NFL Free Agency got underway at 4 PM on Tuesday of this week and it started off with a bang. No team in the NFL has had a free agency quite like that of the Philadelphia Eagles. The beginning of the former Oregon Ducks Coach’s reign as a GM started off with a few moves that sent shock waves around the league. The first move was trading superstar running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for promising young ILB, Kiko Alonso. This was just the beginning of a flurry of moves that Chip would make. Some of those other moves include cutting Trent Cole, Cary Williams, and longtime Guard Todd Herremans. He wasn’t done, the next wave of shocking moves came in the following days. The first of the two moves was letting Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency. The receiver will line up in Kansas City next year with his former head coach Andy Reid. Following this the Eagles performed a QB swap with the Rams, trading Nick Foles, while acquiring Sam Bradford.
Many of these moves left Eagles fans confused, and concerned. One of the largest questions, if not the largest looming over the head of the Eagles about 48 hours ago was “Who is going to replace Shady?”. The answer might surprise you. It seems as though Chip Kelly had a plan all along. Chip didn’t leave Eagles fans waiting long, he went out and got Ryan Mathews to agree to a 3 year/$12 million dollar deal. Surely you would assume with the addition of the hard running, yet oft hurt Ryan Mathews with the electric 2014 Pro Bowler Darren Sproles,as well as promising young Chris Polk, Chip Kelly has his backfield set. This is where Chip’s unpredictability hit an all time high. Even after Mathews had agreed to terms Kelly still had someone one his radar who also had mutual interest in reuniting with his former college QB. Enter reigning 2014 rushing champ: DeMarco Murray.
At first glance many, like myself figured this was something that would die off quickly. I mean why wouldn’t it? Chip had already gone out and acquired Mathews who many considered right behind Murray as the best free agent running back. Surely enough like most of my assumptions have gone with the unpredictable Philly off-season I was Wrong. Yesterday about mid day it was mentioned that talks between the Eagles and the former Cowboy had begun to gain traction. Later in the day I received a notification saying that DeMarco Murray would be flying to Philadelphia this morning with “intent to sign” (per Adam Schefter). The Eagles made magic happen this morning when DeMarco Murray agreed to a 5 year/ 42 Million dollar deal with 22 million guaranteed. Now lets take a look at why it happened, if it makes sense, and what the All Pro running back brings to the city of brotherly love.
Why it Happened:
The Cowboys had a choice to make following the season. The choice was whether they applied the franchise tag to their superstar RB at the time (DeMarco Murray), or their superstar receiver, Dez Bryant. The Cowboys went ahead did what most would do and slapped Dez with the franchise tag. This meant that if the Cowboys were to retain Murray they would have to negotiate a contract with the tailback. Once other teams found out about Murray as a free agent they were willing to open up their pocket books. The teams who ended up pursuing Murray were the Cowboys, Eagles, Raiders, and Jaguars. As time went on, it was brought down to the Cowboys, Eagles, and Raiders, with the Jags falling to the wayside. Ultimately it came down to the Eagles and the Cowboys, although the Raiders reportedly offered Murray the most money. The Cowboys offered 5 million per yer and held firm on this, which allowed the Eagles to up the bid to around 8 million annually, and steal the division rival off of Jerry Jones squad. Another major reason behind the signing of Murray was the constant texts/calls new Eagles acquisition Sam Bradford sent to get him to join. Oh yeah it probably helps that Murray and Bradford were teammates/room mates at Oklahoma, where they ran a similar offense. Makes sense.
Does it Make Sense:
When looking at if this move makes sense it all comes down to Chip Kelly. When the Eagles traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso they shed around 12 million dollars in cap space and acquired Alonso, a former Oregon Duck who if healthy, can be a star for years to come. With the addition of Murray for around 8 million annually, plus the addition of Alonso, and Mathews the Eagles are right around the number it would have cost to pay McCoy. By himself. So in this aspect it makes sense. According to Chip his goal was to get two backs to replace Shady and sure enough he did. If you were to tell me 48 hours ago it would be DeMarco Murray along with Ryan Mathews, I would have laughed in your face. Kelly essentially pulled a 1 for 3 financially by trading away Shady, and acquiring Murray, Mathews, and Kiko Alonso. Smart. The Eagles now have what many would regard as the best backfield in the NFL with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles. Murray and Mathews are considered number one options, and Sproles is more of a element of surprise back who still earned a Pro Bowl bid last season.
What Murray Brings:
On paper it looks pretty good. The reigning NFL rushing champion is coming off his best statistical year with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. On top of this he had the seventh most touches ever in a season by a running back with 392 (per pro football reference.) Shady is absolutely and elite back, but so is Murray in a different way. While Shady is shifty, and more of an east to west runner, DeMarco is more up Chips alley as a North to South runner. Murray brings fresh look to a backfield that has hosted incredible running backs such as LeSean McCoy, and Brian Westbrook. One concern is that last season was the only season he has played all 16 games in his career, so he could be an injury concern. But when you consider the depth the Eagles now have at running back, him going down wouldn’t completely decimate their chances at all. Granted Murray is figured to get significantly less touches as he shares a backfield with Sproles, and Mathews, he will still be the primary back so there is nothing to fear Eagles Fans.
Chip Kelly has been all over the place this off-season. More “out of the air” moves have been made during by the Eagles recently than I can ever remember seeing. Chip has no problem dealing with big names, as he has traded/cut/let walk some of the most popular faces to wear midnight green in the last ten years. Today he showed that works both ways as he adds reigning rushing champ DeMarco Murray to an already impressive Eagles backfield, which has many Eagles fans second guessing whether they should have tweeted all those nasty things about him a couple of days ago. Hmmmmm.