Three-And-Out: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
It looks like Chip Kelly has finally taken a moment to allow us all to catch our breath and reflect on the moves of the past couple weeks.
We’ll do this three-and-out style, going move-by-move and offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down with explanations. We’ll do three of the moves today and three more in the next installment.
1. Trading LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for Kiko Alonso.
Kapadia: Thumbs up.
I can get on board with this move, but the reasons are different now than they were right after the trade was announced.
Initially, I thought Kelly’s plan was to do more with less at the running back spot. In other words, don’t invest a lot of dollars there, draft someone or add a mid-level free agent, and invest in other areas of the team – specifically the defense.
Well, we know now that’s not why Kelly pulled the trigger. He clearly felt other running backs fit his system better than McCoy. Given that it’s Kelly’s system, it’s tough for me to argue. I do wonder, though, if in the long-term he’ll get hurt by being too strict in what he’s looking for (culture, scheme, measurables, etc.). Sometimes don’t you just have to make it work with talented, productive players?
The way some talk about McCoy around here, you’d think he was Darnell Autry. I still think McCoy is a good player, and he should have two to three really good years in Buffalo. But if Kelly didn’t want McCoy, at least he got good value. Alonso is a young, ascending player with a low salary for the next three seasons. On paper, I really like the Eagles’ linebacking corps right now.
For those reasons, this move (in a vacuum) makes sense to me.
McManus: Thumbs down.
I can get behind the “sell high” element of this move. A running back’s production tends to fall off a cliff once he hits a certain age and carry level, and McCoy is approaching that area. If you want to get real value in return, the time to deal him is now. And given Alonso’s ceiling, age (24) and salary ($746,000 in 2015), the Eagles got a pretty good return.
On the other side, they just removed arguably their best player from the roster. This is a run-based attack, and McCoy is one of the best backs in the entire league. Just think of the type of respect he commanded from opposing defenses and the way that opened things up for the rest of the playmakers. Even if Kelly isn’t a big fan of McCoy’s running style as a system fit, surely he was a fan of the loaded boxes he generated and the near-3,000 rushing yards he gained despite the extra attention.
His durability is also a major asset. McCoy didn’t miss a game in two seasons under Kelly and has been sidelined for just five games over six seasons. What are the chances he gets that type of consistency moving forward?
While I understand the move and think the defense could be significantly better off for it, I believe there are other ways to try and improve a roster that don’t include removing your star player.
2. Signing DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews for a combined $23 million in guaranteed money.
Kapadia: Thumbs down.
I went pretty in-depth with my thoughts on Murray last week. To recap, I just think it’s risky to give $18 million guaranteed to a player who had more than 400 touches last season and has played all 16 games just once. To be clear, I’m not saying it can’t work out. I just don’t agree with the risk. Maybe Kelly and company will #sportscience Murray up, and he’ll have a repeat performance in 2015. That would be a home run.
The Eagles now have about $7.5 million in cap space remaining, with holes at right guard, wide receiver and safety. Next year’s cap space is affected too, with Murray’s full 2016 salary guaranteed. There’s been a lot of talk about McCoy’s contract, but his remaining three years were not guaranteed, which gave the Eagles some nice flexibility.
I’m on board with Kelly’s plan to spread the carries out in this offense. But given that he’s considered a run-game guru, why not sign Mathews, draft a rookie and go from there? And if you’re going to sign Murray, then why still bring Mathews on board? I just don’t see the reasoning behind the heavy investment at this spot, and I think it will negatively affect other parts of the roster.
McManus: Thumbs down.
McCoy had virtually no guaranteed money left on his deal, meaning the Eagles had the option of going year-to-year with him for the remainder of his contract (which ran through 2017). So if they hit on a running back in the upcoming draft — and this class is said to be stocked with quality backs — they could have parted ways with McCoy after this season and handed the keys to his low-mileage, inexpensive replacement.
Instead, they committed $23 million in guaranteed money to Murray and Mathews. The entirety of Murray’s 2016 salary ($7 million) is guaranteed, as is $2 million of his ’17 salary, per spotrac. (Only $1 million of Mathews’ salary in ’16 is guaranteed, so there’s more wiggle room there.)
With McCoy traded and Frank Gore having a change of heart, the Eagles had a big vacancy to fill at running back. So they turned to Murray, who is a really nice player and should be highly-productive under Kelly assuming health. But in doing so they’ve limited their financial flexibility at the position, when the presumed plan was to do just the opposite.
3. Signing Byron Maxwell to a contract with $22 million guaranteed.
Kapadia: Thumbs up.
It’s a bit jarring to think that Maxwell has only started 17 games and is now the fifth-highest paid corner in the NFL. But free agency is about projecting forward, not paying for past performance. Maxwell is 27, has great measurables, fits the Eagles’ scheme perfectly and is said to be a high-character guy.
Sometimes you have to pay up for good players, especially at premium positions. And that’s what the Eagles did. I could be wrong, but the way I see it, worst-case scenario is that he’s slightly above average, and best-case scenario is that Maxwell turns into one of the better corners in the league.
The Eagles had to address their secondary this offseason, and I applaud the aggressive move to land Maxwell.
McManus: Thumbs up.
Is Maxwell worth $10.5 million a year? No. But the Eagles were in a position where they had little choice but to overspend.
As Kelly found out a couple years back, shopping in the mid-level section of the free-agent corner store can result in mid-level (or worse) returns. They needed to upgrade badly, and this was their best chance at doing so. Maxwell was considered the best of the bunch and checked just about all of Kelly’s boxes.
More than anything, this highlights the importance of drafting well. Since 2011, the Eagles have drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett (2nd), Curtis Marsh (3rd), Brandon Boykin (4th), Earl Wolff (5th), Jordan Poyer (7th), Jaylen Watkins (4th) and Ed Reynolds (5th) to try and bolster their secondary. Three of those players are no longer on the roster. Of the four remaining, Boykin is the only one who has distinguished himself on the pro level to this point. When your homegrown guys do not provide the play you need, it forces you to look for answers elsewhere.