“The Sky is Falling!” “The Eagles Are Doomed!” “Is Chip Kelly Destroying the Eagles?” In the past few days I’ve seen more articles with titles like this than there are dollars in Ndamukong Suh’s impending contract. From trading away the 2013 rushing leader, to letting the top wideout on the team walk for the second consecutive year, Chip Kelly’s moves have been under a lot of scrutiny thus far. Many have begun to wonder if he’s gone mad. “How could they trade away the team’s most productive player over the past 5 seasons? It doesn’t make sense,” one writer posed. Several have questioned the team’s decision to make Byron Maxwell one of the highest paid defensive backs in the league. “He knows he’s coaching the Philadelphia Eagles not the Philadelphia Ducks right?” another analyst asks. My response to all of them, “Calm down and buckle up, it’s going to get wild.” Allow me to break down some of the moves and offer a response to some of the doubts.
Trading LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso
I loved this move from the minute it happened. Am I sad to see McCoy go? Of course. Will I buy a LeSean McCoy Buffalo Bills jersey? Most likely. Was this the right move for the Eagles? Absolutely. Let’s look at some of the numbers. McCoy is coming off of back-to-back 300+ carry seasons. That often spells disaster for a rusher, particularly guys that rely on speed and elusiveness to churn out their yardage. Nearly every RB since LaDanian Tomlinson’s 2006 campaign with consecutive back-to-back 300 carry seasons saw a decline in nearly every category in the second season. Not good juju for a guy who needs those legs to be fresh and filled with burst to maintain his intense running style. If you want to read more about what I’m talking about here, check out this article. Let’s also make note that McCoy turns 27 in July and is nearing that cliff that nearly all feature backs fall off of eventually. See this article for more data on running back decline after age 27. In Alonso, the Eagles are getting arguably the most promising young linebacker in the league. After posting 159 tackles in his rookie year, including 2 Sacks and 4 INTs, he is set to bounce back from last year’s ACL tear in a big way in Bill Davis’ 3-4 defense. Alonso also affords the Eagles a pretty serious discount compared to the $12.5M cap hit from LeSean McCoy’s contract.
Allowing Jeremy Maclin to Walk
This is one of the easiest moves to understand. Maclin was offered a deal by the Eagles worth about $10M/year. Maclin opted to reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City for the steep price of $11M/year, making him the WR with the 6th highest annual salary (barring franchise tagged players). This is going to be very unpopular to say but he is not worth quite that much. Don’t get me wrong, Maclin was an absolute beast last year but the 2014 campaign marked his first 1,000 yard season in his six year career. He also has some serious injury concerns, playing only two full seasons since being drafted in 2009 and missing all of 2013 with an ACL tear. Maclin will definitely leave a hole in Philadelphia but committing $11M/year to a guy with only 1 1,000 yard season and a history of injury concerns is even more foolish than letting him go. Keep an eye on Chip going into the draft. I’m sensing a blockbuster that will involve more than just a QB.
Big Deal for Byron
There are a lot of critics when it comes to the huge contract the Eagles offered Byron Maxwell. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Maxwell’s deal will be six years for $60 million with $25 million guaranteed for the first three years. That will put him in the same pay grade as guys named Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, and Darrelle Revis. Many think Maxwell was overpaid by Philly but such is the effect of a shortage of high level talent in an otherwise talent-starved free agent market at CB. Maxwell is a perfect fit for Bill Davis’ defense that employs a heavy dose of Cover 3 or Cover 1/Man schemes, identical to the Seattle defense he is coming from. Maxwell is an immediate upgrade to the penalty-prone Cary Williams who recently struck a deal to replace Maxwell in Seattle.
Brandon “Predator” Graham Returns
Kelly made the right move bringing Brandon Graham back to a $26M/4yr contract. Graham will be the successor to Trent Cole in the Predator role in Bill Davis’ defense. He is the ideal combination of size and speed to be turned loose and allowed to harass the quarterback play in and play out. He showed flashes of impressive play in his few starts for the Eagles but has always been in Trent Cole’s shadow and hasn’t been able to show what he is capable of. With the re-signing of Graham, Kelly has solidified his linebacking corps for years to come.
With these points, among the huge things yet to come, Kelly has proven himself to me to be making shrewd moves to set the team up for success over the next few seasons. There will be doubters and critics anytime a big splash is made on a team but to them I say, “In Chip we trust.”