Encouraging Start for Eagles With Jeffery, Smith, But Long-term Issues Unsolved

Torrey Smith, nice signing. Alshon Jeffery, nice signing. Two veteran receivers who instantly give the Eagles' wide receiver corps credibility it's lacked since Jeremy Maclin followed DeSean Jackson out the NovaCare Complex front gate.

Smith has never caught a ton of passes. He's surpassed 50 catches only once in six seasons. But his 17.0 average is second-best among active receivers, behind only DeSean Jackson (17.7). And he gets in the end zone -- his 37 TD catches are 14th-most since he entered the NFL in 2011.

Jeffery scares me a little. Between injuries in 2015 and a suspension in 2016, he hasn't really been a special player in a few years. And that 1,400-yard Pro Bowl season was four years ago.

But he's big and strong and fast and instantly gives Carson Wentz a potentially elite wideout, something he's never had.

Now here's the thing. It's not that I don't like the moves. I do. These guys are quality players at a position the Eagles were desperate to improve. It's clear to everybody the Eagles are a better football team today than they were yesterday.

But it's also clear that these moves are not a long-term solution to anything. They don't solve the problem. They just defer it.

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Both receivers signed contracts that are essentially one-year deals, and although the Eagles could exercise the options and keep Smith around a couple more years, and they could sign Jeffery to a long-term deal or theoretically franchise him next offseason -- which could cost in the neighborhood of $17 or $18 million -- it's also not too far-fetched to think that neither one will be an Eagle in 2018.

And then they're right back where they started. With Nelson Dorial-Treggs and Company.

Which brings us to the draft, and the Eagles' long-term strategy at wideout.

If the best player on the board at 14 is a cornerback, go cornerback. If the best player is a running back, go running back. But if it's a wide receiver, you have to still go wide receiver because this franchise's need for an infusion of long-term young talent for Wentz didn't change Thursday.

I don't want to say Jeffery and Smith are Band-Aids, but they really are placeholders who give the Eagles' offense instant credibility and give Wentz capable targets but could very well only be short-term answers.

And the Eagles need long-term solutions at wide receiver, and despite an encouraging day Thursday that hasn't changed.

We should all know by now the only way to truly effectively build for the future is through the draft.

The Eagles used a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a third-round pick on wide receivers over the 2014 and 2015 drafts and came away with one guy who was released halfway through last season, another guy who has some of the worst numbers in NFL history by a first-round pick and another guy who's been decent but hardly electrifying.

And the Eagles wouldn't have even been looking at free-agent wide receivers this week if they had drafted better.

But those first few rounds of the draft are the lifeblood of a championship roster, and the Eagles can't delude themselves into thinking they've solved the whole equation just by signing two free agents. Even talented ones.

I still want young, fast, athletic wide receivers that Wentz can grow with. Guys who will still be here and under contract and making plays when Wentz is in his prime. Guys who grow up Eagles and want to remain Eagles.

It's all about long-term. Not that short-term fixes are awful. These moves bring instant credibility to the Eagles' receiver group and give Wentz weapons he was missing as a rookie.

But until the Eagles figure out a way to identify young talent in the draft and develop that talent and keep that talent and find continuity and groom home-grown guys, this is not going to be a championship team.

And all the big-money contracts and former Pro Bowlers in the world won't change that.

This is a start. A very encouraging start. But it's only a start.

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