Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Eagles

We’ve seen some teams shake things up in the offseason, but few teams have undergone the kind of overhaul that the Eagles have. Coach Chip Kelly secured complete control in the front office and we’re all waiting to see whether he’s crazy, a genius, or some mixture of both.

Notable signings:

Byron Maxwell was widely viewed as the best FA corner available and ranked as the No. 9 overall free agent on PFR’s Top 50 list. The 27-year-old enjoyed his first season as full-time starter for the Seahawks in 2014, starting 12 games as Seattle made it second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles were long seen as the favorites to land Maxwell and they were able to go wire-to-wire to land him as the Jets, another possible suitor, were zeroed in on a reunion with Darrelle Revis. At $63MM over six years with $25MM fully guaranteed, it’s very possible that Maxwell was an overpay. However, the Eagles believe that he will be a significant upgrade over Cary Williams, who was cut loose. Interesting note on that front, however: Pro Football Focus (subscription required) didn’t see a big difference between Maxwell and Williams in 2014. Maxwell finished the year with a -0.2 overall grade, good for 45th amongst corners. Williams, meanwhile, finished with a -1.0 score, putting him 49th amongst all corners. In short, both players were painted as average corners by the advanced metrics. He’ll be joined in the secondary by Walter Thurmond, who apparently was not thrilled with the Giants’ medical care. Thurmond will be making the switch to safety, a transition he says he can make comfortably.

DeMarco Murray (vertical)

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Did DeMarco Murray put too many miles on his odometer during his brilliant 2014 campaign? Kelly certainly doesn’t think so. There were many teams who were linked to the former Cowboys star throughout the year, but no one expected the Eagles to get heavily into the mix and come away signing him. Murray, who has struggled with injuries in years past, put it all together in 2014 for his best campaign yet. The 27-year-old ran for 1,845 yards and 13 scores with 2,261 all-purpose yards. After a season in which he showed that he can stay healthy, produce (4.7 YPC), and work at a nearly unprecedented rate, Murray hit the open market as the top RB available. The advanced numbers also showed that Murray was also at the top of the heap last season. Pro Football Focus‘ numbers (subscription required) resulted in an overall score of 15.2, placing him fifth amongst all tailbacks in 2014. His lack of meaningful production in the passing game, fumbles, and below average blocking were his only real demerits. Can Murray repeat his ’14 performance? Or, at the very least, can he do better than the guy he’s replacing? (More on that later.)

Before the Murray signing, the Eagles added Ryan Mathews and, at the time, it appeared that he would be the new No. 1 back in Philadelphia. Once Murray was inked, many wonders if Mathews would wind up elsewhere or, at the very least, reworking the performance-based incentives in his contract. At the end of the day, Mathews stayed and he’s now slated to work in tandem with Murray and Darren Sproles. Considered an injury-prone player for the first three seasons of his career, Mathews finally stayed healthy and put it all together for the Chargers in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,255 yards. He was unable to keep that run of good health going in 2014 though, playing just eight games for San Diego due to injuries. The former 12th overall pick can be one of the league’s best backs when he’s at 100% and he could help form a lethal three-headed backfield if he stays healthy.

Now, the question is, who will be handing the ball off to those backs? Well, one possibility is Mark Sanchez, who was re-signed to a two-year contract worth $9MM with $5.5MM guaranteed. Sanchez played nine games for the Eagles in 2014, with mixed results. He completed over 64% of his passes, averaging 268 yards per game with a 14 to 11 touchdown to interception ratio. Sanchez, a former No. 5 overall pick, will duke it out with a former No. 1 overall pick to be the team’s starting signal caller. Tim Tebow is also on the depth chart, though he is considered to be the fourth quarterback at this time.

If Murray ever finds himself homesick, he turn to Miles Austin for some familiarity. Austin, of course, isn’t the same sort of impact player Murray is at this stage of his career, but he had a decent bounce-back season in Cleveland last year. In 2014, Austin caught 47 balls for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. The 30-year-old has racked up 348 catches for more than 5,000 yards during his nine-year NFL career, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods during his time with the Cowboys. Of course, he has also missed a ton of time due to injuries in recent years.

After some offseason deliberations between offers from the Eagles and Giants, linebacker Brandon Graham ultimately opted to remain in Philly. In February, Graham was said to be seeking a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $30MM, with $20MM in guaranteed money. Ultimately, he settled for less, but still got $14MM guaranteed on a $26MM pact. The 21-year-old recorded 5.5 sacks and 46 total tackles in 2014. The former first-round choice has moved around a bit in the front seven over the years, having seen time at defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker. Last season, he played the bulk of his snaps at outside linebacker and enjoyed his best season to date. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) placed him as the third best OLB in a 3-4 set last season. PFF was also high on Graham in 2013, ranking him as the 15th best outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Notable losses:

The Eagles and Evan Mathis were wrestling over a contract dispute all offseason long until the situation reached a rather surprising conclusion. Many expected that Mathis and the Eagles would eventually reach a compromise or that the guard would find a suitable trade after he was given permission to seek one out. Instead, the Eagles simply decided to cut Mathis loose in June. Mathis, of course, is considered one of the league’s best guards. In 2014, despite playing just 608 offensive snaps, the former third-round pick ranked as the league’s best left guard, performing particularly well as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required). PFF had previously graded Mathis as the NFL’s No. 1 guard in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The veteran continues to look for his next NFL home.

We may never know the real inner workings of the negotiations between Jeremy Maclin and the Eagles, but it didn’t seem like Philly put up much of a fight to retain him in March. Maclin, coming off a breakout season in which he caught 85 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns, was quickly scooped up by the Chiefs, who gave him a five-year, $55MM deal with $22.5MM fully guaranteed.

Despite initially engaging in discussions to keep him around on a reworked contract, the Eagles opted to part ways with Trent Cole in early March. Cole, 32, was a fixture on the Eagles’ defense since being selected by the club in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. During his 10 years in Philadelphia, Cole played 155 games (145 starts), racking up 85.5 sacks, 569 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles. However, after posting six consecutive seasons with eight or more sacks from 2006 to 2011, Cole’s production fell off — he has recorded just 17.5 sacks since 2012. Cole eventually wound up hooking on with the Colts on a two-year, $16MM deal with $8MM guaranteed. Graham will now be counted on to supply the production in Cole’s absence.

Byron Maxwell came east to join the Eagles and Cary Williams switched places with him, joining the Legion of Boom in Seattle. The 30-year-old Williams started all 16 games in each of the past three seasons but he was probably miscast as a No. 1 corner with the Eagles. Williams can earn $18MM over three seasons on his new deal with the Seahawks and he won’t have to pay state income tax either.

Nate Allen started 15 games for the Eagles last season at safety, racking up 62 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries, five pass deflections, and a sack. Allen had a pretty solid year in 2014, finishing out with a 3.9 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), good for 28th out of 87 qualified safeties. Still, as expected, the Eagles let him go in free agency.

Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Bradley Fletcher as the 92nd best cornerback last season out of 108 qualified players at the position. That doesn’t make Fletcher sound like much of a corner, but was much better in 2013 when he ranked 44th out of 110 players at the position. The Eagles didn’t have the patience to find out of he could get back to his old form, but the Pats decided to roll the dice.

Long before Mathis was shown the door, the Eagles did the same with fellow offensive lineman Todd Herremans. Over the course of the last decade, the 10-year veteran has appeared in 127 games for the Eagles, starting 124 of them at every spot besides center on the offensive line. In recent years, Herremans had served as Philadelphia’s right guard or right tackle, though his 2014 campaign came to an early end due to a biceps injury.

Extensions and restructures:

DeMeco Ryans’ 2014 season came to an early end when he suffered a torn Achilles and landed on the injured reserve list. In the eight games he played for the Eagles, he logged 45 tackles, recovered a fumble, and grabbed an interception. Ryans saw his deal extended by one season, even though the Eagles didn’t seem to necessarily need him in the wake of one of their biggest offseason moves. Ryans’ 2014 season came to an early end when he suffered a torn Achilles and landed on the injured reserve list. In the eight games he played for the Eagles, he logged 45 tackles, recovered a fumble, and grabbed an interception.


  • Acquired LB Kiko Alonso from the Bills in exchange for RB LeSean McCoy.
  • Acquired QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick from the Rams in exchange for QB Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick. Eagles will acquire a 2016 fourth-round pick if Bradford plays less than 50% of Philadelphia’s snaps in 2015, or a 2016 third-round pick if Bradford doesn’t play at all in 2015 due to injury.
  • Acquired a 2015 second-round pick (No. 47; DB Eric Rowe) and a 2015 sixth-round pick (No. 191; CB JaCorey Shepherd) from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 52; DT Jordan Phillips), a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 145; CB Bobby McCain), and a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 156; CB Tony Lippett).
  • Acquired a 2016 third-round pick from the Lions in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 113; DT Gabe Wright).

The trade of star running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso will go down as one of the most surprising moves of the 2015 offseason and also as the trade that nearly broke PFR. There were rumblings of discord between Kelly and McCoy, but few saw a deal like this coming.

McCoy was not the electrifying playmaker in 2014 that he was in 2013 but he still had a very productive season in terms of traditional stats, with 1,319 rushing yards and a 4.2 YPC average. The advanced metrics, meanwhile, show a much sharper contrast between the two campaigns. In 2013, McCoy was rated as the very best tailback in football according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), racking up a 27.3 overall rating which was more than 8 points higher than the runner-up, Jamaal Charles. In 2014, however, McCoy was near the bottom of all qualified tailbacks with a fairly terrible -9.3 grade thanks in large part to his poor showing in the passing game.

Alonso, 25 in August, didn’t see the field in 2014 after tearing his ACL in July of 2014. After being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, Alonso finished second in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year after totaling 87 tackles, four interceptions, and two sacks. PFF (subscription required) rated Alonso as the ninth-best inside linebacker in the NFL in his rookie season. Because Alonso spent the year on the NFI (non-football injury) list, he’ll only be a restricted free agent after 2016. He’s also significantly cheaper than McCoy, which gave Kelly some additional breathing room this spring.

Right around the start of free agency, the Eagles shipped Nick Foles to the Rams in exchange for former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Surprisingly, it was the Eagles who gave up more in draft compensation to make the swap happen. Foles had his 2014 season ended prematurely by a collar bone injury, but he’s not that far removed from his impressive 2013 run. Bradford, of course, has battled injuries over the past two seasons, including an ACL injury that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. In his last full season, the former first-overall pick threw for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. During that 2012 campaign, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Bradford 21st among 38 quarterback candidates. Soon after, it was rumored that the Eagles were dangling Bradford in an effort trade up to the No. 2 pick to grab Oregon star Marcus Mariota. Ultimately, the Titans stood pat and the Eagles are now set to roll with either Sanchez or Bradford as their No. 1 QB. The Eagles are reportedly considering an extension with Bradford as well.

Draft picks:

  • 1-20: Nelson Agholor, WR (USC): Signed
  • 2-47: Eric Rowe, CB (Utah): Signed
  • 3-84: Jordan Hicks, ILB (Texas): Signed
  • 6-191: JaCorey Shepherd, CB (Kansas): Signed
  • 6-196: Randall Evans, CB (Kansas State): Signed
  • 7-237: Brian Mihalik, DE (Boston College): Signed

Nelson Agholor was a fast riser in the draft and he found his way up to No. 20 where the Eagles were selecting. The 6’0″ USC product has drawn comparisons to Jeremy Maclin for his sharp route running and also has pretty advanced hands. Agholor could prove to be a major weapon for whomever is under center for the Eagles in 2015 and also figures to make an impact in the return game.


  • Announced new front office roles for Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, with Kelly taking over the club’s personnel department.
  • Promoted Ed Marynowitz to vice president of player personnel.
  • Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for DE Fletcher Cox ($7.799MM).
  • Rescinded RFA tender to RB Chris Polk.
  • Signed nine players to reserve/futures contracts.
  • Signed 16 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.

In January it was announced that Howie Roseman would be elevated to the role of executive vice president of football operations with Kelly now officially overseeing the player personnel department. Of course, the term “elevated” isn’t 100% accurate with Kelly having final say over everything regarding the roster. Ed Marynowitz was promoted from assistant director of player personnel to the team’s vice president of player personnel. For what it’s worth, he says that everyone’s roles are well defined.

Top 10 cap hits for 2015:

  1. Sam Bradford, QB: $12,985,000
  2. Jason Peters, LT: $9,050,000
  3. Byron Maxwell, CB: $8,700,000
  4. Connor Barwin, OLB: $7,000,000
  5. Brandon Graham, OLB: $6,000,000
  6. Malcolm Jenkins, S: $5,666,666
  7. Lane Johnson, RT: $5,225,974
  8. DeMarco Murray, RB: $5,000,000
  9. Brent Celek, TE: $4,800,000
  10. Riley Cooper, WR: $4,800,000

Crazy? Genius? Both? We can’t wait to find out.

Contract information from Over the Cap and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.

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2 comments on “Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Eagles

  1. Luke Adams

    I imagine most of the focus with the Eagles this season will be on guys like Bradford and Murray, and rightly so. But I’m curious to see how the offensive line holds up after losing a pair of longtime starters (Mathis, Herremans). It was a little shaky last year when those guys were injured, but with the new starters preparing to be the No. 1 guys from the beginning of training camp, I expect we’ll see some improvements this season.

    • Dallas Robinson

      It’s definitely odd: this front five will field two players who could have a legitimate claim to being the best at their position (Jason Peters, Jason Kelce), and lining up next to them at the guard spots will be guys who are relatively unknown quantities (Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre, John Moffitt). Strange juxtaposition.

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