Kelly begins to build his team
By Peter Santo
If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now, the Chip Kelly era has begun in Philadelphia, and no one’s job is safe. Although there is consistent discussion about loyalty in the NFL, it is completely non-existent on all levels. Whether its between player-coach, coach-ownership, or coach-team, there is no real commitment in the NFL.
Players leave teams for more money or for a better chance to win instead of sticking with the team that drafted them. As moves by former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and former Bills coach Doug Marrone suggest, players aren’t the only people in this billion dollar business that are not loyal.
Recently, moves such as the Patriots declining Vince Wilfork’s team option and the trade of LeSean McCoy, formerly of the Eagles, prove that teams do not care about an old player or a player who may be making too much money.
In McCoy’s case, many factors played into his blockbuster trade to the Buffalo Bills. Eagles coach Chip Kelly runs a very up tempo offense and wants players that fit specifically into his system. Kelly believes that talent may not be the most important part of a player’s game, as he often passes up talent in favor of fit. With Kelly now having full control of personnel moves, he has set out to find players who fit his style of offense.
McCoy was traded for Kiko Alonso, a middle linebacker who played for Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon. After a dynamic rookie season in Buffalo, Alonso tore his ACL and missed the entire 2014 season, which adds to the risk.
While Alonso is a solid young player, McCoy is arguably the best RB in the NFL and Kelly was either not happy with his production or thought he could get rid of this star player, gain cap space and try to continue to produce at the RB position.
A blockbuster trade such as this really speaks to the value of the running back position in today’s NFL. The fact that arguably the best back in the league was traded for a middle linebacker coming off a torn ACL is remarkable.
Speaking of loyalty, the Eagles cut ties players other than McCoy. Long time leader Trent Cole, who was due to make 11.6 Million dollars this season, and Cary Williams, who would’ve come with a 8.2 million dollar cap hit, were both released.
Kelly has recently begun to restock his team with players he thinks will fit in well with his system. He signed Byron Maxwell, a corner from the Seahawks who is an established, lock-down defensive back. He filled McCoy’s role with Frank Gore.
The combination of Gore and Darren Sproles in the Eagles’ backfield will look to equal the production of McCoy, who stumbled a bit in 2014 after an incredible 2013 season in which he led the league in rushing.
Although this trade was not well received by Eagles fans, it puts them in a great position to build for the future. However one question still remains, who will be the Quarterback for the Eagles in 2015? Will it be Nick Foles, who had a great 2013 but missed much of 2014 due to injury. Will it be Mark Sanchez, who did an adequate job filling in for Foles in 2014. Or will the Eagles trade up for former University of Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. One thing’s for sure, Mariota knows how to run Kelly’s offense.
With plenty of cap space and plenty of holes left to fill, look for big things from Philadelphia for the remainder of the 2015 offseason and beyond.
Tim Rey also contributed to this report