5 Reasons The Eagles Shocked The World And Traded LeSean McCoy
On a slow news day during this lull 'til March Madness, a report the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to trade LeSean McCoy became the most surprising, if not outright the biggest, news story of the day.
Just one season removed from leading the league in rushing yards during the 2013-2014 season, McCoy has been sent packing via a trade that will have him joining Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills, for their part, gave Philly a new linebacker in Kiko Alonso. Alonso will be entering his third year in the league, but he's also coming back from an ACL injury that kept him out for the entire 2014-2015 season.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the trade is due to be completed next week.
Those are the facts, but they don't nearly begin to touch upon the shock factor this trade has.
Why on Earth would the Eagles trade a star player for a lesser known youngster coming back from a devastating injury?
Well, in the immediate aftermath of the trade, five prominent reasons that might answer the question emerged:
During Tuesday night's episode of "NFL Total Access," former All-Pro LaDainian Tomlinson provided a bit of insider information about McCoy's relationship with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and how that could've impacted the trade.
Referring to a conversation he'd had with McCoy a few weeks back, Tomlinson said,
He talked about [how] he and Chip Kelly's relationship had become a little strained, and he just did not think Philly was committed to him. He actually thought Chip kind of phased him out of the offense at times last year. He felt the writing was on the wall that they were trying to move on this offseason, and sure enough, we have this trade.
As NJ.com's Matt Lombardo noted, reporting done by NFL Network's Ian Rapport backs up the notion Kelly and McCoy just weren't on the same page. Rapport said,
I know from what I am told that McCoy told some friends he didn't always see eye-to-eye with Chip Kelly's ways, including working out extremely hard the Saturday before games. He complained several times that his legs did not have the burst that he wanted. Still, he rushed for the total that he rushed for. But he was grumbling some, at least to some of his close friends, just about how Chip Kelly was in that building, which might help explain why he was so readily willing to part with his star running back.
Chip Kelly is known to be a big personality and a unique coach who is very particular about certain unique policies he introduces.
The idea that McCoy's problems with the coach could have stemmed from an overall disagreement on some of those policies seems very plausible.
The linebacker for whom the Eagles traded for, Kiko Alonso, is one of Chip Kelly's former players from the University of Oregon.
At Oregon, Kelly saw Alonso during his darkest days as a talented player whose career was threatened by legal troubles.
Since his worst times in Eugene, however, Alonso transformed into a highly-rated NFL prospect, and then the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2013-2014.
According to USA Today's tally, Alonso will become the ninth former Oregon Duck on Philadelphia's roster.
That stands out because ever since Kelly came to Philly, there's been a belief he's essentially trying to turn the Eagles into the fast and furious team he had at Oregon, which sort of became college football's revolutionary program between 2009 and 2012.
The easy logic to arrive at is the more Oregon players Chip has, the easier it will be to impose his philosophy on the team.
McCoy is set to make $9.75 million in salary next season, but had he stayed with the Eagles, he would have counted for $12 million of their salary cap.
According to reports, Chip Kelly basically didn't think he was worth that amount.
The idea of McCoy restructuring the deal had been floating around, but reports say McCoy was never interested in taking less money in yearly salary.
The result of the ideological standoff is this trade, which took McCoy's contract off Philly's books and gave Kelly nearly $50 million of cap space to use on his type of players rather than those whom he inherited.
For a guy whose tenure has been more about ushering in a new era than just mere wins, that cap space, and the flexibility to bring in other players because of it, is no small detail.
If anything, the McCoy trade speaks of the rapidly plummeting value of running backs in the NFL.
The league's running backs have an average career span of just three years. Translation: They aren't in their primes for too long, and they get chopped and changed on the regular.
That even goes for guys like McCoy, a player who has the most rushing yards of any running back for the past five seasons and finished third in total rushing yards for 2014-2015, despite suffering a drop-off of nearly 300 yards from the previous year.
Not only does the league not value running backs that much, but Chip Kelly himself has been said to not value the position.
ESPN's Phil Sheridan points out former Eagles guard Todd Herremans admitted on a local radio show Kelly prioritizes quarterbacks and offensive linemen.
According to Herremans, when it comes to everything Chip believes "the system will take care of it."
Since the end of the 2014-2015 season, Chip Kelly basically has all of the power.
Kelly took over all player personnel decisions since the turn of the new year, and the McCoy trade is indicative of his ability to get rid of and bring in any player he wants, when he wants.
Consider this from NFL Media columnist Michael Silver:
One Bills source: 'Holy s---, this went down in 20 minutes...' — Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 4, 2015
If it sounds like the trade went down at the snap of a finger, it'd fit perfectly with Kelly's image as an autonomous ruler of personnel decisions in Philadelphia.
The Eagles basically gave him the keys to the car, and he doesn't want (and perhaps more importantly, doesn't feel he needs) McCoy along for the ride.