Bears must steal Eagles’ blueprint for rebuilding woeful WR position

SHARE Bears must steal Eagles’ blueprint for rebuilding woeful WR position
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Alshon Jeffery and his Eagles teammates celebrate his touchdown. (AP)

See if this sounds familiar: The Eagles teamed rookie quarterback Carson Wentz with only one competent wide receiver last year. Three of their four leaders in receptions played either running back or tight end.

“The biggest thing for us a year ago was the fact that we just didn’t have enough talent around Carson on the perimeter,” coach Doug Pederson said this week. “We made a conscious effort in the offseason this year to go out and find — whether it be a free agent or the draft — some skill receivers that could help Carson.”

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Copying the formula the Eagles used to repair the league’s worst wide receiver unit, the Bears can build their WR position from scratch — both via free agency and the draft — and hasten Mitch Trubisky’s growth the way the Eagles did for Wentz, who’s now the presumptive NFL MVP. Any contributions from the injured Cam Meredith and Kevin White would have to be considered gravy.

The Eagles signed former Bear Alshon Jeffery to a $9.5 million deal in March. (Though only five NFL receivers got more in guaranteed money, the one-year contract mitigated the Eagles’ risk after Jeffery’s injury-prone career with the Bears, which also was tainted by a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2016.) They also gave 49ers receiver Torrey Smith $15 million over three years but guaranteed him only $500,000. Twenty free-agent receivers were guaranteed more, including Victor Cruz, who didn’t make it out of Bears training camp.

“These are two guys that are veteran players, they played a lot in this league, they’ve had impacts on the teams they’ve been a part of,” Pederson said. “Torrey was part of a Super Bowl team in Baltimore and brings a lot of experience there. Alshon’s a big, tall, physical target that brought another skill set.”

Jeffery leads the Eagles with 567 receiving yards. Smith, the other starter, has 249 but is an upgrade from last year’s second-leading wideout, Dorial Green-Beckham, who has since washed out of football.

The Eagles traded Jordan Matthews, their leading wide receiver from 2016, to the Bills so Nelson Agholor could play the slot. Agholor has 426 receiving yards. Mack Hollins, a former Trubisky target at North Carolina and one of two wide receivers the Eagles drafted this year, has 179 yards.

The talent influx helped Wentz run the offense in a whole new way.

“You start surrounding your quarterback with talent like that and it takes a little heat off,” Pederson said. “And it just changes the dynamic of your offense, where now he can spread the ball around. And this is where you’re seeing a lot of our players getting touches, or at least targets, in these games.”

The Bears can afford two established, unrestricted free-agent receivers this offseason. They could try to lure Davante Adams from the Packers, but Danny Trevathan’s vicious hit on Adams in Week 4 might have soured that potential relationship.

The Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry could command $13 million a year. Terrelle Pryor went on the Redskins’ injured reserve this week after arthroscopic ankle surgery; the Bears could be scared off the buy-low candidate after their recent glut of receiver injuries.

The Ravens’ Mike Wallace and the Titans’ Eric Decker are over 30 and don’t fit the timeline, but the Jaguars’ Marquise Lee (25), the Seahawks’ Paul Richardson (25), the Rams’ Sammy Watkins (24) and the Colts’ Donte Moncrief (24) would. Matthews (25) could play the slot.

With a strong finish, Jeffery might be the best on the market, though. And he already has a strong suitor.

“Alshon’s a guy that you’d love to have continue to work with Carson and have around, and I think it’s a good dynamic to have, and have that stability,” Pederson said. “If things work out and we can retain him, it would be great for the chemistry of the offense, and, obviously, those two guys working together in the future.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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