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Exploring Eagles’ WR3 options after DeVante Parker’s retirement – NBC Sports Philadelphia

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

He could have become their WR3 after AJ 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 wide receiver told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he is retiring to spend more time with his children. So his career with the Eagles is over as the team begins OTAs this week.

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

“DeVante gives us another guy who can win on the outside,” Sirianni said in March. “He proved that he was a very good player outside, that he had a lot of production and that he could win 1 on 1 away. It’s really important to not only have AJ (Brown) and DeVonta Smith who can win on the outside, but what happens if they have to come out for a play? That you have another guy in there that can consistently win against man-to-man coverage.

Without Parker, the Eagles’ receiving group after Brown and Smith looks even thinner. In 2023, the Eagles rotated Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus and Julio Jones as WR3 and none of them ever really played that position.

This year? There are several options:

The best guy in-house

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

Campbell’s best year came in 2022, when he had 63 catches for 623 yards and 3 touchdowns. But outside of this season, Campbell struggled with injuries and his other four seasons were rough. Take a look at his career output:

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 during his career, so plugging him in there in 2024 would be relatively easy.

Draft picks

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

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

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

The other guys

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

The Eagles also signed a group of receivers to futures contracts after the end of the 2023 season and they were clearly looking for one guy:

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

Maybe one of these huge receivers can become a solid backup – Ngata had a good rookie training camp last summer – but it’s hard to imagine any of them contributing actually in 2024.

WR3 is not there yet

It’s May and there aren’t many interesting options still available in free agency. But the Eagles added Jones last season in mid-October, so there is no deadline to add players.

Some notable names still present: Hunter Renfrow, Michael Thomas, Mecole Hardman

Maybe Howie Roseman can find a way to develop a craft. He’s already brought in players during training camp, so that’s another option. But perhaps the Eagles will first want to see what they have on the roster before going down that route.

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