Rich Hofmann: Search high, not low, to elevate Eagles' wide-receiver corps

Jacksonville's Reggie Williams will be a free agent.
Jacksonville's Reggie Williams will be a free agent.
Posted: February 11, 2009

T.J., I LOVE YOU.

There is a part of me that really hopes the Eagles sign you, the part of me where I desperately need a column on a Wednesday afternoon in November and have no great ideas and then you show up at your locker and we all say "hello" and then you fill up our notebooks for the next 10 minutes, pretty much without taking a breath. You possess a great skill, that notebook-filling skill. It would be well worth the burden of having to type "Houshmandzadeh" on deadline for the next few years.

But, T.J., I don't know. Maybe the next time you call Mike Missanelli, maybe you could stand on a box. Maybe then.

They need somebody bigger than 6-1, which is 1 inch taller than Kevin Curtis, which is what they peg Houshmandzadeh's height as on all of the lists. He is the best guy out there, but he isn't big enough.

It was said here last year and it will be said again here this year: Your quarterback needs a big target in the red zone, and if he thinks he needs it, you have to do what you can to give it to him.

You need a unique piece. You need a situational piece. They scored a lot of points last year but lost a lot of the situations in games.

Situations. That should be the philosophy you carry into this offseason, a willingness to build your roster around situations. It is why you need the second running back, a big running back. It is why you need a fullback and a tight end who know how to block above all else. And it is why you need this big receiver whose main asset is his size, not necessarily his speed.

Names, you ask?

Two unrestricted free agents are Reggie Williams (6-4, Jacksonville) and Bryant Johnson (6-3, San Francisco). Two restricted free agents are Demetrius Williams (6-2, Baltimore) and Malcolm Floyd (6-5, San Diego). There are a half-dozen other names, too. To pretend to know who is better than who is to pretend that you are more qualified than NFL personnel people, which is a fallacy. So there is no reason to pretend.

But a big target is what Donovan McNabb needs. This whole offseason has to be about the Eagles doing what they can to remove the valleys from McNabb's game. The first thing they need to do is bolster the running game, to give Brian Westbrook a helper, to give the offense another significant option if McNabb is struggling. But the other thing they need to do is give McNabb another red-zone option, the proverbial big target.

When you look back on it, McNabb's midseason falloff was his problem most of all. It led to his benching and to the discord that exists today, discord that theoretically will be aired in a meeting with the front office (and coach Andy Reid) in the next week or so.

Repeat: The problems were McNabb's. But if he is going to be your quarterback, you have to boost him somehow.

And the thing is, you really have to believe that Reggie Brown is done here. To bring him back as one of your top three receivers after benching him and not even dressing him in the conference championship game would be folly. So they do need a top-three receiver. So, there's that.

Then, when you look at last year, the one great disservice that was done to McNabb was at the tight-end position. L.J. Smith had a terrible season and it hurt McNabb, especially in the first half of the year, especially in the red zone. Remember at this time last year, when they franchised Smith after an injury-filled season and the sales job that was made about Smith being the addition of a big red-zone target?

Well, that didn't happen. Brent Celek became a credible target at tight end, but you don't want to go too crazy there. Hank Baskett (also a free agent, by the way) has the requisite size but cannot seem to make a consistent connection with the quarterback. Brown, one of your alleged top three, has disqualified himself.

They don't need another smaller fast guy - Curtis and DeSean Jackson fill that role and fill it well. Instead, they need a guy with enough size to give McNabb enough confidence to throw the fade, enough of a target to give McNabb the feeling that this guy will go up and catch a 10-foot laser with outstretched hands.

If that's T.J., fine. But bigger would be better. *

Send e-mail to

hofmanr@phillynews.com,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

http://go.philly.com/theidlerich.

For recent columns go to

http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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