Decoding the Eagles' plan at wide receiver, from Deebo Samuel to the draft

PHILADELPHIA -- Wide receiver remains a work in progress for the Philadelphia Eagles despite heavy investment in the position in recent years, including two first-round picks dedicated to the position over the last two drafts.

It remains a hot topic in the City of Brotherly Love in the lead-up to this week's festivities. Will they select a receiver in the first round for a third consecutive year? Will they make a hard charge for a difference-maker like Deebo Samuel? Will they find a suitor for Jalen Reagor?

Here's what we know:

1. The Eagles believe they have a No. 1 wideout in DeVonta Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner who led the team in receptions (64), receiving yards (916) and receiving touchdowns (5) as a rookie.

From there, things get shakier. They like Quez Watkins, the third-year player out of Southern Miss, and added Zach Pascal -- a favorite of coach Nick Sirianni from their days together with the Indianapolis Colts -- to boost the culture and add grit and production to the group. Greg Ward was brought back on a one-year deal to add depth, while former second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has been moved from receiver to tight end in hopes of finding him a modified role after limited success as a wideout. Watkins in particular has upside, but the supporting cast around quarterback Jalen Hurts feels unsettled and could use some bolstering.

2. Reagor, selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft, has largely fallen out of the receiver conversation in Philadelphia following a pair of underwhelming seasons. The Eagles are open to listening to offers for him, according to league sources. This feels like a situation where a change of scenery would be best for all sides. Even if he does return for the 2022 season, the Eagles won't be banking on Reagor as a primary option.

3. They've taken some swings on the trade/free-agent front this offseason, but haven't landed anyone outside Pascal. The Eagles appeared close to acquiring Calvin Ridley from the Atlanta Falcons before he was suspended for the season. They made an offer for free agent Christian Kirk, but the Jacksonville Jaguars sent his numbers into a stratosphere (4 years, $72 million) Philly wouldn't touch.

They've been actively trying to upgrade, and that'll likely continue this week and beyond.

So how about Deebo?

This could probably be said of a lot of teams, but Samuel is a perfect fit for the Eagles' offense. Think of the stress defenses would be under in the ground game with Hurts under center and Samuel coming out of the backfield or across the line on a jet sweep, not to mention the yards after the catch he could rack up for Hurts on quick passes over the middle or down the seam.

The odds of an Eagles-Samuel union, however, don't seem great. Just hours before Samuel told ESPN's Jeff Darlington he wanted to be traded from the San Francisco 49ers, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman gave a quote to the local media that seemed to pour cold water on the idea of Philly pursuing him.

The question was about the recent boom in receiver contracts, and how it shapes Roseman's thoughts about selecting a receiver in this week's draft.

"I think every year a position kind of becomes -- I like that word, ‘the boom,'" he said last week at his annual pre-draft gathering with the media. "It's like the new mining town, right? You have pass-rushers, you have offensive linemen, and now you have wide receivers.

"You have to make a decision on what your priorities are on building the team, whether you're going to kind of go with the flow or you're going to kind of figure out what is the most important thing for your team, and if there's some value in being different and figuring out what now is kind of the next area. ... So that doesn't mean that there aren't right decisions to make at that position. But at the same time, if you're doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, you're probably a step late."

The cost to acquire Samuel would likely be steep, as would the new deal he is in line for (Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams are both making about $30 million per season in their new deals). Coughing up that kind of capital isn't in line with where the Eagles are in their team-building process, even for a player as dynamic as Samuel.

Never say never with Roseman, but this doesn't feel like the avenue they'll choose.

What about the draft?

This is where the Eagles can add serious talent without allocating serious dollars to the position like other teams are, keeping with their bob-while-others-weave approach. The idea of committing a first-round pick (the Eagles have Nos. 15 and 18) to a receiver for a third straight year can't be super appealing to the front office, but there are only so many projected blue-chip prospects to go around, and if someone like Alabama's Jameson Williams, who averaged 20 yards a catch and caught 15 touchdowns last season, drops as a result of tearing his ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, they would have to consider taking him.

Multiple execs said Williams is the Eagles' preference at No. 15, according to ESPN senior draft analyst Todd McShay.

There is talent to be found late in Day 1/ Day 2 as well, including Penn State's Jahan Dotson, Western Michigan's Skyy Moore, Christian Watson out of North Dakota State and George Pickens out of Georgia.

The Eagles view themselves as a young team still on the climb, so they'd naturally want a receiver who could climb with them and still be in his prime when they're ready to compete for titles.

That could be a veteran at the right age and price (two of their previous targets, Ridley and Kirk, are 26 and 25, respectively) but it feels quite possible they'll upgrade the position via a high pick in the draft later this week.