IF EAGLES LOSE MACLIN, HERE ARE FIVE FREE AGENT REPLACEMENTS

By Harry Allison

The Eagles haven’t franchised wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (photo above), who will undoubtedly test what he is worth on the open market when NFL free agency starts on March 10.

If the Birds lose Maclin, here are five free agents they could pursue:

Mike Wallace: According to numerous general managers, the only name being actively shopped right now is Miami’s Mike Wallace, which comes as no surprise as the Dolphinswere gauging interest in him and exploring trade possibilities a year ago as well, after Wallace’s first turbulent season with the club. Moving Wallace’s outsized contract ($12M/year) — $8.5M of his base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 13 and no way is that going to happen in Miami — could prove to be impossible but the Dolphins are searching. Wallace might have a hard time getting half of his current average salary per season on the open market and I continue to hear he’s interested in a return to Pittsburgh, though it remains to be seen how the Steelers feel about that. Miami has already cut loose veteran receiver Brian Hartline, who also signed a big deal two years ago.

Vincent Jackson: Tampa shopped Vincent Jackson before the trade deadline and while they might still be open to dealing him, they haven’t restarted that process yet, sources said, and at this point it looks like he’ll be back. Jackson will not agree to a pay cut, sources said, and the Bucs have plenty of cap space and need all the assets they can get, especially with it looking more and more like a done deal that they draft quarterback Jameis Winston first overall. Jackson has a $10M base and $12.2M cap hit, and while his role in the offense dipped at times last season, with uncertainty at quarterback, I suspect he is one guy from this group who sticks around. But I’m sure there are three to four teams who would be interested in him for sure.

Andre Johnson: Johnson is once again determining a sense of where the organization is going, how close they are to winning, and where he fits in. Things got a little testy last year, with Johnson wanting a trade, and while it has gone on under the surface this season, the reality is Johnson is not getting any younger and carries a hefty $10.5M base salary and $16M cap number. Just converting his base salary to bonus and pushing the cap burden into the future might not be what’s best for Houston, while Johnson is no longer the go-to receiver there. I’m not convinced his future is in Houston, but time will tell.

Percy Harvin: Harvin will not accept a pay cut of any sort to stay with the Jets, and several teams covet him on a short-term deal. Even more telling is New York really can’t afford to pay him $10M this season. Trading Harvin on his current contract would be impossible, and this continues to look like an imminent release. And while the Chiefs lack weapons as well on offense as it stands, paying Dwayne Bowe $11M with a $14M cap hit at a time when the club is desperate for cap space is a luxury they can’t afford. Maybe Bowe takes a cut to stay — the money that will be there for him on the open market won’t be close to what he’s scheduled to make after some down years in Kansas City–– but this situation will come to a head one way or the other.

Brandon Marshall: Do the Bears still really want Brandon Marshall? The regime that acquired and signed him is gone, last season was a wreck on offense, Marshall’s long had a connection with quarterback Jay Cutler — who may be on the outs himself — and new coach John Fox wants to clean up the locker room and hasn’t exactly committed to having the receiver on the team next year. Marshall’s trade value has dipped through the years, but I wouldn’t discount a team or two being interested should Chicago start making calls. If teams called the Bears, it’s not like they wouldn’t pick up the phone. Marshall is due $8M this season and the Bears are going to have to extend Alshon Jeffery at some point as well. If Fox and rookie GM Ryan Pace want to start putting their fingerprints on the roster, this is one way to start the process.

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