What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

We are one day away from the official start of free agency, but Chip Kelly and company were busy this weekend, reportedly agreeing to deals with CB Byron Maxwell and RB Frank Gore.

Here is how the national media are reacting to the Eagles’ moves.

Peter King offers his thoughts on the Maxwell signing:

Cornerback Byron Maxwell agreed to a six-year, $63 million deal (a $10.5 million average). I get it, and free agency is good for the players, so good for Maxwell. But in paying Maxwell—the 45th-rated cornerback in the league last season by Pro Football Focusso much, the team and fans will expect him to be a shutdown corner, which he most decidedly is not. He’s a physical, tall, competitive corner, but not a great one. The Eagles will end up being disappointed, the same way Dallas was disappointed in Brandon Carr. I recall the words of the late Giants GM George YoungNo player ever plays better because you pay him more money. Unfortunately, Philadelphia will be an unforgiving market if/when Maxwell gets beat a few times.

Despite King’s harsh words on that move, he says he doesn’t believe Kelly is an “idiot” and he praised the signing of Gore:

I think it will be fashionable around Philadelphia to believe that a 32-year-old running back is a poor substitute for LeSean McCoy. But Frank Gore, in my opinion, will be a superb signing because:

a. Gore is a north-south physical runner, more of what Chip Kelly likes in a back.

b. Gore, in his past four years, at 28, 29, 30 and 31, missed zero games playing this bruising style.

Sam Monson of ESPN.com/Pro Football Focus also believes that Gore will fit in well with the Eagles’ offense:

The Eagles raised a lot of eyebrows by trading away LeSean McCoy, but they did so because coach Chip Kelly and his team were confident they could replace his production because of the scheme and solid blocking they possess.

In 2013, McCoy led the league in percentage of plays in which he hit the second level untouched thanks to the blocking, and even with a slew of injuries upfront in 2014, he still hit the second level before being touched on 17.4 percent of carries.

Gore might not be what he once was, but he can still maximize what’s there better than most. He averaged 2.3 yards per carry after contact a season ago and forced 31 missed tackles with the ball in his hands. He should look reborn behind the Eagles’ blocking and is a perfect back for the system.

Don Banks of SI.com believes Kelly’s college experience makes him unafraid to make bold decisions:

Some coaches might win 10 games in each of their first two NFL seasons, figure they’re this close to earning the shiny silver trophy, and hesitate to tinker or change much of anything. But not Kelly. The Eagles’ twin 10-6 records in 2013-14 just got marked down as not getting the job done, and now in consecutive off-seasons he has gone big and bold in his pursuit of just the right blend of talent.

Come to think of it, that is after all what Kelly knows best from his college coaching experience: a constant cycling through of players and a remaking of the roster from year to year. He’s not afraid to move on from anyone at any time, because in college he never had the same talent to work with for longer than two or three years at a time any way.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe tried to rationalize Kelly’s personnel moves thus far:

If you’re an optimist, you believe that no one understands Kelly’s up-tempo offense better and can run it more efficiently than his former college players (hence the Mariota rumors). If you’re a pessimist, you point out that collecting a bunch of ex-Florida Gators didn’t help Steve Spurrier too much in Washington a decade ago.

But there has been plenty of sound football and financial rationale behind Kelly’s moves thus far. A few of the releases were aging veterans who are likely on the downswing of their careers (Herremans, Cole, McCoy). And many of the major changes are coming on the defensive side, where the Eagles ranked 22nd in points allowed and 28th in total defense in 2014.

Barry Petchesky of Deadspin thinks that all of these moves are a part of a bigger plan:

Frank Gore is reportedly heading to Philly to slot in for McCoy, for about $7.5 million guaranteed over two years. They signed Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell to a long-term deal that contains $25 million in guarantees. Mark Sanchez is coming back!

The Eagles still have money to spend, and moves to make, but right now, this is not a better football team. They have gotten slower at receiver, and older and slower at running back—both confusing moves when you consider that this is Chip Kelly selecting the parts for a Chip Kelly offense, which thrives on speed. They’ve blown up the secondary, and so far rebuilt it around Maxwell, who’s great, but has only started 17 games in his career.

Matt Bowen of Bleacher Report breaks down how Gore’s running style will mesh with Chip’s scheme:

Think of this in terms of running style when breaking down the Eagles’ zone schemes (inside/outside zone, split-zone). Kelly wants a back who is a one-cut runner, a slasher who doesn’t hesitate, give ground or look to laterally bounce the ball when there are vertical lanes to attack.

This is “zone running 101” with backs who press the edge, find running room or cut back to expose linebackers who over-pursue to the ball. Stick the foot in the ground and go.

With Gore, the Eagles will get a veteran player who understands how to get small in the hole, cut to daylight and finish runs by squaring his pads and pushing the ball up the field to attack second-level defenders. A back who can produce out of the gun alignment, Gore is a “fit” for what Kelly wants in his running game.

Kevin Lynch of the San Fransisco Chronicle says Gore will be greatly missed in the Bay area:

Nevertheless, with other priorities, is Gore worth a three-year deal? The legendary Bill Walsh was famous for parting with players well before their demise. Also, the end of Gore’s career could be ugly, because Gore identifies so strongly with being a football player, he might not recognize when his skills diminish.

With that said, in 26 years covering the 49ers, no one was better to cover than Gore. With his burrowing ability, no running back made something out of nothing better than him. Also, at times, he would become vulnerable with those covering the team in private conversations. He would admit how he really felt about the team, about other players, about the league. He would, at times, express his doubts and insecurities about the team or his role.

He did it so honestly and authentically that it never seemed as if he was criticizing anyone, and his opinions on players could change, usually for the better. To gain Gore’s perspective into the team and football in general was an immense privilege.

Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com believes the Eagles took a huge risk in signing Maxwell:

Maxwell has started only 17 regular-season games in four NFL seasons. It is worth noting his former defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, is now head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons did not pursue Maxwell.

The Eagles were forced to take a risk on Maxwell. Two years ago, they signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, their starters at cornerback the past two seasons. The duo had the worst pass defense in the NFL in 2013 and the second-worst, as measured in passing yardage allowed in 2014 (265 yards per game).

Fletcher’s two-year contract expires Tuesday; Williams was released with one season left on his three-year contract. The Eagles were left without a starting cornerback on their roster.

Louis Riddick of ESPN sees Gore as a nice fit for Kelly:

Former Eagles president Joe Banner thinks the Eagles are allocating more resources on the defensive side of the ball: