Five Thoughts On the McCoy-Alonso Trade

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Below are five thoughts on the Eagles’ decision to trade LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso.

1. I think the bottom line here is Chip Kelly did not feel McCoy’s value in this offense matched his contract. McCoy would have carried an $11.95 million cap hit in 2015 under his current deal with the Eagles. Kelly is in complete control of personnel and has to decide where he wants to invest and where he wants to pull back. Clearly, he feels he can get better value at the RB position.

Is it true that McCoy’s style doesn’t exactly fit Kelly’s scheme? On the surface, sure. McCoy is often a dancer. Kelly’s preference has been for a one-cut/hit the hole back. But let’s not kid ourselves here. In the past two seasons, McCoy has totaled 2,926 yards on 626 attempts (4.7 YPC). He had a lot of success under Kelly in this scheme, and his style made him the leading rusher in franchise history.

2. So, is McCoy a declining player? Chase Stuart of Football Perspective put together a study on running backs and found that 26 was their peak age, followed by a steady decline. McCoy will turn 27 in July.

Last year, McCoy averaged 4.2 YPC and ranked 16th in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric.

The feeling here is that he still has productive years left. The Eagles used 11 different offensive linemen last year, and there were claims by opponents that the Birds’ running attack was predictable. The Eagles got shaky quarterback play as well.

McCoy, as a result, did not match his production from 2013.

Some have pointed to the success Darren Sproles (5.8 YPC) had behind the same linemen, but if Kelly felt McCoy was the problem, wouldn’t he have given Sproles more touches?

McCoy was a great player here, and my feeling is he still has at least a couple more really good years left in the tank.

Again, I think the move has more to do with value and resource allocation than Kelly’s belief that McCoy can’t be a productive player anymore. We’ll find out next year just how replaceable he actually is.

3. Todd Herremans made interesting comments this week about how Kelly values QBs and offensive linemen, but trusts his system when it comes to running backs and wide receivers. The moves of the past two offseasons suggest there’s some truth to that.

Ask Kelly about this topic, and he will swat the argument away, explaining that everything is personnel-based. But the big question going forward is whether he actually believes that or if Kelly thinks his scheme can make up for shortcomings in talent.

There’s no doubt that Kelly is a smart offensive mind, but in the NFL, you still need players. Granted, the line was banged-up, but the offense ranked 13th in DVOA in 2014. This unit was not a juggernaut.

As for where the Eagles go from here, I’d expect them to add a free agent. Names like C.J. Spiller and Mark Ingram have already been thrown out there. And the draft is said to be loaded at the running back spot. Given the tempo and the way the roster is currently set up, a running back by committee system seems likely.

4. Last week, we discussed the general team-building philosophy under Kelly. The basic premise was this: Since the Eagles should generally have an advantage with Kelly on offense, shouldn’t they invest financial resources more heavily into their defense?

I think there’s a chance that happens next week when free agency starts.

The Birds look very good at six spots in their front seven with Connor BarwinCedric Thornton (restricted free agent), Fletcher CoxBennie LoganMychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso. They were very good against the run and generated a solid pass rush in 2014. Alonso should provide an immediate upgrade all-around in 2015.

The spots to fill on defense are OLB, CB (2) and safety. Given the amount of cap space the Eagles have cleared, expect them to make a splash. Guys like Devin McCourty and Byron Maxwell are most certainly in play.

5. I’m curious about Michael Silver’s report that the trade took all of 20 minutes to complete. That part, if true, would concern me. Did the Eagles shop McCoy enough to make sure they got the best deal in return? Or did they just settle when Kelly was offered a player whom he liked?

Bruce Arians said that he knew McCoy was available, which leads me to believe other teams did too.

There’s obviously the Oregon angle, which is a real thing, but in this situation the Eagles got a 24-year-old linebacker with a Pro Bowl ceiling. Maybe they could have done better, but that’s certainly not a bad haul.

Leftovers: I understand the rationale behind the trade, but it’s still jarring to think that Kelly has gotten rid of two of the offense’s biggest weapons in DeSean Jackson and McCoy in consecutive years. Very interested to see who this team is going to add on offense, especially when you consider Jeremy Maclin’s status is up in the air. …There will be much written about McCoy and Kelly not seeing eye to eye, but my initial thought is that angle is overblown. I mean, they made it work for two seasons. …I think Billy Davis no longer has to worry about playing dime. Alonso and Kendricks are three-down linebackers who can be used in multiple ways. This will be an all-nickel defense next year when they go to their sub package. …I think the final evaluation of this trade cannot be made until we see how the team spends its money in free agency. …I don’t think this move will (nor should) quiet the Marcus Mariota rumors. Consider this: Perhaps Kelly is clearing cap space to fill immediate holes through free agency. That way, he can offer a boatload of picks to move up. I’m not saying it’s a definite, but anyone who’s still ruling out the possibility isn’t paying attention. …And finally, Brandon Boykin had my favorite reaction when the news broke.