Chris Givens isn't here to be The Answer for the Eagles' receiving corps. Instead he's here, after signing a one-year contract on Wednesday, to be a part of a room that needs to step up, collectively, from last season and give quarterback Sam Bradford reliability and productivity.
Givens, who played for St. Louis (three seasons plus three games of a fourth season) and Baltimore (12 games in 2015), is an Eagle because the team thinks he can be an explosive, make-the-defense-respect-his-deep-speed kind of player. Givens hasn't been a particularly numbers-consuming wide receiver since St. Louis used a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2012, but he does have a career average of 16.6 yards on his 107 NFL receptions, so he does pick 'em up and lay 'em down in the passing game. The man can run and he can play fast and that's something this offense needs.
But is Givens going to suddenly put his game together and become a star receiver for the Eagles? Maybe. Who knows? He's going to be given every chance to impress under new head coach Doug Pederson. The slate is clean for everyone on this roster. May the best men win playing time.
"I'm going to come in and work to be the complete receiver I know I can be," Givens said on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. "When the ball is in the air, I'm going to go get it. I'll do whatever the coaches want me to do, whatever I can do to help this team. I'm excited about this opportunity."
Givens joins a wide receivers room that includes the ascending Jordan Matthews, who has worked so hard and has been really, really productive in his two seasons here; Nelson Agholor, who struggled through an uneven rookie season in 2015; and Josh Huff, who has offered flashes but who has just not put things together on a consistent basis in his two years as an Eagle. Jonathan Krause is an interesting prospect who seemed like he was moving on up the depth chart late last season, but in the end played just 18 offensive snaps all year, so there is really no telling what he's all about.
With Givens' addition, there are eight receivers on the roster, and with all due respect to Freddie Martino and Seantavius Jones and Xavier Rush, there aren't a lot of proven players here. Matthews has shown, of course, that he is legit. He had his battles with drops early in 2015, but Matthews rebounded and put up numbers and was the go-to player in the passing game. He's still on the rise, no doubt. Beyond him, there are question marks.
The Eagles and WR Chris Givens have agreed to terms on a one-year contract. Learn more about the Eagles' newest wide receiver...
Pederson knows this, but he has also has trust that some of these kids are going to blossom. The Eagles remain extremely high on Agholor, the first-round draft pick last year. Wide receivers coach Greg Lewis did his due diligence on Agholor while Lewis worked for New Orleans last season and absolutely loved Agholor through the pre-draft process.
"I'm really looking forward to working with him," Lewis has said of Agholor. "We (Saints) liked him a lot coming out of college. He did a lot of things well. I think we're going to get the most out of him."
It's fair to say that Agholor is a huge key for this offense, but the same can also be said of Matthews – does he play inside, outside, or both this year? – and of Huff, who, says Lewis, "has a lot of explosiveness when he has the football and I like that."
Are the Eagles done at wide receiver with the signing of Givens? No, probably not. They need more numbers for Training Camp, to begin, and they're very understanding of the need to add as many playmakers as possible for the offense. The Eagles used their free agency resources at other positions until they found the right guy – Givens and his down-the-field speed – at the right terms. The draft is another possibility, and keeping their options open with that No. 8 overall pick is important. A wide receiver in the first round? The Eagles aren't ruling out anything at this point with that very valuable selection.
It looks like it's going to be a collective effort from the receivers in 2016. Lewis has had a few interviews since he was hired and has stressed the importance of fundamentals and of catching the football and he has vowed to make his players better in that area than they were a year ago. There is talent here, too, with a first-round pick (Agholor), a second-round pick (Matthews), a third-round pick (Huff) and a fourth-round pick (Givens) on the roster. The Eagles need to take a major step in developing those players in the offseason and during the year to gain productivity in the passing game.
A big-time "name" isn't likely to swoop in and elevate the position for the Eagles. Most of the improvement must come from within, and also from the addition of Givens and from the scheme that Pederson and his coaching staff put together. The wide receivers in 2016 will only be as good as the sum of their parts, and so Givens, the newest Eagle, must do his part and make defenses respect his wheels and his threat to take the top off in the passing game. He isn't a savior, by any means. He's a piece of a receiving puzzle looking for the big bounce in 2016.