When a successful college coach find himself in an NFL gig and maneuvers his way into becoming the team’s sole decision maker, what happens? The answer: madness.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, the “visionary” offensive mind who has won zero playoff games in two years, has truly gone off the deep end. Kelly, recently appointed Head of Player Personnel after a power struggle with former general manager Howie Roseman, greatly desired to put his stamp on his team, and with his recent moves, he has done just that.
Coming into this offseason, the big rumor has been that the Eagles will mortgage their future, and trade a bounty of draft picks to move and select Kelly’s QB from his days as Oregon head coach, Marcus Mariota. Whenever the Eagles have made a move, or a rumor has popped up, the first thought to cross Eagles fans minds was how it would affect acquiring Mariota. The plan seemed simple; sign some free agents to revamp their defense, resign Jeremy Maclin, and trade up for Mariota. However, that plan has become less and less realistic with each move that Kelly has made.
Lets go over each of Kelly’s transactions in chronological order. First, Kelly dealt elite running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Of all of Kelly’s recent moves, this is the most reasonable. Although McCoy is still a top running back in the league, he is due to make $23 million over the next three years, after a season in which his stats and play declined. NFL running backs tend to decline after the age of 27, which happens to be McCoy’s current age. Kelly’s thinking was to get as much value as possible for McCoy before his inevitable further decline in play, as well as to create cap space. By dealing McCoy for Alonso, Kelly created over $20 million in cap space over the next few seasons. Alonso is a skilled middle linebacker who is valuable due to his miniscule contract of $4.3 million over the next four years. This was a smart move by Kelly, but unfortunately, his following moves in free agency and trades can not be described as positively.
Coming into free agency, the Eagles had over $40 million in cap space, with a desire to spend big, and revamp the defense. They overpaid former Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell with a 6 year, $60 million deal ($25 million guaranteed) to be their top cornerback in their weak secondary. Although Maxwell is solid #2 corner in the league, he is being asked to be the Eagles #1 corner, and is being paid as such. Kelly had to add to his secondary, but this signing of Maxwell probably is not worth the price tag. Kelly also desired to add elite safety Devin McCourty to his secondary, but even though he offered the most money, he was unable to pry McCourty away from New England’s clutches. Even though Kelly had missed out on a target of his, all was good in the mind of Eagles fans, because the trade for Mariota was going to happen.
Due to their ample cap space, many expected the Eagles to be able to resign their talented, #1 wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin. However, Kelly was unwilling to pay Maclin more than $9 million per year, while Maclin desired an annual salary of $11 million per year. Rather than just give him the extra $2 million per year, Kelly decided to let his top receiver test free agency, which backfired. Maclin signed a 5 year, $55 million deal ($22.5 million guaranteed) with Kansas City Chiefs. By losing Maclin, Kelly lost the top weapon on his heavily publicized offense. Maclin had an incredible 2014 season, catching 10 touchdowns and gaining 1318 receiving yards. Maclin was Philly’s top downfield threat, and without him, the offense would have greatly suffered. So at this point, Kelly had lost his two top offensive playmakers, in McCoy and Maclin, with no immediate option to replace them. But if you asked any of the Eagles fans in the region they’d tell you that Kelly was a genius, and that Mariota was coming. That was until Kelly made one of the dumbest, most non understandable trades in recent memory.
Rumors had been circling for months over Chip Kelly’s desire to move on from quarterback Nick Foles. Even though Foles has excelled in Kelly’s offense, and had a historically good season two years ago, it never seemed that Foles was Kelly’s franchise quarterback. Many though that Foles would be dealt for a mid round pick, opening up the qb spot for Mariota. Instead, Kelly dealt Foles, along with a 2016 2nd round pick, for incumbent Rams qb Sam Bradford. Yes, that Sam Bradford. The same Sam Bradford who has torn both his acl’s, been constantly injured in his pro career, and has underachieved throughout his entire career. Bradford has disappointed for his entire NFL tenure, and yet for some reason, hes a better fit than Foles? Eagles twitter has insisted that Bradford will be trade bait to trade up to the top of the draft to get Mariota, but that idea makes little sense. Hopefully Bradford can stay healthy for the first time in years, and somehow perform at a more than mediocre at best level. This move was a real headscratcher, as it makes it clear that a trade up for Mariota will likely not occur, and that the Eagles’ offense is now in the hands of an injury riddled, underachieving, overpaid borderline starter.
Kelly made up for the madness of the Sam Bradford deal by signing last year’s top running back in the league, DeMarco Murray. The Eagles’ backfield remains strong, but their lack of downfield playmakers and their more than questionable starting quarterback pose serious threats to their future. Is there a method to Chip Kelly’s madness? Or is he just plain mad?