In one of the more stunning trades we’ll see in this NFL offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles sent star running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who just so happened to be a former player of Chip Kelly when he was coaching at Oregon.
Alonso had a very good rookie season in 2013 but missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL. In the meantime, McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards during his first season under Kelly in 2013 and finished with 1319 last season, third most in the NFL. He saw a huge drop in yards from scrimmage, from 2146 in 2013 to 1474 last season. Maybe it has something to do with slowing down, but there’s a good chance that offensive line problems and the drop of quality at quarterback was just as big of a cause.
After all, McCoy is only 26 and seemed to be the go-to-guy for Kelly during his first two seasons with Philadelphia. McCoy ran the ball a total of 626 times in the two seasons, surpassing 700 touches including his receptions. That’s not a player you don’t seem to trust. So maybe there are other reasons for Kelly, who was made head of personnel decisions a while back giving him more control over the roster, to get rid of McCoy.
The easiest one to spot is money. As good as McCoy is, paying a running back a huge salary doesn’t seem to fly these days in the league. McCoy was set up to count for $11.95 million against the cap. Despite his impressive contribution, that is something the Eagles couldn’t live with, and maybe Kelly has such a strong belief in his offensive system that he’s quite sure that the surrounding will take care of the numbers, and it’s less about the player. The Bills will pay McCoy $10.25 million next season. He’s signed through the 2017 season.
While the number of touches McCoy got over the last two years suggest he might be heading for a steep fall which would make Kelly look like even more of a genius or prophet, the Eagles have been making a lot of big salary dumps lately. The McCoy trade and releasing Trent Cole and Cary Williams results in the Eagles clearing more than $31 million in cap space. Kelly is building the team the way he likes it, and leaving himself a lot of funds available while getting rid of expensive, injured and possibly unfit players.
The Bills just released C.J. Spiller and McCoy shouldn’t have a problem taking over the starting role in Buffalo. However, he is rumored to be extremely unhappy with the trade. He is a Pennsylvania kid. He grew up in Harrisburg where he also played his high school football and played his college ball with Pittsburgh. He has never played football outside of the state. But he didn’t fit the grand scheme, or was simply too expensive, or has worn out his usefulness. This is Chip Kelly’s team now, and building a pro-Oregon team didn’t include McCoy in the plans.
Alonso is likely to pair up with Mychal Kendricks in the 3-4 defensive system as one of the two middle linebackers. Kelly didn’t draft Kendricks, but he has seen him in action during his college days, when Kendricks was playing for California. The Bills are left quite thin at middle linebacker after this move, but they seem to be more concerned about improving their offense heading into the 2015 season, hoping to finally break the streak of not making the playoffs, going on since 1999.