Talk about a team looking to transform itself in a New York minute.
And no, we’re not just talking about the Giants, who plunked down $200 million in free agent deals less than two hours into the new league year. It was the Eagles who wasted no time further distancing themselves from just about everything Chip Kelly did during his calamitous run as the team’s football operations czar.
Kelly won a power struggle last year with general manager Howie Roseman, prompting team owner Jeffrey Lurie to hand over full authority over all roster decisions. But after Kelly deconstructed that roster with plenty of head-scratching moves and the presided over a miserable season, Lurie dumped Kelly with a week left in the 2015 regular season and reinstated Roseman.
The roster remake has been as swift as it has been stunning. With one notable exception, Roseman has flushed the Kelly era down the toilet after a series of moves to undo most of the former coach’s decisions. Quarterback Sam Bradford is the only significant holdover — an admittedly important one, no less — but Roseman has swept most of Kelly’s other high-profile acquisitions out the door. Remember Kelly’s move to basically give away Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy in a straight up deal for Bills inside linebacker Kiko Alonso? That lopsided deal is not officially history, as Roseman sent Alonso, who had a mediocre season in 2015 after recovering from a torn ACL, to the Dolphins in a trade.
Roseman packaged Alonso along with another of Kelly’s high-priced busts — cornerback Byron Maxwell — to Miami in exchange for the Dolphins’ eighth overall draft pick. Miami gets Philly’s 13th pick, but those five spots could be very valuable to the Eagles, who now move into the top 10 and could come away with their quarterback of the future, or else another impact player from this year’s draft.
“Any time you can get into the top 10, I think it’s tremendous,” said new head coach Doug Pederson, a former Eagles backup who was hired shortly after the team interviewed former Giants coach Tom Coughlin in January. “It definitely gives you some options. There are a lot of great players coming out this years, so being in that spot, and with the free agent guys we have brought in and signing our own guys, it puts us in a pretty good position.”
Another huge change this week: the ouster of running back DeMarco Murray. Kelly thought the Cowboys free agent running would be a suitable replacement for McCoy, but the coach was woefully off target with that move. A year after Murray led the NFL with 1,845 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, he was hopelessly miscast in Kelly’s offense and finished with just 702 yards and six touchdowns. Roseman shipped Murray and his $40 million contract to the Titans; the GM was so glad to be rid of Murray and his bloated contract that he agreed to simply swap fourth-round picks with the Titans as compensation.
And Roseman on Friday divested himself of another of Kelly’s hand-picked players, former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. After the team signed former Chiefs backup Chase Daniel, a favorite of Pederson after his run as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, Sanchez was dealt to the Broncos for an undisclosed 2017 pick.
It doesn’t end there. In addition to re-signing Bradford, Roseman also extended the contracts of tackle Lane Johnson, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and tight end Zach Ertz. He also signed several free agents: safety Rodney McLeod, guard Brandon Brooks, linebacker Nigel Badham and cornerback Ron Brooks.
Roseman’s do-over will continue in the coming weeks, as he further distances himself from the Kelly era and all that went wrong.
Jaguars a hit in free agency
The Jaguars already were beginning to show signs of maturing into a quality team last year, and this past week’s free agent moves will only solidify the belief that this could be a contending team as soon as next season.
Flush with salary cap space, general manager Dave Caldwell went on a shopping spree in the opening days of the signing period. He came away with coveted Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson, Jets running back Chris Ivory, Browns safety Tashaun Gipson and Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Add them to an already solid roster, and the Jaguars could be a major factor in next year’s playoff race.
If not, then coach Gus Bradley could find himself looking for a job. Team owner Shahid Khan has been more than patient with the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, and this could be a make-or-break season for Bradley, especially with all the free agent additions.
One guy who will no doubt be interested if there is an opening in Jacksonville: Tom Coughlin, who used to coach the Jaguars before he went on to lead the Giants to two Super Bowl victories.
Manziel moves on
It was less than two years ago when Johnny Manziel, sitting in the green room at Radio City Music Hall as he slipped out of the top half of the first round, and texted then-Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, “Let’s wreck this league.”
The Browns wound up trading up to the 22nd pick from No. 26 and took the flamboyant Texas A & M quarterback, but Manziel’s career in Cleveland never panned out. After two seasons filled with plenty of off-field drama and little on-field success, the Browns released Manziel on Friday.
Manziel is facing domestic violence charges in connection with a recent incident with his girlfriend, and after undergoing inpatient treatment last year for a reported alcohol problem, his NFL career is now on hold.
I wonder if he’ll ever play in another regular season game.
Manziel may have been one of the best college quarterbacks ever, but his skill set didn’t translate to the NFL, and his myriad off-field problems make him a risk for any team. Unless he cleans up his act, he’s simply not worth the risk. And even then, the chances of him becoming a big-time quarterback are slim.