In: Sam Bradford, (trade, Rams); Tim Tebow, (free agent)
Out: Nick Foles, (trade, Rams)
It remains to be fully learned what the Eagles gave up in Nick Foles, and what they gained in Sam Bradford. Call it a wash at the moment, but given his $12 million higher salary and the second round pick the Eagles gave up for him, Bradford will have to significantly outperform Foles for this deal to be a success.
In: DeMarco Murray, (Cowboys free agent); Ryan Mathews (Chargers free agent)
Out: LeSean McCoy (trade, Bills); Chris Polk, (free agent, signed with Texans)
It was hard to imagine the Eagles could be better at running back in 2015 when they traded McCoy, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. But Murray is the reigning league-leader in yards, and Mathews, despite missing 20 games over his first five seasons, has two 1,000 yard seasons to his name.
There are worries, nonetheless.Like most of the worries about the Eagles, they revolve around injury. Over the first three seasons of his career, Murray missed 11 games himself prior to last year.Additionally, there is a serious track record in the NFL, when running backs carry the ball as often as Murray did last season (392 times, 80 more than second place, which is, coincidentally, McCoy) and it’s not good.
The trend may have even begun in 2014.Over the first eight games, Murray averaged 131.75 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry.Over the final eight, those numbers dropped to 98.88 and 4.2 respectively.
Strength of schedule doesn’t help explain that.In fact, the last eight are bolstered by Murray’s best performance of the season against the woeful Bears.
With all that said, even the pace he maintained for those final eight projects out to a 1,500 yard season. If the Eagles can carefully manage Murray’s workload, and he and Mathews can stay healthy, this group could be great.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
In: Nelson Agholor, (draft, USC); Miles Austin, (Browns free agent); Seyi Ajirotutu, (Chargers free agent)
Out: Jeremy Maclin, (free agent, signed with Chiefs); James Casey, (cut, signed by Broncos)
This is the first position where the Eagles are unambiguously worse than they were last season. Nelson Agholor has been cast as a replacement for Maclin and may well be, one day.It’s a bit much to expect from a rookie, however, and if Agholor can approach Jordan Matthews rookie numbers without Maclin around to shoulder the load, his campaign will certainly be a success.
Miles Austin could recapture his best form in Dallas and it still wouldn’t replace the production and versatility the Eagles lost in Maclin.Losing pro bowlers in back-to-back years will have an impact.
If improvement is going to come at this position, it will be by the young players — Mathews, Agholor, Josh Huff and Zach Ertz — taking a step forward.And, oh yeah, expect some more great blocking from Riley Cooper.
Out: Todd Herremans, (cut, signed with Colts)
At the moment, you have to say they’re worse.Herremans was a mainstay on the Eagles line for a decade, the longest tenured Eagle along with Trent Cole. The lack of any reinforcements along the offensive line is even more troubling than Herremans departure.This has been an elite unit, but they aren’t getting any younger.If Evan Mathis departs as well, and Chip Kelly has outright stated he’s available, then the line is much worse off, and potentially as big an issue as last season’s injury riddled beginning.
In: Brian Mihalik, (draft,Boston College)
There’s not very much to report on this front.The defensive line is intact and young, and should continue to improve this season.
In: Kiko Alonso, (trade, Bills); Brad Jones, (Packers free agent); Jordan Hicks, (draft, Tennessee)
Out: Trent Cole, (cut, signed with Colts), Casey Matthews (cut, signed with Vikings)
The rich get richer.Cole’s loss will be felt, but the Eagles kept Brandon Graham around when many thought he would leave, and that should help alleviate the burden.If Marcus Smith can get on the field (and play well) that would go a long way towards offsetting Cole’s loss as well.
Inside, adding Alonso and Hicks will create less pressure on Demeco Ryans to return from injury, provided Alonso himself has recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in 2014.
In: Byron Maxwell, (Seahawks free agent); Walter Thurmond, (Giants free agent); Eric Rowe, (draft, Utah); JaCorey Shepherd, (draft, Kansas); Randall Evans, (draft, Kansas State); E.J. Biggers, Redskins free agent)
Out: Cary Williams, (cut, signed with Seahawks); Bradley Fletcher, (cut, signed with Patriots)
Hopefully, the area of greatest improvement will come here, in one of the areas of greatest need. Maxwell was the prize free agent at the position, but will have to get used to not seeing three pro bowlers surround him in the secondary.
Brandon Boykin took issue with Thurmond declaring himself the best slot corner in the league in 2014. Perhaps now they can settle that.
Out: Nate Allen, (cut, signed with Raiders)
This is the reason cornerback was just one of the areas of greatest need.And unfortunately, the same reinforcements weren’t brought in at safety. There wasn’t great cause for concern over the departure of Nate Allen, until no player was brought in to replace him and the job was left for the players on the roster that couldn’t beat Allen out last season.
Rowe has played corner and safety, and could also come into play here.It’s hard to believe they’ll end up any worse, but equally hard to say the Eagles are any better at safety.