By Stuart Dick

Two days in a year that may have no specific relevance to your life – but if you are a Philadelphia Eagles fan they are days that almost destroyed your franchise – then helped build a world champion.

Over three years, the Eagles made 12 transactions that shaped the franchise as it is today – with thanks to Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and primarily Chip Kelly, who rid the Eagles of talent in 2015.

Thoughts or opinions? Get in touch on Twitter @britisheagles and @stuonsport.

 

March 9th 2015

Eagles agreed to terms with LB Brandon Graham on a four-year deal

At the time the Philadelphia Eagles ran a 3-4 defense with Brandon Graham pencilled in as on of the Outside Linebackers. The Eagles drafted Graham to play defensive end in the 2010 NFL Draft, trading up to take the Michigan Alumni over who many Eagles fans wanted at the time, Safety Earl Thomas.

Graham tore his ACL in his rookie year against the Dallas Cowboys, missing the majority of his sophomore campaign. In his first five years in the league he made 13 starts out of a possible 80 starts, not exactly want you want from a 13th overall pick.

In Graham’s defence, he was switched from a 4-3 defence, to a 3-4, then back to a 4-3 under Doug Pederson, and that ACL injury caused a slower than usual development – but one thing nobody can deny is the relentless work rate and passion Graham has shown to succeed.

During the last two years under Doug Pederson, Graham has started 31 of 32 games and was named as a team captain during the 2017 campaign that saw Philadelphia lift its first ever Super Bowl. He set career highs in combined tackles (59 in 2016), solo tackles (41 in 2016) and sacks (9.5 in 2007) under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

A rare good move by Chip Kelly in 2015 – although at the time of the deal, Graham could have been considered by some as a bust.

 

March 10th 2015

The beginning of the league year fell on March 10th 2015, and I remember sitting in front of NFL Network when things began to happen. Chip Kelly had wrestled away control from Howie Roseman and was now the General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles.

I’ll admit – at the time – I was all for this move, anything to keep Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Chip was a revolutionary who led the Eagles to a 20-12 record in his first two years with a high tempo offense and explosive playmaking ability. But as the clock ticked past 4pm eastern time on the 10th March, Philadelphia was not prepared for what was about to happen.

Eagles acquired LB Kiko Alonso from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for RB LeSean McCoy

In four of his six seasons in Philadelphia, McCoy eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards, and would have done it once more in 2012 had injury not slowed him down. Drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2009 NFL Draft – after the Eagles had selected DeSean Jackson who Chip Kelly cut earlier in his tenure – ‘Shady’ rushed for 6,792 yards, 44 rushing touchdowns – adding 2282 receiving yards and 10 more scores in the passing game.

What have you done Chip Kelly? I was irate, Kelly had traded the franchise leader in rushing yards LeSean McCoy for a linebacker coming into his third year in the league on the back of an ACL injury. You couldn’t make it up.

Admittedly, the Eagles needed Linebacker help at the time, but you don’t give up such a pivotal player as LeSean McCoy. Chip just didn’t understand the value of NFL players and it showed in his trade deals.

Kiko’s rookie year showed the talent he had, racking up 159 tackles – 87 solo – and recording 2 sacks and 4 interceptions on his way to the PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year. With the Eagles struggling at the linebacker spot, the idea of trading for Alonso may have been a good one – but giving up a blue-chip player in ‘Shady’ McCoy was utterly moronic.

More on Kiko later in the article.

Eagles acquired QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for QB Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick

Pretty much instantly, the Eagles made another trade sending Pro-Bowl MVP Quarterback Nick Foles to St Louis in exchange for former first round pick Sam Bradford along with a second-round pick.

Foles was one season removed from an All-Pro calibre season in 2013. He threw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions over a 13-game span – one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. A year later he lasted half a season before getting injured, throwing for 2,163 yards, 13 scores and 10 picks in a much more modest campaign.

Kelly had evidently seen enough and brought in Sam Bradford to replace the from Arizona triggerman. Bradford was drafted 1st overall in the 2010 NFL Draft having a stunning rookie campaign where he set an NFL record in completions by a rookie on his way to the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Injuries blighted the Quarterback’s career in St Louis, first missing time to an ankle sprain in his second year during a 2-14 season before blowing out his ACL in Week 7 of the 2013 season. He missed the entire 2014 season after injuring the same knee in the pre-season.

Having not played a down of competitive football in just under two years, Chip Kelly traded for him – his second trade for a player coming off injury – we’ll have more from Bradford and Foles later in the article.

Eagles Agreed to terms with CB Byron Maxwell on a six-year deal

Chip Kelly made the then marquee cornerback signing of Byron Maxwell from the ‘Legion of Boom’ – signing a 6-year, $63 million deal.

At the time – much like the addition of Nnamdi Asomugha – seemed like a great signing. The Eagles needed cornerback help and Maxwell appeared to be the best option on the market.

Drafted in the 6th Round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Clemson, there were signs that Maxwell wasn’t worth the deal. He was playing in a secondary including Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman – but was only a one-year starter in Seattle – making just five starts in his first three years in the league.

That season saw the Eagles give up 36 passing touchdowns, second most in the league – although Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme didn’t help as the Eagles defence was on the field the most of any team in the NFL and he would give up a number of receptions each game. Not the worst move in the world but as is evident now later on – he helped the Eagles much more after he left.

 

March 9th 2016

One-year later, the new league year started on March 9th and newly appointed General Manager Howie Roseman – who was ousted a year earlier by Chip Kelly – immediately set to work on reversing the moves of 365 days earlier (it was a leap year, so I’m technically correct on days.)

The moves of this day and the next would swiftly change the direction of the franchise

Eagles acquire the 8th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft from Miami in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell and the 13th overall pick in 2016.

Two of Chip Kelly’s additions from a year earlier would be shown the door on the first day of the 2016 NFL season. Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell were packaged with the 13th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft to move up five spots.

Alonso’s Eagles career was quite putrid compared to his stats in Buffalo, amassing a measly 43 tackles – 30 solo – and one interception in eleven games in midnight green – while LeSean McCoy has rushed for 3,300 yards in 43 games, scoring 22 rushing touchdowns, adding five more TD’s in the receiving game since joining Buffalo.

Maxwell’s stats were slightly better, setting a career high in tackles with 64, but he didn’t live up to the contract he had been given in the 2015 offseason, he was a solid corner, but not a $10m a year type player.

Maxwell was cut early in his second season with the Miami Dolphins, while Alonso has thrived in Florida, amassing 115 combined tackles for two consecutive seasons, but hasn’t quite got back to the standard of his phenomenal rookie campaign in Buffalo.

Why was this move so important? Well, the move from 13 to 8 in the 2016 NFL Draft was the first of series of moves to help the Eagles get their franchise quarterback – Carson Wentz with the #2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft – who had an MVP calibre season in 2017. You could say without Alonso and Maxwell, the Eagles wouldn’t have landed Carson Wentz.

Just before the draft the Eagles gave up a haul of picks to acquire the 2nd overall pick, drafting their Quarterback of the future. One of those picks was part of the next trade deal Howie Roseman orchestrated on the very same day.

Eagles acquire a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft from Tennessee in exchange for RB DeMarco Murray and a fourth-round pick in 2016.

Throw this free agent signing in with Byron Maxwell in the disastrous move by HC Chip Kelly folder – actually, I’d say it was a hell of a lot worse.

He gave the former Dallas Cowboys running back a 5-year, $42 million deal to replace the departed LeSean McCoy. Coming off the back off an 1,845-yard, 13 touchdown rushing campaign in 2014 – Murray mustered just eight starts in a horrible 2015 season where he rushed for just 702 yards and 6 touchdowns at 3.6 yards per carry.

In fact, the $8 million a year running back was benched half way through the campaign, only surpassing 15 carries in two games. This was the running back Chip Kelly said fit his scheme (well other than Philadelphia legend Frank Gore – who Josh McDaniel’d the Eagles before the signing of Murray).

Howie Roseman shipped him out after just one season, correcting Chip Kelly’s mistakes. He picked up a fourth-round pick for the running back who has enjoyed some success in Tennessee. And guess what happened to that fourth-round pick? It was sent to Cleveland in the haul to get Carson Wentz.

Agreed to terms on a five-year contract with G Brandon Brooks

Brandon Brooks – up until the week or so – is one of the unheralded signings that Philadelphia has made over the last few years, but arguably the most important.

Brooks has helped solidify the right side of the offensive line – building a great partnership with right tackle Lane Johnson – who has been a dominant all-pro tackle for a number of years now – and centre Jason Kelce – who a number of Eagles fans thought may get cut last offseason but returned to all-pro form in 2017.

Brooks was drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans in the 3rd round out of Milwaukee (WI) Riverside University, missing just four starts in his last three years with the Texans before signing a 5-year, $40 million deal in the City of Brotherly Love.

In 2017 Brooks was ranked the 4th best guard in football by Pro Football Focus and showed a dominant display in the Eagles 41-33 Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots with Quarterback Nick Foles not getting sacked in the entire game.

Would this move have been possible without the removal of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell off the cap? Who knows?

Eagles agreed to terms on a five-year contract with S Rodney McLeod

Rodney McLeod was a safety brought in to solidify a leaky pass defense that – as mentioned above – leaked 36 touchdown passes in 2015.

Signed in 2012 by the St Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent, it only took a year for the former Virginia product to break into the starting line-up. He started every game for the Rams from 2013-2015 – making 245 tackles in his four-year Rams career, adding 5 interceptions.

The Rams let him hit free agency, and the Eagles signed McLeod to a 5-year, $37 million deal. In 2016 he had career highs in both combined and solo tackles (83 and 72), Interceptions (3) and recorded his first career sack.

He followed it up with another stellar campaign in 2017, equalling his interception total from a year earlier on the way to a world championship.

 

March 10th 2016

Agreed to terms with LB Nigel Bradham on a two-year contract

Another unheralded signing at the time – Nigel Bradham shone in 2017 with his aggressive hitting and excellent coverage. A fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL Draft, Bradham started 11 games his rookie season before seeing duty from the bench in 2013.

He was back starting in 2014 and had a career year – making 104 tackles, six pass deflections and an interception – also missing two games. He missed five more in the 2015 season before making the switch to Philadelphia.

Signing just a two-year deal, Bradham shone from the off starting every game in Doug Pederson’s first season and to date has totalled 190 tackles in 35 regular season starts for the Eagles – adding 13 pass deflections and an interception – as well as three forced fumbles.

He’s a free agent this year, and it’ll be interesting to see if Roseman can manoeuvre the cap to keep the playmaking linebacker.

 

March 9th 2017

Agreed to terms on a three-year contract with WR Torrey Smith.

Torrey Smith’s stay in Philadelphia could only last the one year due to his cap number, but he had a big impact on this team in my opinion, but not necessarily on the field – perhaps more in the locker room.

Smith was the fourth receiver on the team behind Ertz, Agholor and Jeffrey catching just 36 passes during the regular season for 430 yards and two scores. He added 13 receptions during the postseason, catching a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.

Statistically, it was one of the worst seasons of his career, only bettered (worsened?) by last season’s 20 reception campaign in San Francisco. His impact was greater – however – as he was a legitimate deep threat that opened up the middle of the field for Agholor and Ertz to find space.

He’s probably not worth the cap number to keep for another year, but he helped improve a passing offense that was terrible six months earlier.

Agreed to terms on a one-year contract with WR Alshon Jeffery

The marquee receiver signing one year ago, Alshon Jeffrey was brought to Philadelphia on the back of five years in Chicago where he amassed 304 receptions for 4,549 yards and 26 touchdowns – showing glimpses of elite talent, but also a proneness to injury after being selected 45th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

With the news that he tore his rota-cuff in preseason – that injury proneness we just mentioned –  Jeffrey’s statline is even more impressive. In an offense that spreads the ball around – Jeffrey contributed 57 regular season receptions for 789 yards and nine touchdowns – without earning a 100-yard game the entire campaign. He also caught three touchdowns in the postseason – helping Philadelphia earn their first Lombardi trophy.

His performances in 2017 earned him a four-year, $52 million deal, and I for one am excited to see what he can do fully healthy with Carson Wentz and company.

 

March 10th 2017

Agreed to terms on a three-year deal with G/C Stefen Wisniewski

Another below the radar signing at the time, Stefen Wisniewski eventually won the starting job after a few months of rotation with Chance Warmack and Isaac Seumalo during the 2016 season and earned himself a new three-year deal at the Linc – solidifying the interior of the Eagles fantastic offensive line – also working well with Big V to negate the loss of Hall of Famer Jason Peters.

Wisniewski – drafted 48th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders – made 61 starts in four seasons with Oakland before moving to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he started 16 more games at centre.

During this season’s Super Bowl campaign, Wisniewski started every game, paving the way for a 3rd best offense in terms of yards in the NFL, including the #4 rushing offense and #4 passing offense, showing he can both dominant in the run game and handle the pass rush.

 

Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and co have turned around a franchise that was gifting away talented players like LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson in just two years. The moves they have made on the 9th and 10th March the past two years have built this Super Bowl Champion.