Some people think NFL wide receivers are a dime a dozen. Yet for all the money the Eagles invest into player’s contracts, the team has consistently struggled to find and maintain talent in that position.
Part of it is the constant whiffs in the draft, like JJ Arcega-Whiteside instead of DK Metcalf. After that draft, Carson Wentz became the first QB to throw for 4,000 yards in a season without any receiver accumulating over 500 yards receiving.
Top 10 Best Eagles Receivers in Franchise History
Who are the best Eagles receivers in franchise history?
This list is a reflection upon decades of wideouts who have suited up for the Birds. We’ve gone through the list of the most productive, reflecting upon their contributions on big stages and consistency. Some of the names are known to fans of all ages. Some may have been forgotten over the years. A few have achieved the immortality of Canton enshrinement.
Note: We are limiting this list to players who were classified as wide receivers or flankers, as per ProFootballReference.com. We’ll have a separate Top 10 list for tight ends.
The Eagles needed a #1 receiver for the 2017 season to help Carson Wentz develop. They got Alshon Jeffery, a big target from the Bears.
While his size made him a great addition to the West Coast style offense, concerns existed about his durability. He had played only two full seasons in his five-year pro career.
For the first season, the Eagles got their dime’s worth. Jeffery converted 44 of his 57 catches into first downs, including nine TDs. He helped spearhead the dominant offense that controlled the ball, wore down opponents, and went 13-3 to claim the top spot in the NFC playoffs.
In the playoffs, Jeffery was a matchup nightmare. He scored twice in the conference title game against Minnesota before getting the first TD of Super Bowl LII. In the win, he made six catches for 73 yards.
2017 would prove to be the only campaign where Jeffery made all 16 games. Despite injuries, he remained a prominent producer. In 2018, he made more catches (65) in fewer games (13) by increasing his catch rate and earning 843 receiving yards with six touchdowns. However, he had the infamous drop that scuttled the comeback attempt against the Saints in the divisional playoff game.
2019 saw Jeffery make only 10 games and miss the December playoff push. He made 43 catches for 490 yards and four TDs, rushing in a fifth. However, following his injury in Miami, the Eagles won four straight and the division without him.
Jeffery was looked to contribute more in 2020 and help the offense regain some stability. However, he spent most of the season hurt and only made six catches in seven games as the team foundered. Alshon Jeffery remains a free agent after the Eagles designated a post-June 1 cut, Jeffery had previously restructured his contract to help create more savings for this inevitable move.
Although the relationship ended on somewhat of a sour note, you can’t deny that Alshon should be in the conversation when talking about the best Eagles receivers in franchise history.
Quick – name the wide receiver who has the most catches in a season. Hint: he also has the second-most catches by a WR.
Believe it or not, it was Irving Fryar. In his 30s. With Rodney Peete.
The South Jersey native and Rancocas Valley High alum went first overall in 1984 to New England after a stellar career at Nebraska and eventually would become of the best Eagles receivers we have seen take the field.
Yes, it was the USFL-influenced draft but Fryar developed into a premier target with the Patriots and later the Dolphins.
In 1996, the free agency brought him home at 33 to catch passes. He broke Keith Jackson’s franchise record with 88 catches, a career-high, for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Eagles made the playoffs but were shut out in San Francisco in the Wild Card game.
The following year, Fryar broke another club record, this one a 21-year old mark for receiving yards set by Ben Hawkins. Fryar gained 1,316 yards on 86 catches and six scores. He made his second consecutive Pro Bowl and his fourth in five years, all after turning 30.
Fryar’s productivity dropped in the dismal 98 seasons but still managed 556 yards on 48 catches and two scores. However, his targets dropped from over 150 in his first two years with the team to 112 in his third. He finished his career with two years in Washington and retired after the 2000 season.
If there was an all-Eagles nickname team, “Arkansas” Fred would probably be on it. He should also be considered a forefather to the smaller, faster WRs that populate the NFL today.
Technically, he’s from Mississippi but got the nickname because the Eagles drafted him in the third round of the 1990 draft from Arkansas State. Paired with Calvin Williams, he was integral to the aerial offense led by Randall Cunningham. As a rookie, he was on the receiving end of one of the franchise’s most iconic throws, as Randall dodged Bills rushers in the end zone, ran forward, and uncorked a 95-yard bomb to Barnett, who coasted for a TD.
In his second year, he improved to 62 catches for 948 yards with four scores, half of his rookie output. He did so in one less game and with FOUR DIFFERENT QBS. He caught balls from HOF and one-time VP candidate Jack Kemp’s son Jeff. Yeah, that was a fun season to watch as the Eagles won 10 games but still missed the playoffs.
1992 was a banner year as Barnett first cracked the 1,000-yard threshold on 67 catches and six TDs. In the Wild Card game, he caught four balls for 102 yards and two scores, the latter sparked a 26-point fourth-quarter eruption to down the Saints. After dropping the divisional round game in Dallas, he made his lone Pro Bowl.
After an injury-shortened 1993 season, Barnett bounced back in 94 with career highs in catches (78) and yards (1,127), along with five scores. The Eagles again made the playoffs in 1995, his last with the team, as Barnett’s prominence in the offense dropped. In the offseason, he traded places (but not via trade) with Irving Fryar and played two years with the Dolphins.
There’s no doubt that Terrell Owens is one of the top 3 greatest wide receivers in the history of the NFL, but should he be considered one of the best Eagles receivers in franchise history? ABSOLUTELY!
Are there words to encapsulate the emotional roller coaster Eagles fans rode in the year-plus Owens wore midnight green? Other than maybe Fernandomania with the Dodgers, is there a fair comparison to the adulation one man enjoyed for a season, only to seemingly discard it like old newspapers?
True fans know the TO story starts in April 2004, as the Eagles, desperate for an elite receiver, offered San Francisco a trade for the polarizing star. So did Baltimore. An arbitrator awarded the deal to Philly, thus beginning the most anticipated debut in Philly since, maybe Allen Iverson?
Coming off five straight 1,000-yard seasons, expectations were high. Week 1, against the Giants, he had eight catches for 68 yards and three TDs. Sold.
Owens set the franchise record with 14 TDs – in just 14 games. He took that infamous horse-collar tackle at the end of the Dallas game and missed the rest of the regular season, along with the first two playoff games.
Despite the bad leg, Owens led the Eagles with nine catches for 122 yards in the game. The lack of his breakaway speed may have hampered the team’s chances but having him out there was exponentially better than not against the defending champs. He finished the year as a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro.
In the 2005 offseason, things went badly. Owens wanted more money, the team refused, and things got out of hand. Owens did sit-ups in his driveway, feuded with everyone, and only played seven games. He still had 47 catches for 763 yards and six scores. The next year, he went to Dallas and played five more seasons on his way to Canton – eventually.
The Eagles drafted Maclin in 2009 out of Missouri to serve as the secondary option to complement DeSean Jackson. He became a possession specialist and downfield threat with his skills.
As a rookie, Maclin caught 56 passes for 773 yards and 4 touchdowns. In 2010, he accumulated 1,000 yards from scrimmage with 70 catches and his first of two 10-touchdown seasons with the Eagles. He helped spark the big comeback at Metlife to all but seal the division crown.
2011 and 2012 saw 60-plus catch seasons for over 800 yards. However, the Eagles struggled to a 4-12 record, and head coach Andy Reid was fired.
Maclin tore his ACL in training camp and missed the 2013 season. Imagine how he could have done with Chip Kelly and the high-flying Nick Foles experience. Maybe he has the three-TD game in Oakland instead of Riley Cooper.
Coming back in 2014, Maclin signed a one-year “show me something” deal with the Eagles, and as one of the best Eagles receivers in franchise history, he showed us what he was worth.
He went on to his best season with the franchise. 85 catches, 1,318 yards, and 10 scores with Foles and Mark Sanchez in the pocket. He finished only his second season with 16 games played and 0 fumbles.
After the impressive campaign, Maclin got paid – by the Chiefs. He got a five-year, $55 million deal with KC, where he managed another 1,000-yard season in 2015 before an injury cut his short his second year with the team. He played one more season with Baltimore.
Maclin was a quality receiver who was consistent on some fairly inconsistent teams. He may not have gotten the headlines of Jackson or other flashy teammates but at least he didn’t get traded away in 2014 as some did.
Ben Hawkins was a third-round pick out of Arizona State in 1966, the same year the Jets drafted him in the fifth round of the AFL draft. In the highly competitive years where the leagues battled over prospects, Hawkins chose the NFL. One wonders if the North Jersey native regretted his decision when the Jets won Super Bowl III.
After a quiet rookie season, Hawkins led the NFL in 1967 with 1,265 yards on 59 catches for 10 TDs. He also led the league with 90.4 yards per game, which still stands as the franchise record.
While Hawkins led the Eagles’ offense, the team finished 6-7-1 as they allowed the most points in the NFL that season.
Hawkins stayed around with the team during some truly low years. He caught 42 balls for 707 yards in 1968, the season the Eagles won the last two games of the year but “lost” the chance to draft OJ Simpson first overall (aka, the time we booed the skinny, drunk Santa at Franklin Field). The 16.8 yards per catch was the lowest average in his career, other than his rookie season.
Hawkins will easily go down as one of the best Eagles receivers and most dangerous downfield threats, as he averaged over 17 yards a catch in six of his eight seasons in Philadelphia. After injuries cut short his 1973 season, Hawkins played just two games in Cleveland the following year.
Hey, remember when this franchise drafted actually good wide receivers? In 2008, the front office went with Cal’s DeSean Jackson over Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly. One still plays.
Jackson burst onto the scene with 62 catches for 912 yards and two receiving scores, along with one rushing and one returning. He led the NFL with 50 punt returns for 440 yards. He also had a long touchdown in the NFC Championship Game, and almost got one waved off at Texas Stadium when he dropped the ball just before the goal line.
In 2009, Jackson made the first of two straight Pro Bowls with over 1,700 all-purpose yards and 12 total TDs. He dazzled with his breakaway speed returning punts and catching passes. He improved his yardage to 1,156 on the same 62 catches, with nine scores.
Jackson was known for highlight-reel plays. As part of his 1,056 yards that year was the 88-yard bomb he caught to open a Monday Night blowout against Washington. He also had the famous walk-off punt return to beat the Giants and steal the division crown.
2011 saw Jackson just miss another 1,000 yards in receiving, catching 58 balls. Jackson got hurt in 2012 and only played 11 games.
2013 was a great revival under the wide-open offense of Chip Kelly. Jackson set career highs with 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine scores, with a tenth TD from rushing, making his third Pro Bowl.
I remember the Friday afternoon in 2014 when the news hit. I was at lunch at work, my phone buzzed, I saw the push notification, and I almost lost my mind. Under the auspices of Jackson associating with a criminal element, Kelly released his top receiver from the previous year.
Kelly releases one of the best Eagles receivers we have ever seen, and he just releases him without any real proof Jackson was involved in anything criminal.
Jackson continued to play well for three seasons in Washington and two more with Tampa, leading the league three teams in yards per reception. In 2019, the Eagles welcomed him home with a big contract. His return home saw two long touchdowns in a win over Washington, followed by two seasons riddled with injuries and inconsistency.
The team released Jackson in February and he signed with the Rams. Honestly, I could see Jackson being welcomed to Canton one day for his all-purpose prowess and highlight-reel dominance. But jeez, he could have really dominated for years with the Birds.
Most fans today know Mike Quick as the guy sitting next to Merrill Reese as the Eagles’ radio color analyst. Older fans know he was at least as noteworthy on the field as he is today in the booth.
The Eagles drafted Quick 20th overall in 1982 out of NC State. While he didn’t see much of the field in the strike-shortened campaign, 1983 saw him set the franchise record with 1,409 receiving yards on 69 catches with 11 scores. His yardage total and yards per game average led the league and earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
Quick might have the most consistent five-year stretch of any offensive skill player in franchise history. Between 83 and 87 he made all the Pro Bowls and was All-Pro twice. He scored no less than nine TDs in those years and broke 1,000 yards three times. He tied a league record in 85 with a 99-yard touchdown reception (most of it was him running) against Atlanta in overtime.
After the 1987 season, Quick could not stay healthy. He only played in 18 games his last three years in Philly, catching 44 passes for about 750 yards and seven scores.
He was third overall in his career receiving yards for the franchise before DeSean Jackson’s long TD at AT&T Stadium last December, but he is easily in any top 5 conversations of the best Eagles receivers of all time.
There is a generation of Eagles fans who likely still insist that Tommy McDonald is their all-time favorite receiver in franchise history.
McDonald came to the team as a third-round pick in 1957 and quickly became one of the best Eagles receivers of all time.
After his rookie year, McDonald became a star. He made five straight Pro Bowls, led the league in touchdowns in 1958 with nine – on 29 catches in 10 games. That was the least amount of TDs he had in those years.
He was a key player in the 1960 championship season, scoring the go-ahead touchdown to beat the Packers at Franklin Field. He followed that up with a dominant year in 1961, where he led the league with 1,144 yards and 13 scores. McDonald actually had more yards the next year (1,146) with eight fewer catches.
Following a down year in 1963, McDonald was let go. However, he played five more seasons and made another Pro Bowl with the Rams. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, the joy he exuded was only matched by the thousands of green-clad fans who welcomed this day.
Harold Carmichael is not one of the best Eagles receivers of all time, he is THE BEST EVER. The GOAT.
A few of these categories have some easy #1’s. The other Eagles mainstay to FINALLY make the Hall of Fame, fits into that category.
Carmichael was drafted out of Southern University in 1971 in the seventh round. At 6’8, the team tried to first make him a tight end.
Once moved to wide receiver, Harold Carmichael helped transform the franchise. In 1973, he led the NFL with 67 catches and 1,116 yards. He made the first of four career Pro Bowls.
Over the next four years, he was the main target but never cracked 700 yards in a season. When the schedule stretched to 16 games, his numbers took off. He went back over 1,000 yards in 1978 on 55 catches for eight scores.
While his numbers weren’t legendary, each year he made the Pro Bowl, and each year the Eagles got better, up to winning the division and making Super Bowl XV. He also started every game in those seasons.
Carmichael’s last 1,000-yard season was 1981, where he caught 61 balls. His numbers went down in the strike-shortened 82 and regular-length 83 seasons. After 1983, the Eagles let him go and he signed with the rival Cowboys. Some fans still cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the franchise legend wore the star.
Carmichael retired with a majority of franchise records for wideouts and our #1 on the best Eagles receivers top 10 list finally got the call for Canton last year. We look forward to enjoying that induction, hopefully, this summer.