How the Eagles aggressive Free Agency plan has transformed the franchise


12 months ago, the Philadelphia Eagles endured one of the most impactful Free agency periods in recent history. Franchise stars were released and traded without remorse and in their place came an array of players who Chip Kelly believed could help his team make a Super Bowl charge..the result was controversially underwhelming and resulted in the firing of Kelly. If we look at the opening days of Free Agency this season in comparison to those of 2015, it’s clear to see that the team has an entirely new more ways than one. Here’s how the Eagles have undone the doom bestowed upon the team by Chip Kelly and are instead moving towards the bright end of the tunnel.

The first thing the Eagles were able to do which shocked fans and analysts like, is undo almost all of Chip Kelly’s damaging transactions. So just how much weight has been lifted?

DeMarco Murray – 5 years, $42M. One year later: Traded to Tennessee

Byron Maxwell – 6 years, $63M. One year later: Traded to Miami

Walter Thurmond III – 1 year, $3.25M. No contract offered, becomes Free Agent.

Brad Jones – 2 years, $2.85M.  Cut by the Eagles in November

Kiko Alonso- 2 years remaining on rookie deal. Traded to Miami

In fact, the only two players picked up by Chip Kelly this time 12 months ago who remain on the roster are Sam Bradford who signed a new do-or-die deal and Ryan Mathews who has reportedly been shopped by the birds.

But to understand the genius of Howie have to understand why the Eagles couldn’t simply retain these players. The two Free Agency periods are binary opposites of each other. Last year saw Chip Kelly gamble on himself in many ways.

Not only was he taking huge risks by trading LeSean McCoy to sign a downhill runner from the Eagles’ biggest rival, but he was so adamant his system would be successful, that a potential arrogance blinded him into taking wild jumps to try and prove the world wrong and show that players under Kelly are no more than interchangeable parts. Almost every player acquired during this period had a glaring negative that was overlooked at the time in the belief that Kelly could transform their careers.

DeMarco Murray- $42M is a lot to pay for a running back who succeeded by blasting through holes created by his Offensive Line, could he do the same in Philadelphia with a less efficient line and a different scheme?

Kiko Alonso- Huge ceiling, huge injury concerns. Was Kiko worth trading McCoy for?

Byron Maxwell- Living in the shadow of the “Legion of Boom”, he has to emerge as a star corner if the Eagles are paying him generously to be one.

Sam Bradford- Two ACL tears, hasn’t played an NFL snap in over a year…big contract, could Chip help him rediscover the form showcased in his rookie season and aid his durability through sports science? 

It’s clear giving him complete control of the personnel was a risk..but the alarm bells should have been ringing by the time Free Agency had concluded, but because of his systematic success and seeing perhaps just a glimpse of its potential, the people of Philadelphia put their trust in Chip and the hype began to snowball.

It’s only when you see  a contrasting Free Agency that you appreciate both how impressive Howie Roseman is at working the cap and how scary another offseason under Chip Kelly might have been.

Not only have the Eagles removed the debris after the explosion..but they were able to save the foundations of the franchise and begin building a new era with a sense of stability and direction.

The foundation comes in the way of the recent contract extensions. Signing the likes of Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Vinny Curry and Malcolm Jenkins to new deals, the birds keep some of the best young talent the team has in the organization long term and give Pederson some talented stability at some of the most important areas for what he’s trying to do.

Many will argue that Fletcher Cox deserves a big extension..and they’d be right too, but Cox has one more year on his deal and it was almost as if the team could have handed him the money he deserves now…or wait, help build a team of players around him, continue to bleed out the infection and pay him when the Eagles are confident that they have enough money to fill every gap needed.

Then came Free Agency. We know that trading away Maxwell, Alonso and Murray was a brilliant move and we know what it means going forward..but the real magic followed after. For the first time in the last few years, fans weren’t scratching their heads or worrying about how a player is going to fit into their system…because they already do.

Leodis McKelvin:
Corner with plenty of experience 
Knows the system 
Familiarity with the Defensive Coordinator 
Great tutor for a very young core (no corner has over a single NFL season of experience)

Brandon Brooks:
Bolsters position of need 
High ceiling 
Allows minimal sacks 
Signed before the OL market sky rocketed 

Chase Daniel:
Knows the system 
Familiar with Pederson 
Can help tutor Bradford and QB3 
Starting experience 
Reliable arm if thunder does strike three times and Bradford falls injured 

Rodney McLeod:
Fits EXACTLY what Schwartz is looking for in a Safety
Hard hitting, fast, aggressive…still young
Almost half the price of a statistically worse Janoris Jenkins

Ron Brooks:
Familiar with system
Familiar with Schwartz
Big contributor on Special Teams 
Known for aggressive play

Nigel Bradham:
Familiar with system
Familiar with Schwartz
Replaces Kiko Alonso with a more reliable and consistent option

Noticing any patterns here? There were many jokes last year about the Eagles becoming an Oregon Ducks pro team and there will likely be just as many jokes regarding the amount of Buffalo players that have been signed..but there’s a key difference.

The Eagles have signed players that FIT a system…not players who will BECOME the system. Chip Kelly believed he could take a player of any style and mould him into the player he turns out that doing so is not that simple and the result was a divided locker room.

Chip Kelly favored the Offensive side of the football and it often resulted in some puzzling Defensive signings (draft picks excluded).

Byron Maxwell was great in a more zonal system in Seattle, but when he has to play man-to-man or make a tackle…he struggles massively and it became his immediate downfall in Philadelphia. Kiko Alonso fell injured as many predicted and whilst Walter Thurmond had a big season…it was certainly helped by an inconsistent pass rush that crumbled under the command of Billy Davis towards the end of the season and a cornerback core full of potential that’s yet to be grown in to.

In contrast, the Eagles have signed players that like Kelly ‘s acquisitions fit their system and direction..but unlike those signings have been signed due to what they can do individually, as opposed to the attributes that they can contribute to a system that doesn’t allow for players to become the stars they could well be destined to become.

McLeod has all the makings of a Pro-Bowl Safety, Brooks is going to be a huge addition to the Offensive Line and Bradham should be able to spark up enough of a fire to re-ignite what was once a red hot pass rush.

The Eagles lost their way under Kelly, the stars began to lose their sparkle as they faded into the obscurity of the systematic night but Howie Roseman and his newly assembled coaching staff have brought a new dawn to the fans of Philadelphia. A dawn that’s primed to let the sun shine brighter than ever before.