Exploring Eagles’ WR3 options after DeVante Parker’s retirement

Exploring Eagles’ WR3 options after DeVante Parker’s retirement originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There were a wide range of outcomes for DeVante Parker with the Eagles in 2024.

He could have become their WR3 after A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith or he could have failed to make the 53-man roster. But now we’ll never know.

Parker, 31, has decided to retire. The veteran NFL receiver told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he’s retiring to spend more time with his kids. So his Eagles career ended as the team begins OTAs this week.

The area where the Eagles might miss Parker most? He has experience as an outside receiver in the NFL. That’s what Nick Sirianni highlighted about Parker at the owners meetings this year.

“DeVante gives us another guy that can win on the outside,” Sirianni said in March. “He’s proven that he’s a really good player on the outside that’s had a lot of production, that can win 1-on-1 on the outside. That’s really important to have not only A.J. (Brown) and DeVonta Smith that can win on the outside, but what if they have to come out for a play? That you get another guy in there that can consistently win vs. man-to-man coverage.”

Without Parker, the Eagles’ receiver group after Brown and Smith is looking even thinner. In 2023, the Eagles had Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus and Julio Jones rotate as the WR3 and none of them ever really took hold of that job.

This year? There are several options:

The top in-house guy

The Eagles signed two veteran receivers this offseason: Parker and Parris Campbell. The Parker retirement news probably means the most to Campbell, who could now be in the driver’s seat for the WR3 job. Campbell, 26, has had a disappointing career as a second-round pick but he does have some experience.

Campbell’s best year came in 2022, when he had 63 catches for 623 yards and 3 touchdowns. But aside from that season, Campbell has struggled with injuries and his other four seasons have been rough. Just take a look at his career production:

2022: 63 catches, 623 yards, 3 touchdowns
His other 4 seasons: 54 catches, 464 yards, 2 touchdowns

In 12 games with the Giants last season, Campbell caught just 20 passes for 104 yards. Sirianni coached Campbell in Indianapolis in 2019 and 2020 and said Campbell “brings an element of speed” to the Eagles’ offense. Campbell has played primarily in the slot in his career, so that would be relatively easy to plug-and-play him in there in 2024.

The draft picks

The Eagles drafted two Day 3 receivers last month and they’re very different players. Fifth-round pick Ainias Smith from Texas A&M is 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, while sixth-round pick Johnny Wilson from Florida State is 6-foot-6, 228 pounds.

Of the two, Smith would obviously be a better option to play inside as a shifty slot receiver. Wilson projects as a developmental outside receiver who can win 50-50 balls by using his massive wingspan. It might be a stretch to expect either of them to really be major contributors this season. But of the two, it seems more likely that Smith can contribute early.

As Texas A&M, Smith was used at receiver and running back — and after catching the football, he looks like a back. He had 53/795/2 in his final college season but is coming back from a stress fracture discovered at the Combine. He did not practice at rookie minicamp.

The other guys

The other top imcumbent on the roster is Britain Covey, who has been the Eagles’ primary punt returner the last two seasons. But Covey has played just 77 offensive snaps in two NFL seasons and has just 4 catches on 6 targets for 42 yards. Could Covey have some upside as a receiver? Maybe. His body type and shiftiness as a returner make you think he could offer some snaps as a slot receiver. But we just haven’t seen it much yet.

The Eagles also signed a bunch of receivers to futures deals after the 2023 season ended and they were clearly looking for a type:

Joseph Ngata: 6-3, 217
Austin Watkins Jr.: 6-3, 210
Jacob Harris: 6-5, 211
Shaquan Davis: 6-5, 215

Perhaps one of those huge receivers can develop into a solid backup — Ngata had a good rookie training camp last summer — but it’s hard to imagine any of them really contributing in 2024.

WR3 isn’t here yet

It’s May and there aren’t many great options still available in free agency. But the Eagles did add Jones last season in mid-October, so there’s non deadline for adding players.

A few notable names still out there: Hunter Renfrow, Michael Thomas, Mecole Hardman

Perhaps, Howie Roseman can figure out a way to work a trade. He has brought in players during training camp before so that’s another option. But maybe the Eagles will want to see what they have on the roster first before going that route.

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