The LeSean McCoy trade Tuesday night stunned the NFL, but upon closer inspection, nothing Chip Kelly does should register as a surprise.
In his first draft with the Eagles, the innovative offensive mind only took one skill position player (Stanford tight end Zach Ertz) in the 1st three rounds. In his second draft, he reached for a edge rusher – Marcus Smith of Louisville – in the 1st round.
Last summer, Kelly cut the team’s best wide receiver DeSean Jackson – didn’t even try to trade him! – partially because of insubordination.
On New Year’s Eve, Kelly got the team’s general manager, Howie Roseman, demoted to the business side of the football team so he has no control whatsoever when it comes to the roster.
It’s impossible not to love what Kelly has been doing – he’s the most inventive, secretive operator in the NFL. No, he hasn’t won a playoff game in two seasons, but he’s gone 10-6 with Nick Foles as the starter, and then 10-6 with the frightening Foles/Sanchez combo. These things take time. He’s still building/shaping the roster to fit his system and clean up the mess that Roseman made.
What a massive middle finger to Roseman.
The McCoy trade makes sense for each team. The Bills, under Rex Ryan, will want to ground-and-pound offensively, and win low-scoring games on the strength of an improving defense. But with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson (34 years old) free agents, how was Ryan going to accomplish that? Spiller has never been a 20+ carry workhorse – in five seasons in Buffalo, he only had 20+ carries five times. (Thomas Jones, in Rex Ryan’s 1st year with the Jets, had 20+ carries in 11 regular season games.) Enter McCoy, a shifty, fast, 27-year old running back who carries a hefty price tag, but is still near the prime of his career. (Though this chart from ESPN is an ominous one for running backs, pointing to 27 as the peak year for their production.)
Losing Alonso, the 2013 defensive rookie of the year, sounds rough on the surface, but he missed the entire 2014 season with an ACL injury and Buffalo was still a Top 10 defensive team by nearly any metric you want to use (and Top 5 in most categories).
The Eagles saved themselves roughed $11 million in salary and – combined with letting veterans Trent Cole, Cary Williams, Todd Herremans, Nate Allen and Bradley Fletcher walk – surged into the Top 5 of NFL cap room heading into next week’s free agency with $48.6 million to spend.
The only question remaining: If McCoy was the team’s best (only?) chance to move up in the draft to get the QB Kelly recruited to Oregon, Marcus Mariota, does Chip Kelly have any more aces up his sleeve? Or is Mariota completely off the table now? Is Nick Foles the only bullet left in Chip Kelly’s chamber? Perhaps Kelly has an eye on Bryan Bennett (another QB Kelly recruited to Oregon, but he transferred after losing the job to Mariota) or Brett Hundley in the draft? Maybe it’s Baylor’s Bryce Petty? Does Chip Kelly secretly covet … (gasp!) Brian Hoyer in free agency?
Or does Kelly pull another stunner and stand pat at QB, and instead go after a weapon like Randall Cobb (WR likely leaving the Packers), Devin McCourty to bolster his secondary, and then a stunner like Darrelle Revis?
Nobody has a clue, and that’s the beauty of it all.
The NFL waits.
NCAA TOURNAMENT LONGSHOTS:
Last week I gave you Maryland and Utah as NCAA Tournament longshots with potential value, and here are two more: San Diego State (22-7) and LSU (21-8).
The Aztecs lost at home last week to Boise State, has immense offensive issues, but here’s the good news: They have two potential NBA players (Dwayne Polee and Winston Shepard), play stout defense (Top 10 per Ken Pom), and had three quality non-conference early-season victories (Utah, BYU, Pittsburgh).
LSU has had a couple confounding defeats (Auburn, Mississippi State) and was swept by Texas A&M, but again, the defense and NBA talent is the reason for the interest. The Tigers are one of the few teams with the athletic size inside (Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin, both who will get looks from the pros), but what worries me are the turnovers and lack of 3-point shooting. LSU could give a higher seed hell in a 50-46 second round ugly nailbiter.
You can get SDSU and LSU at +25000 to win it all.
ODDS & ENDS:
Very interesting read on just how bad the jerks at #FSUTwitter were to one writer who covered the scandal … gosh I hope Jeff Van Gundy calls another Bulls game this season … it’s Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, how can you not want to read that? … congrats are in order for the folks at The Buzzer … here’s an exhaustive interview with the boss of ESPN radio … too funny: Vogue staffers are angry that people make popcorn in their new building at 1WTC … Rick Neuheisel has left the Pac-12 Network and joined CBS Sports/CBS Sports Network … Stuart Scott’s book will be released March 10th, and here’s an early review … sportswriter has laptop stolen from coffee shop, gives chase, but what happened next will RESTORE YOUR FAITH IN HUMANITY! …
Which ACC football player who has entered the draft – and is projected to go in the early rounds – still doesn’t have an agent because he’s demanding up to $300,000 just to sign with anyone?