The Eagles started making news on Tuesday afternoon when word got out that they were going to part ways with cornerback Cary Williams and pass rushers Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. While Philly fans and media were working on figuring out how these starters would be replaced with no obvious candidates to step in on the roster, the bombshell hit.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Eagles and Bills had agreed on a trade that would send linebacker Kiko Alonso to Buffalo in exchange for LeSean McCoy. Chip Kelly, who was give full control of player personnel in January, had traded away arguably his team’s best player for a linebacker who had a very good rookie season but missed 2014 with a torn ACL.
It is clear that Kelly is not afraid to use his newly acquired personnel power. Cole and Todd Herremans were the two longest-tenured Eagles, both drafted by the team in 2005. McCoy, who will be 27 before the season starts, came aboard in the 2009 draft. Graham was the Eagles’ top pick in the 2010 draft. The Andy Reid era, the most successful in team history, is fast fading into the rearview mirror.
Trading McCoy saved the Eagles $8.55 million in salary cap space. Alonso may take the place of veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who may also be released to save $6.9 million. That would give Kelly nearly $60 million in cap space to work with.
But what would he do with it? The word around Philadelphia is that Kelly only wants players who buy into his system, his way of doing things. It started last year when he was the driving force behind the decision to cut DeSean Jackson a year ago. The best way do that is to build through the draft, bring players in out of college and train them the way you want them. As Scot McCloughan says, free agents come in with their own agendas. You can only vet players so much during the interview and background check process. If Kelly does it that way it will be largely a process of trail and error.
One could surmise that Kelly wants the cap space because he intends to use a good chunk of the next two drafts to move up from 20th into the top five and take Marcus Mariota in the draft. That’s possible but putting all of your eggs in the basket of a spread offense QB is risky business, as the Redskins have learned. The fact that Mariota played for Kelly at Oregon may increase the chances for success but it’s far from a guarantee.
So what does this mean for the Redskins? In the short term is means that they won’t have to face McCoy twice a year. He has 206 carries for 807 yards and five touchdowns rushing and 51 receptions for 479 yards against the Redskins. The receiving numbers are by far his best against any opponent.
But beyond that it depends largely on if Kelly, who has 20 NFL wins, none of them in the postseason, knows what he has doing. He apparently convinced Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie that he does. Now he has to show Eagles fans and the rest of the NFL that he does.
If Kelly’s way works, the Redskins could find themselves needing 11 or 12 wins year after year to contend for the NFC East title. That would make the Redskins’ rebuilding job that much tougher and increase the pressure on Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan to get big results in a hurry.
And if Kelly busts? Well, for right now it would give the Redskins some company at the bottom of the division. Beyond that, we would have to see but given their record since 2007 the Redskins have little room to revel in the difficulties of other division teams.