total NFL bust.

The following year — Kelly’s last draft with the Eagles and the one that brought Jordan Hicks and Eric Rowe to town — the Eagles took Agholor with the 20th overall pick, exactly 20 picks before Dorial Green-Beckham was taken by Tennessee.

Green-Beckham is now an Eagle after Tennessee got tired of his inconsistent play. Where will that leave Agholor?

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
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Cut him, Trade him or Keep him?

As much as Agholor has struggled in Eagle green, it doesn’t make a ton of business sense for the team to just cut him.

Agholor would cost the Eagles $6.8 million against the cap if he was cut, per spotrac.com. In most cases, teams don’t dump players after one mediocre year, and if Agholor survived the off-the-field debacle of being accused of sexual assault by a stripper over what was reportedly a money dispute, he’ll probably survive a bad training camp.

Less than a month ago, Agholor told reporters that he’s looking forward to Year 2, because “[n]ow you’re not worried about if you’re going to make them, you’re worried about just lining up again and trying to make the next play.”

While cutting Agholor doesn’t fit, trading him might make a ton more sense if the Eagles didn’t just cut two (underperforming) veteran receivers in Rueben Randle and Chris Givens. Still, a quick glance at the pass catchers in San Francisco should have Roseman salivating to strike a deal with his former coach, Kelly, who may be interested in Agholor via trade.

Per Niners Nation, this is who Kelly has catching the ball in San Francisco at the wide receiver position:

  • Torrey Smith – $7,600,000 ($7,100,000 dead money)
  • Bruce Ellington – $718,607 ($118,607 dead money)
  • Quinton Patton – $772,875 ($97,875 dead money)
  • Aaron Burbridge – $475,089 ($25,089 dead money)
  • DeAndrew White – $527,333 ($2,333 dead money)
  • DeAndre Smelter – $536,422 ($86,422 dead money)

That’s quite possibly the worst group of receivers ever assembled. Outside of Torrey Smith, the 49ers receivers have a combined 57 career receptions. As tough as Agholor’s first season in Philly was, he is better than anyone on that list other than Smith. Maybe including Smith.

The question is what the Eagles can get back in return. Certainly nobody is giving up a first-round pick for Agholor, but would Kelly, Trent Baalke and the 49ers be willing to part with a second rounder?

Would the Eagles make that deal, given their own woes at receiver this preseason and their lack of future draft picks?

Again, the sensible move would be to keep Agholor, and hope that the continued talk (you’re welcome, Eagles) around his job status may scare him into becoming more productive to prove his value to the team.

Right now, the Eagles are more likely to use two and three tight ends and multiple-back sets on offense than to feature three and four receivers on the field at once. Despite the clear change in Pederson’s tone when talking about Agholor, his actual words indicate the second-year wideout should be on the Eagles when the season starts.

How many snaps, targets and catches — and drops — he gets this year is anyone’s guess.

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