Chip Kelly was wearing a Sam Hinkie costume yesterday as he made a series of big moves to the roster, the biggest of which was trading the team’s star running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for LB Kiko Alonso. It’s been a little while since the deal actually happened and I still haven’t fully comprehended what they’ve done. I can’t say I’m 100% surprised that they dumped him, but the inner Eagles fan in me is shocked that they would do this deal, especially considering there was no warning of it happening.
Just a short time (like, minutes) before McCoy was traded in principle to the Bills, the Eagles announced that they were unable to reach a revised deal with OLB Trent Cole and would release him. Cole has been one of the franchise’s best defensive players over the last decade or so, earning himself two Pro Bowl selections. There was a high chance that the Eagles would at least try to restructure his contract so that he would earn less money, but it seems like they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Earlier in the day the team announced the release of CB Cary Williams, a player who was anything but gone. He was due an obscene salary for what he was worth, and it was only a matter of time before the Eagles decided to pull the trigger and let Williams go. Some may argue that he was actually a decent cornerback who just had a bad year, but either way he wasn’t likely to come back.
All three players were at least on the radar among writers and fans for people who had some amount of possibility of leaving, but McCoy is clearly the most surprising. McCoy has accumulated 6,792 yards and 44 touchdowns over his career, including 1,319 yards and five touchdowns last year, a yardage total which was third highest in the league. He has played with the Eagles for his entire career and has been one of the best players their franchise has seen in the last decade, especially on offense. Now he’ll be running the ball for the Bills…assuming the trade actually goes through.
The trade, assuming it remains in tact, can’t actually go through until next Tuesday when the new league year starts. This means there is still a possibility that the trade were canceled and McCoy would remain an Eagle. NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus quickly pointed this out:
I just spoke with the Eagles organization and there is no trade for LeSean at this time. There have been discussions but nothing finalized
— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) March 3, 2015
So, you’re saying there’s a chance? Technically, yes, but I think I’m ready to accept that Alonso is a Philadelphia Eagle. The Oregon alum (which is likely not a coincidence) had an amazing rookie season before tearing his ACL last year, missing the whole 2014 season. But in his one season in the NFL, he accumulated 159 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions. Here’s a little perspective on how good that 2013 season really was:
In 2013: Kiko Alonso: 159 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INTs Luke Kuechly: 156 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INTs Kuechly won DPOY Award that year
— Austin Vitelli (@AustinVitelli) March 4, 2015
A very surprising report came out later after the trade, suggesting that acquiring Alonso was a lot more than the Eagles were about to accept for him:
Source tells me Eagles would’ve cut LeSean McCoy and were just calling around to find *anything* for him. Bills only took 20min to say yes.
— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) March 4, 2015
If that’s the case, then grabbing Alonso for him was a complete steal. He is a great young linebacker and has a very cheap deal. Here’s the breakdown on the finances related to all the moves the Eagles made yesterday.
With the release of Williams, who had a cap hit of $8.2 million, they saved $6.5 million. With the release of Cole, who had a cap hit of $11.625 million, they saved $8.425 million. With the trade of McCoy, who had a cap hit of $11.95 million, they saved $8.55 million. So with those three moves combined, they saved $23.475 million, almost doubling their cap space in just one day. Alonso will have a cap hit of just $1.17 million in 2015, so it barely will have an effect. So I guess the big question is, what do they do with all that money?
Well for one thing, they like to have a lot of money that they can carry over after a year ends. But at some point, they have to actually spend the money or it’s worthless. They have been rumored to be the front-runner for CB Byron Maxwell, which is a good sign considering he’s one of the top free agents on the market across the board. Signing him would immediately fill a big hole now that the Eagles don’t have a single starting cornerback on the roster.
This new-found wealth could also mean they could make a play on OLB Brandon Graham, who originally seemed like would be out of the picture because of how much money he wanted. If they were to pay him $8 million a year like he wants, they would definitely be able to afford that, assuming they’d want him back. Teams that run a 4-3 might be a better fit than the Eagles though, which gives them a disadvantage.
What does the future hold? Well, with the addition of Alonso, it would likely mean the release of DeMeco Ryans, who’s an aging inside linebacker coming off of an injury. The Eagles would save another $6.9 million with the release, which is the entirety of his contract, although this move likely wouldn’t come until after the trade is finalized. I’d be surprised to see them release anyone else to save cap space considering how much they’ve already saved, but after this string of moves, it’s important to “never say never.”