NFL Offseason Review: Philadelphia Eagles

Coaching Changes

The Eagles started their offseason by finally addressing a growing power struggle between GM Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly. Philadelphia sided with Kelly, limiting Roseman to financial aspects of personal, while Kelly has nearly full control of choosing players. While Chip Kelly has showed well as a head coach, so far his decisions as GM have been questionable at best.

Aside from their front office shakeup, the Eagles also added Ryan Day as a quarterback coach, Cory Undlin as the defensive backs coach and promoted Justin Peelle to become their tight ends coach. Day is familiar with Chip Kelly as he played QB for him at University of New Hampshire; he has spent the last two years as the offensive coordinator for Boston College. Undlin was previously with the Denver Broncos in the same role. Peelle the former Oregon Duck, was a long time NFL tight end and has been working with the Eagles for the past two seasons.

Players In and Out

In the modern NFL it is very rare to see teams make player for player swaps, however bucking the trend the Eagles made two this offseason.  They started off by swapping longtime running back and fan favorite LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso. Following this move, they traded Nick Foles, a 4th round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick, in exchange for Sam Bradford, a 5th round pick and another conditional pick.

Graphic via fansided

Initially after the McCoy and Alonso swap, many Eagles fans were angered to see Shady go. However, once the dust settles, this may look like a great move by Kelly. Shady has accumulated quite the wear and tear over the past few years and was set to count 11.95 million against the cap, which is a lot to commit to a running back. In exchange they pick up Chip Kelly’s former Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso. Alonso was arguably a defensive rookie of the year candidate in Buffalo, but missed all of his 2nd season due to an ACL tear during offseason workouts. He has elite coverage skills and anticipation, but is often caught out of position trying to make a play. As he matures though, he has potential to be one of the best linebackers in the league.

While McCoy for Alonso was a great swap, the same cannot be said for the Eagles second trade. While Nick Foles has worn out his welcome with Eagles fans, is Sam Bradford really the answer? His unfortunately decorated injury history is well documented; however the bigger question is if Bradford has even demonstrated the ability to be a quality NFL quarterback when healthy? His career total of 6.3 YPA would put him 32nd in the league amongst QB’s last season. It is fair to say that Nick Foles has showed just enough if not more than Bradford, before you even factor in the Eagles giving a 2nd round pick as well. All of this aside, if he stays healthy, it is very likely that Bradford has a career year in a QB friendly Chip Kelly offense.

Outside of trades, Kelly also dropped the hammer on many veterans, releasing Trent Cole, Cary Williams, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis and James Casey.  In addition, free agents Jeremy Maclin, Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen also left the team.

Trent Cole has long been a pass rushing icon for the Eagles and can still play at a respectable level, however counting 8.5 million against the cap, the move makes sense. Cary Williams started the season slow, but picked up as it went on. He should have never been given the money he received and saving 6.5 million by releasing him was not a bad move. Lastly on defense Nate Allen had his ups and downs with the team, while Fletcher was often abused last year.

Unlike on defense, the Eagles offensive losses will be much harder to replace. Maclin was the Eagles number one WR last year amassing  85 catches for 1,300 yards and ten touchdowns. While this will be difficult to replace, due to his injury history it is understandable why the Eagles passed on giving him a big long term deal.   In addition to Maclin, Evan Mathis is one of the best guards in the league and was cut by Kelly due to wanting more money and skipping workouts.

Along with Mathis, the Eagles also lost offensive guard Todd Herremans. He has started 124 games for the Eagles, but is aging and coming off a torn bicep. Parting ways saved them just under three million dollars.  Their final offensive loss James Casey also makes a lot of sense as despite being a versatile, reliable player, 4.1 million in cap space is far too much to devote to a number three tight end.

Given all of these losses, Eagles fans waited patiently to see what Chip Kelly was going to do with this extra cap room. Much of it was immediately reinvested at both the running back and cornerback positions. At running back after being left at the altar by Frank Gore, they gave reigning rushing leader Demarco Murray a five year 42 million dollar deal and Ryan Matthews a three year 11 million dollar deal.  At cornerback they doled out 63 million over six years to Byron Maxwell and signed former Oregon Duck Walter Thurmond on an affordable contract.

Many Murray detractors say he is a product of a talented Dallas O-line; this is a myth as Murray measures well in Yards after contact and missed tackles caused. That being said, this is a ton of money tied up to an injury prone running back. The Eagles didn’t stop there, throwing even more money at another injury prone back in Ryan Matthews. Both of these signings combined do not make a whole lot of sense and it will be interesting how Matthews fits into the mix with Darren Sproles on the roster as well. I would expect Murray to handle most of the early down work, while Matthews spells him and for Sproles to handle passing downs.

Byron Maxwell is a tall physical corner that can fight a receiver off the line. He played very well in Seattle, but one has to wonder if he can replicate his level of play without Richard Sherman across him and the Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas duo behind him.  He should slot in as the number one corner, but the Eagles may regret the amount paid for him down the road. Thurmond their other secondary pickup is projected to move to safety to fill in for Nate Allen. He is a former cornerback, who should be able to play in coverage well, but has problems staying healthy and has not proven much at safety.

In addition to these signings, the Eagles also brought in LB Brad Jones and WR Miles Austin. Brad Jones has spent his entire career in Green Bay, primarily as an inside linebacker. Jones is buried behind DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso on the inside, so may be forced to play outside. Austin is a veteran who should mentor the younger receivers, but will not have much of an offensive role as his best years are far past him.

Draft review

The Eagles started off their draft by selecting USC WR Nelson Agholor in an attempt to help replace Jeremy Maclin. Agholor will not provide the big play ability of Maclin, but is an excellent route runner with reliable hands. He is a threat to lead all rookie wideouts in receptions and should be a steady target for Sam Bradford.

With their 2nd pick the Eagles selected Utah defensive back Eric Rowe. They liked him enough to trade up for him and he will start off competing for a starting cornerback job across from Byron Maxwell. If things don’t work out with Walter Thurmond he could also slide over to safety, where he played his first three years of college.

The Eagles 3rd round pick MLB Jordan Hicks out of Texas was a curious choice as they already have DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso. This would lead one to believe that Kendricks could be on his way out eventually, which would be a big mistake by the Eagles. Hicks is a fundamentally sound linebacker, but does not have nearly the difference making sideline to sideline ability that Kendricks brings to the table.

After this the Eagles had a long wait till the 6th round where they drafted a pair of cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd out of Kansas and Randall Evans out of Kansas State.  Shepard was one of the best college corners in the nation last year, but lacks the speed to be an elite NFL prospect, dropping him to the 6th round.  Evans has more of the prototypical NFL corner measurables and is skilled in run support, but not nearly as productive of a college career. Both corners will compete for snaps as cornerback depth.

With their final pick the Eagles used the 237th overall pick on Boston College DE Brian Mihalik. He has elite size at 6’9 and athleticism to match.  While he is likely to be ticketed for the practice squad as a rookie, he is a great piece of clay that the Eagles coaching staff will try and mold into a football player.

Preseason Notes

In the Chip Kelly regime it has been clear that no one is safe, three players who especially need to show well in preseason are John Moffitt, Josh Huff and Earl Wolff.

John Moffitt is a former third round pick of the Seattle Seahawks where he started 15 games in his first two seasons. Moffitt has had his problems, even walking away from football due to drug problems, but he has talent. He is a big strong interior guard who has the potential to be a great run blocker at a position of need for the Eagles. With a strong preseason he could wrestle away a starting job from Matt Tobin/Andrew Gardner, but with a weak one he may not even make the roster.

Josh Huff was the Eagles third round pick last year out of Chip Kelly’s former employer Oregon. He possesses game breaking speed as he has shown in the return game, but that has not translated on offense yet as he only managed eight catches last year. As a third round pick the Eagles have hopes that he will be able to contribute on offense in addition to special teams. He will have to have a strong preseason to wrestle away reps from Riley Cooper behind Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor.

In his rookie year Earl Wolff appeared to be a huge steal. He played very well when called upon to step into the starting job due to injuries. He was projected to start his 2nd year, but did not play well and lost the starting job to Nate Allen. Eventually he was not dressing on game days, before being sent to the injury reserve. With no proven safety next to Malcolm Jenkins, it is not entirely unrealistic for Wolff to win the job with a strong preseason. First and foremost though, Wolff needs to worry about showing enough to make the 53 man roster.


Graphic via chatsports


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