Grading Philadelphia Eagles' Free-Agency Plan so Far

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIMarch 13, 2015

Grading Philadelphia Eagles' Free-Agency Plan so Far

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    There is absolutely no doubt that these are head coach Chip Kelly's Eagles. In one of the craziest offseasons in the history of the franchise, Kelly has completely stripped the Eagles of their identity.

    He's parted ways with quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, right guard Todd Herremans, cornerback Cary Williams and safety Nate Allen. He's also rumored to have left guard Evan Mathis on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    Just 14 players remain from Andy Reid's 2012 Eagles, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that Kelly has more moves to make.

    His free-agency plan from the beginning appeared to be spending money to fix big holes on the defensive side of the ball, while relying on his offensive scheme over high-priced skill position players. But all of that changed when he signed DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher in 2014, to a $42 million deal.

    It's impossible to evaluate how the Eagles will do in 2015 because Kelly's wheeling and dealing definitely isn't complete yet. However, in the days since teams were allowed to contact free agents, the Eagles have completely changed the identity of their franchise.

    I will take a look at each individual move and break down my thoughts on what it represents for the Eagles moving forward.

Trade LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso

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    The first of Kelly's wild moves came last week when the Eagles agreed to trade veteran running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

    With McCoy's cap hit of $10.25 million in 2015, Kelly found a way to maximize potential for a player he may not have brought back anyway.

    In Alonso, Kelly acquired a player he was familiar with from his days coaching at Oregon. As a rookie in 2013, Alonso recorded 159 tackles and four interceptions, while earning the Pro Football Writers Association's Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

    Although Alonso did tear his ACL in July of 2014, causing him to miss all of his second season, he has more than 14 months to recover before the start of the 2015 season.

    Furthermore, Alonso fills a major need for the Eagles as veteran inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, 30, is recovering from a torn Achilles and may not be healthy for the start of the 2015 season. Alonso's cap hit for 2015 is roughly $796,000, meaning the Eagles saved about $9.45 million in much-needed cap space.

    Grade: A

Sign Byron Maxwell

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    The Eagles were going to get Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell in free agency. They didn't care how much they paid, as shown by their six-year, $63 million offer that eventually inked the 27-year-old for the remainder of the decade.

    Maxwell, who has spent the last four seasons in Seattle's Legion of Boom, has benefited greatly from playing with Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the same secondary.

    He's made just 17 career starts, and while he's only allowed four touchdown passes since the start of the 2013 season, per Pro Football Focus, he's much more of an unknown that a sure thing.

    But he also has good size (6'1", 207 lbs), freakishly long arms, terrific athletic ability and the ability to play in defensive coordinator Billy Davis's scheme.

    He'll be assigned with the task of covering Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham and DeSean Jackson twice a season for the next few years, which will help show if he really is a good corner or just a product of Seattle's dominant defense.

    While the Maxwell signing significantly upgrades the secondary, he hasn't shown that he can be a No. 1. Having to do so in the NFC East will be a tough challenge.

    Grade: C

Trade Nick Foles for Sam Bradford

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    Perhaps no move in the history of Philadelphia sports has shocked me more than the Eagles' trade of Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford, a move that initially seemed to end all possibility of the Eagles moving up in the draft for Oregon product and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    Foles, who threw for 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions in 2013 while finishing with the third-highest single-season passer rating in NFL history, regressed in 2014.

    He played in just eight games before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury, and that was apparently enough for Kelly.

    The trade of Foles wasn't surprising. But trading him for Bradford? Nobody saw that one coming.

    Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. However, he's regressed over the last four seasons, struggling with a mediocre supporting cast and multiple injuries.

    His last two seasons have ended with a torn ACL, and he's missed 25 consecutive games.

    During his 49 games in St. Louis, he'd never led the Rams to 20 points in three consecutive games. Great quarterbacks elevate their teammates, and Bradford has never been able to overcome a dreadful supporting cast.

    Then add in the draft pick compensation, and this trade clearly is a win for the Rams.

    The Eagles surrendered a second-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2015, while receiving just a fifth-round pick in 2015. They will also receive a third-round pick back in 2016 if Bradford doesn't play at all and a fourth if he plays fewer than half the snaps, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Personally, I still believe that Kelly is eyeing a trade up in the draft for Mariota, and that's exactly why he traded for Bradford in the first place.

    But if Bradford is the guy in Philly, it's an extremely questionable decision. His cap hit of $12.985 million in 2015 is already being reworked, per's Andrew Brandt. It would make no sense for the Eagles to extend Bradford, who needs to show that he can stay healthy before he's penciled in as Philadelphia's franchise quarterback.

    This piece by Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey shows that Bradford can excel in Kelly's offense, although to be honest, almost every quarterback will succeed in Kelly's offense.

    After all, the Eagles scored 474 points in 2014, the third-most in the NFL, despite brutal quarterback play from Foles and Mark Sanchez. I'll admit that Bradford has a much higher upside than Foles, although the former's regression over the last few years is a major red flag.

    To put it bluntly, Kelly traded a younger, less injury-prone and much cheaper quarterbackplus higher picksfor an older, more injury-prone and much more expensive quarterback in addition to lower picks.

    It's a baffling move, and considering the draft picks exchanged, it looks like a loss on paper for the Eagles.

    Grade: D

Sign Ryan Mathews

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Although the Eagles originally agreed to terms with free-agent running back Ryan Mathews on Wednesday, they didn't sign him until Thursday evening, after they had already signed DeMarco Murray.

    Despite speculation from Schefter that Mathews could back out of the deal after he saw the Eagles add the NFL's leading rusher, the former San Diego Chargers first-round pick signed a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with $5 million guaranteed.

    Although injuries have been a big issue for Mathews over the years, his contract is relatively cheap and he won't be expected to shoulder the load as the Eagles' feature back.

    He'll be the No. 2 runner on perhaps the most run-friendly team in the league, as the Eagles have Murray, Mathews, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk running behind PFF's top run-blocking offensive line over each of the last two seasons.

    Grade: B+

Sign Demarco Murray

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    The Eagles saw an opportunity to add a luxury at a position that was no longer a need, and they took advantage. The Eagles inked running back DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $42 million deal, including $21 million guaranteed.

    The deal ended a carousel that saw the Eagles' potential starting running back change four times in a one-month span, as noted by's Will Brinson.

    Murray, who turned 27 in February, carried the ball a ridiculous 392 times in 2014, accumulating 1845 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 57 passes, and his 2216 yards from scrimmage led the NFL.

    But his incredible workload raises concerns about his ability to carry the load in the future. Just check Football Outsiders' study on running backs who carry the ball more than 370 times in a season.

    Murray won't be featured in Philly's offense quite as much as in Dallas', and if the Eagles do end up trading Mathis, he'll be playing behind an offensive line that is still very good but not at Dallas' level.

    When you remember that this is a dominant draft class for running backs, the Eagles' signing of Murray really feels like they drastically overpaid.

    It's crippling to Dallas for them to lose one of their biggest offensive weapons, but his injury history and high workload in 2014 make him way less than a sure thing heading into 2015let alone for the next several seasons.

    Grade: C-

    Unless otherwise noted, contract information courtesy of Spotrac.


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