Ten Leftover Thoughts On the Eagles
It was an eventful few days for the Eagles during the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.
We heard from Jeffrey Lurie on Tuesday, from Chip Kelly on Wednesday and had numerous conversations with other people around the league.
If you haven’t caught up on all our coverage, I suggest starting at the beginning and doing so now. Meanwhile, here are 10 leftover thoughts on the state of the Birds.
1. It seems pretty clear what happened at the end of the season. Kelly met with Lurie and laid out his vision, which included three things: full personnel control, Howie Roseman out and a new personnel director in.
Maybe Lurie listened to Kelly’s vision and decided it made complete sense, even though just a week before he had confirmed that Roseman would return as the team’s GM.
But there’s another possibility that seems just as likely. Perhaps Lurie didn’t want to deal with potential consequences from saying no. From Lurie’s perspective, there’s so much to like about Kelly. He’s won 20 games in two years. He brings an up-tempo, entertaining style and an engaging personality. Many of his methods are considered cutting edge or against the grain.
The part of this whole thing that probably doesn’t get discussed enough is that Kelly will always have options. He often preaches: Be where your feet are. If things don’t work out in Philadelphia, he’ll have many other attractive opportunities, whether they’re at the college level or at the professional level. And he’ll be happy wherever he is. That provides Kelly with leverage and a degree of freedom to go ahead and insist on what he wants.
In the end, even if Lurie had questions about Kelly’s proposed setup, he decided he believed enough in his coach to make changes. And he didn’t want to entertain the possibility of potentially losing him. That’s why we are where we are.
2. You have to wonder whether Roseman is still going to be here a few months from now. His lifelong aspiration was to work in personnel, and that’s not happening in Philadelphia anymore. Sure, the reported $1.7 million salary is great, but there has to be a deep sense of disappointment about how things have turned out.
And despite what everyone’s said publicly, is the Kelly-Roseman-Ed Marynowitz combination really going to work? Kelly asked for Roseman to get booted and then hand-picked Marynowitz to essentially take Roseman’s job. Yet the three men are supposed to work together in a productive manner to build a Super Bowl-caliber roster?
“Everyone’s professional,” Lurie said. “That’s it. It’s not a soap opera. Everything’s professional. Do you need to work with your best friends? No. I’ve never wanted to do that.”
On the surface, that sounds reasonable. But the best setup would be one in which everyone respected one another and worked towards a common goal with no agendas. I’m just not sure that can happen here, given the events of the past few months.
3. I’m really interested to find out in April just how much Kelly values draft picks. So far, there are some contradictions. For example, Kelly insisted that he believes the best way to build is through the draft, and we know his stance on “mortgaging the future” to acquire one player.
On the other hand, he said he was trying to acquire Sam Bradford solely for draft picks and didn’t want to include Nick Foles in the deal initially. Eventually, he sent a second-rounder to the Rams. And last offseason, Kelly had no issue offering up a fifth-rounder for Darren Sproles.
Kelly doesn’t seem like a very patient man, and I can see him finding value in veterans who have already played in the league as compared to “unknown” draft picks. Maybe I’m wrong, but we should get answers one way or another during the draft.
4. I think the Evan Mathis situation seems pretty straightforward. Drew Rosenhaus wants a trade for Mathis so that they can negotiate a new contract with a new team. That was the case last offseason, and it appears to be the case again this offseason.
But that seems to be all it is. In other words, I have seen no indication that the Eagles are really motivated to deal Mathis.
Think about it. They parted ways with a number of veterans already (Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Cary Williams). If they thought they could get by without Mathis, they would have released him too.
But the truth is Mathis played at a high level last year, despite the knee injury that sidelined him for seven games. If the Eagles get an intriguing offer for Mathis, will they listen? Sure. But the smart money is on him being the starting left guard in Week 1.
5. I think Kelly’s preference for Bradford over Foles comes down to two things: accuracy and decision-making.
“I think when you look at Sam, it’s his overall accuracy that I think impresses everybody when you watch him play,” Kelly said.
Is he more accurate than Nick?
“Oh, I don’t know about that, but just looking at where we are and what we need to do, we’ve got guys open, and we didn’t put the ball on them in certain situations.”
The numbers don’t favor Bradford in either category. Foles has a better interception rate and a higher completion percentage. But the guess here is that Kelly saw too many missed opportunities downfield and too many turnovers from Foles in 2014.
And he decided rolling the dice projecting that Bradford can be better in both those categories was his best option going forward.
6. Kelly and Lurie offered two different stories when discussing the McCoy trade. Lurie said Kelly preferred a different style of runner, a one-cut back who didn’t dance. Kelly said it was purely a financial move to free up cap space.
We’ve been over this before, but believe the owner here. I can understand why Kelly doesn’t want to sound like he’s criticizing McCoy, but the Inquirer reported that the Eagles didn’t approach the running back about redoing his deal.
And in the end, the deal they gave DeMarco Murray is essentially the same over the next three years as the one McCoy was on. The only difference is Murray’s getting $18 million guaranteed, and McCoy was not. In other words, they had more flexibility with the McCoy contract.
Yes, it’s true that McCoy had a bigger cap hit in 2015, but that could have easily been restructured by guaranteeing some of his salary.
Bottom line: Kelly wanted a different style runner, and he wanted Kiko Alonso. That’s why the deal was made, not because of McCoy’s contract.
7. Speaking of the running back spot, Kelly said Darren Sproles could see an expanded role in 2015, but I’m not so sure that’s going to happen.
Sproles played 31 percent of the offensive snaps in 2014 and also had a key role on special teams. He had 57 carries for 329 yards and also caught 40 balls for 387 yards. My guess is those usage and production numbers will be pretty similar next season.
Sproles turns 32 in June, and the team signed Murray and Ryan Mathews a couple weeks ago. Sproles is best used in a specialized role. There might be weeks where he’s featured more, but overall, I wouldn’t expect a big change in his second season here.
8. I think the most confusing aspect of this team right now is the inside linebacker situation. Kelly made a point to mention several times that the Eagles wanted to upgrade their depth at that spot. So right now, they have Alonso, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.
I asked Kelly specifically for his evaluation of Kendricks last season.
“When he was healthy, he played really well for us,” Kelly said. “But we missed him for… four games. And the health aspect was a difficult thing. We were a different team without him on the field. But when he played, he played really well for us.”
Ryans carries a cap hit of $6.9 million, is coming off a second Achilles’ injury and is 30 years old. But apparently he’s staying put.
It’s tough to get a good read on this situation. On one hand, Kendricks and Alonso seem like a talented, versatile, young pairing. On the other hand, who knows if Kelly views Kendricks as part of his long-term plans?
It would seem strange to keep all three, but that seems like more of a possibility now than it was a few weeks ago.
9. I would put zero stock into the idea that Brandon Boykin will get a legitimate shot to start on the outside next season. Kelly included his name when discussing the No. 2 cornerback position, but that’s always been the case in the offseason.
Last summer, Boykin was the best CB on the field, and he never got a chance to start on the outside. That remained the case even as Bradley Fletcher struggled all season long.
Regular readers know I believe Boykin deserves a shot, but Kelly seems more keen on sticking to his preferred measurables now than ever before.
Long story short, I’d be stunned if the coaches changed their tune on Boykin, and unfortunately for him, he’ll have to stick in the slot for one more season before becoming a free agent.
10. And finally, when Kelly explained why he liked Byron Maxwell, he mentioned versatility. When the Eagles played the Seahawks last year, Maxwell matched up with Jordan Matthews for most of the game and did an excellent job.
But on film, it looked like Maxwell would only be effective inside in certain situations against big pass-catchers. Against shifty slot guys, I think he’d struggle.
The point is I’d expect him to be primarily an outside corner here next year except for rare cases when the opponent tries to use size with a big slot or an elite pass-catching tight end.