PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles officially released Trent Cole, who has more sacks as an Eagle than any player except Reggie White.

Cole
Cole, 32, will become an unrestricted free agent immediately. He will draw attention from teams looking for an edge pass rusher. Cole has played outside linebacker for the past two seasons but could return to his more familiar role as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.

Cole's release will save the Eagles $8.4 million on their 2015 salary cap. With the other moves they have made in recent days, the team has increased its cap space to just under $50 million.

A fifth-round draft choice in 2005, Cole started 114 games at defensive end over his first eight seasons. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, after the 2007 and 2009 seasons.

When Chip Kelly became head coach in 2013, the Eagles switched to a 3-4 defense. Cole moved to outside linebacker. He had eight sacks in 2013 and 6.5 more in 2014.

"We spoke with Trent and his agent and expressed a desire to have him back," Kelly said in a prepared statement. "We have been talking for a couple of weeks. However, at this point, we think it's best to let him explore other options around the NFL."

Cole's 85.5 sacks are second to White'2 124 sacks on the Eagles' all-time list.
PHILADELPHIA – It won’t be easy to replace LeSean McCoy with the Philadelphia Eagles, but we’re guessing someone will be lined up at running when the 2015 season begins.

The Eagles don’t have a lot of options on their roster. Darren Sproles made quite an impact in 2014, but the former Saints star's workload actually diminished as the season went on. Sproles can be effective in the screen game, as an occasional runner and on special teams, but he’s not going to take over McCoy’s 20-plus carries per game.

Polk
Chris Polk, 25, was the backup to McCoy in 2014. Polk finished the season with 46 carries for 172 yards and four touchdowns. He became the Eagles’ primary runner in the red zone, which explains the relatively high number of touchdowns compared to his carries and his yardage.

But Polk also missed a couple of games and was limited in others because of a hamstring injury. That’s part of the job description when you’re a featured running back in the NFL. You have to be able to absorb punishment and still be ready to play every week. McCoy could do that. Polk hasn’t shown that yet.

The Eagles are almost certain to add a running back in either free agency or the draft. The guess here is that the draft is the most likely route, because overpaying another older back doesn’t seem like the logical move after trading McCoy.

Here are three possibilities in the draft, and three in free agency, that the Eagles may pursue.

Draft:

Todd Gurley, Georgia. Gurley might have been the No. 1 back in the draft if he hadn’t torn his ACL. That injury might make him available to the Eagles. Gurley is the kind of downhill runner the Eagles might be looking for to fill McCoy's shoes.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama. At 6-foot-1-1/4, Yeldon is a big back who hits the hole quickly and goes. Yeldon didn’t catch the ball a lot at Alabama, but he has shown the proper skills.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska. Abdullah is not the biggest back at 5-9, 205 pounds. But he will look taller standing next to Sproles and has excellent speed.

Free agency:

Mark Ingram, Saints. Sproles’ former teammate is 25 years old and is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ingram carried the ball 226 times for 964 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo. Spiller, 27, is a productive back once he gets into space. He couldn’t do that very well in Buffalo. He would benefit from playing in Kelly’s offense and behind the Eagles’ line.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore. Probably a long shot because he will be looking for a serious contract. Forsett is 29, but doesn’t have that many miles on him. In his first season as the lead back, Forsett ran the ball 235 times for 1,266 yards, a 5.4-yard average.
PHILADELPHIA – He was the leading rusher in Philadelphia Eagles history. He was abruptly traded away for a linebacker.

He was Wilbert Montgomery.

Thirty years before the Eagles sent LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, the team traded Montgomery to the Detroit Lions for linebacker Garry Cobb. Montgomery played in a total of seven games for the Lions. Cobb lasted three years with the Eagles.

That 1985 trade marked the sad end in Philadelphia for the player most responsible for the Eagles getting to Super Bowl XV after the 1980 season. The sad part for McCoy is that, for six seasons, he desperately wanted to be that kind of back in Philadelphia. He never really got the chance, and now he never will.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy leaves Philadelphia as the Eagles' all-time rushing leader.
When McCoy came to Philadelphia as a second-round pick in 2009, the Eagles had just played in the NFC Championship Game. They lost to Arizona, but there was a sense that they were a team that would be in the mix for a Super Bowl – at least for the next couple years. The Eagles had played in the Super Bowl four years earlier and Donovan McNabb was still their quarterback.

But the Eagles never got close to another Super Bowl during McCoy’s six seasons. They never even won a playoff game. McNabb was traded away. Michael Vick became the quarterback for a few years. McCoy won personal acclaim, but he didn’t get to experience postseason success.

During Andy Reid’s tenure as Eagles head coach, there were some very good running backs. Duce Staley helped get the program going in the right direction. Brian Westbrook played in the Super Bowl. McCoy might have been the most talented all-around back of the Reid era, but that wasn’t going to change the pass-happy Reid.

When Chip Kelly replaced Reid in 2013, McCoy was finally placed in an offense that would emphasize the run. He carried the ball a career-high 314 times in Kelly’s first season. He led the NFL in rushing with 1,607 yards. Best of all, he clinched the rushing title in a victory in Dallas that also clinched the NFC East title for the Eagles. They were going to the playoffs, and McCoy carried them there.

But then it was over. The New Orleans Saints came to Lincoln Financial Field and put an end to the Eagles’ season, 26-24. After the game, McCoy was inconsolable in the Eagles’ locker room.

“They killed us slowly,” McCoy said, referring to the Saints’ final drive. “It was a terrible feeling. I don't know if it's a learning experience. I have been here before. You can only pick up so much from this. We just have to get better.

“I thought we were hot. Obviously, we weren't."

McCoy came back for 2014 determined to make it a better season. But injuries along the offensive line derailed the Eagles’ running game. Still, they were 9-3 with control of the NFC race. Three consecutive losses knocked them out of the playoff picture.

“That’s how fast it happens,” McCoy said after the decisive loss at Washington.” I mean, just a couple weeks ago I was planning on the playoffs and who we were going to be playing and those types of things.”

During the season, McCoy passed Montgomery to become the Eagles’ all-time leading rusher. He finished with 6,970 yards in 90 career games with the Eagles.

McCoy had a great career in Philadelphia. But when it came to carrying his team to playoff success, he never was able to catch up to Montgomery.
Some quick quarterback thoughts:

  • Minnesota traded quarterback Matt Cassel to Buffalo on Wednesday, taking another team out of the hunt for another quarterback. There are still a few who need help, but Cleveland (Josh McCown) and Buffalo (Cassel) have found veterans. Tampa Bay will pick one in the draft. And St. Louis still has Sam Bradford -- for now. If the Rams do get rid of him, they could be players for Marcus Mariota in the draft. The New York Jets and Houston remain in the market for quarterbacks, though the Jets, picking sixth, could land Mariota if no one trades into the top five for him.
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    Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesShould Kirk Cousins stay with the Redskins, the QB will need to work on cutting down on INTs.
    So, the question then becomes: What does this mean for Kirk Cousins? As of now, he'll be with the Washington Redskins, according to a source. I don't think his side expects that to change, either. The Redskins do like having him around for competition with Robert Griffin III.
  • Yes, Griffin was named the starter entering 2015, but how long that lasts remains uncertain. He'll have to look good to keep that job. And if he hangs onto the job entering the season, I would not be surprised to see a quick hook. As I've written a few times, the coaches do like Cousins and there was a sense he got a raw deal last season (which suggests to me that not all the moves were of the coaches' doing). But if Griffin plays well, then the coaches would be thrilled. His talent is high; he just needs to play better. Keep in mind, others benefit if Griffin plays well. You can put up with anything if a player produces and your team wins.
  • What the coaches need to see from Cousins as much as anything? Fewer interceptions; better reaction to adversity. It will be tough to know how he handles both situations until he plays in a game. He also can improve in the pocket, knowing where to go with the ball, etc.
  • It's not as if every decision he made was the right one last season. On one interception vs. the New York Giants, he went to his No. 2 receiver for some reason (I believe it was Ryan Grant). His first read, on the other side, was open. An easy pick and a bad decision. So it's not just about responding to adversity. People I talk to around the league, from agents to executives to coaches or scouts, are split on what Cousins can do. Some like; some don't like at all.
  • The point is: Both quarterbacks have their issues. Griffin will just get the first crack at the starting job; how long he holds onto it is up to him. I also think if you're going to keep him as the starter, then they should do what they can to bolster the run game. Yes, the run game. Do better on first down, put him in less obvious pass situations. It matters.
  • Of course, if Cousins returns along with Griffin, I can't imagine Colt McCoy, a pending free agent, would want to be back in Washington. McCoy genuinely loved playing in this offense and felt he was in sync with what the coaches wanted. That's why he seemed crushed he could not finish the season because of injury; it was an opportunity lost and he knew it.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys officially announced the Cole Beasley signing Wednesday after he agreed to the four-year deal on Tuesday.

The total numbers we have known: four years, $13.6 million with $7 million effectively guaranteed and a $4 million signing bonus.

The other numbers are in, too.

Beasley
Beasley will make $1 million in base salary this season, which means he will carry a $2 million salary-cap figure in 2015. The Cowboys had the option of putting the low tender on him as a restricted free agent worth roughly $1.5 million, which could have allowed teams to sign him to an offer sheet because no compensation would have been due the Cowboys, or the second-round tender worth roughly $2.4 million.

With this deal, the Cowboys saved about $400,000 in salary-cap space in 2015.

Beasley will earn $2.356 million in 2016, with the contract becoming fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. For now, $2 million is guaranteed for injury only.

He would earn base salaries of $3 million in 2017 and $3.25 million in 2018.

He also has $500,000 in escalators that can increase his base salaries in the final three years.

The $3.4 million average for Beasley is the same the Cleveland Browns gave Andrew Hawkins last year to sign an offer sheet as a restricted free agent away from the Cincinnati Bengals. Biggest difference? Hawkins makes a little more than $10 million in the first two years of the deal. Beasley could make up to $7.8 million in the first two years if he hits on all of the escalators.
New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason, who serves as his own agent, was on SiriusXM radio Wednesday morning and said he and the Giants are discussing ways to restructure his contract so he can return to the team in 2015. I wasn't listening, but NJ.com's Jordan Raanan was, and this is what Beason apparently said:
"We've been back and forth trying to come to terms and they're doing the best they can to try and be fair under the situation," Beason said during an interview on 'The Opening Drive' with Giants play-by-play announcer Bob Papa and Ravens wide receiver (and former Panthers teammate) Steve Smith. "As a so-called agent, I'm trying to do the best I can to make sure that I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back."
Beason
Here's the deal with Beason's contract. He's scheduled to earn a $3.6-million salary this year, of which $900,000 is fully guaranteed. He's due a $1 million roster bonus on March 15 and a total of $1.2 million in per-game roster bonuses throughout the year, as well as a $100,000 workout bonus. So if he played all 16 games (something he hasn't done since 2010), he'd make $5.9 million this year. His salary-cap number for 2015 is $6.692 million.

That's too high for a guy who basically didn't play in 2014 and has played a total of 24 games in the past four seasons. Factor in a 2016 season in which Beason is scheduled to earn another $2.8 million in salary and $2.3 million in bonuses, and you can see why the Giants need to redo this deal. The best way to do it is to take the salary down as far as they can and convert a portion of the rest into incentives that Beason could reasonably meet if he stayed healthy. It sounds as though Beason understands this and is on board with the plan, which indicates something can be worked out.

If not, the Giants could cut Beason -- a move that would save them $2.858 million against this year's cap and maybe more, depending on whether the $900,000 guarantee offsets if he signs elsewhere -- and start Jameel McClain at middle linebacker in 2015. McClain filled in for Beason last year and was adequate, though the Giants did think they missed something without Beason's leadership and physical presence. If the Giants work something out with Beason, McClain and his $2.5 million salary could be on the chopping block. They'd save $3.1 million by releasing McClain.
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PHILADELPHIA – It is already clear how Chip Kelly plans to wield his power as decision-maker in all Philadelphia Eagles football decisions: ruthlessly. In five days, Kelly traded away the franchise rushing leader and released the two longest-tenured players in the Eagles’ locker room.

A year ago, Kelly jettisoned wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The coach was able to sell that move as one necessary for the culture he’s trying to build in Philadelphia. Jackson did not buy in 100 percent, so he was expendable.

But that is going to be a pretty hard sell this year. LeSean McCoy is a player Kelly practically gushed about during the last two years. Meanwhile, he was carrying the ball 626 times in Kelly’s offense. Now he’s been sentenced to Buffalo, not exactly the NFL equivalent of Siberia, but not a place McCoy signed up for when he autographed that five-year contract extension in 2012.

Trent Cole, second in franchise history only to Reggie White in career sacks, cheerfully moved from his natural position, defensive end. Cole became a solid outside linebacker in order to fit into the 3-4 scheme that Kelly preferred. Now he is tweeting about finding another job and trying to win a (presumably Super Bowl) trophy.

Todd Herremans, like Cole a member of the Eagles’ 2005 draft class, tore his biceps during the Eagles’ loss in Arizona in October. The Eagles were trying to drive for the go-ahead touchdown, so Herremans stayed in the game. He even started the next week’s game in Houston because the Eagles were so injury-riddled along the offensive line. Now Herremans is a 32-year-old guard looking to find another team.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Matt RourkeChip Kelly is in charge and is beginning to make some bold moves.
If Jackson was expendable because he didn’t fit into Kelly’s culture, this year’s cast-offs were the culture. They played hard, they played hurt, they played very well. And now they’re gone.

That is the harsh reality of the NFL as a business. Nobody has any illusions here. Players understand the business side, even if they don’t always like it.

But Kelly is the one asking his players to buy in completely to a new way of doing things. He is the one looking to win hearts and minds, not just wallets. Because of that, he has carved himself out quite a complicated task.

In many organizations, the coaches separate themselves from the business aspect. The head coach can call a player into his office and, in classic good-cop/bad-cop style, explain that the bad-cop general manager has salary-cap issues. The coaches love the player, but that darn GM is making them ask the player to take a pay cut or accept a different role.

By winning control of personnel decisions, Kelly effectively assumed the GM role as well as the head coaching role. He is the only cop, so he can’t convincingly play the good-cop role.

There are no illusions about who decided to trade McCoy or to release Cole and Herremans. It was Kelly.

Why does this matter? For players such as Nick Foles or Fletcher Cox, Eagles draft picks playing on their rookie contracts, it probably doesn’t. They might have reservations about Kelly’s actions, but they don’t have much control of their fate. NFL rules still give the current team every advantage in retaining core players.

But what about Jeremy Maclin? The Eagles have made it clear they want to re-sign the wide receiver, who is due to become a free agent on Tuesday. Now Maclin has seen two of his closest peers on the team – McCoy and Jackson – get shown the door while under contract. He has seen two guys who have always been in the locker room in his tenure – Cole and Herremans – get the boot as well.

That is going to be on Maclin’s mind when he’s negotiating his new deal with the Eagles. When the Eagles are offering a four- or five-year contract worth, say, $45 million, Maclin is going to have a little voice in his head saying, Three-year deal worth $20 million.

Also, when the Eagles are bringing a free agent in to visit, Kelly is going to have to address some very legitimate concerns. If Byron Maxwell agrees to a contract to play in Philadelphia, he doesn’t want to wind up in Buffalo or Cleveland or Detroit three years later. That just happened to McCoy, who has been a better running back than Maxwell has been a cornerback.

Most of Kelly’s experience is at the college level, where your player/coach relationships don’t extend beyond four or five years. In the NFL, you have to be able to forge long-term relationships with at least some of your players.

It is up to Kelly how he handles that going forward. Clearly, he takes building a culture seriously. That’s admirable, as long as he remembers that the culture only works if it applies to everyone, players and coaches alike.
IRVING, Texas – At the NFL scouting combine, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he would take some offseason trips like he has done in the past, but he just didn’t want to be specific about where and when.

Garrett was a guest speaker at spring training for the New York Yankees and this week he is once again at Duke but instead of just bringing Tony Romo with him, tight end Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray made the trip to Durham, North Carolina, as well.

Garrett
Garrett
Garrett likes to hear what successful people think regardless of industry, but Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is somebody he holds in the highest esteem.

“That’s a big part of what we do, encouraging our coaches to really be thoughtful about taking a trip,” Garrett said two weeks ago in Indianapolis. “We call it, ‘one-day learning excursions.’ Go somewhere in football, outside of football, in town, out of town and try to spend some time with somebody who has been successful in what they do and hopefully we can learn from and come back and grow as an individual.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is supposed to make a trip to Notre Dame at some point this offseason and there will be some other “excursions” as well.

It’s interesting that Murray is on the trip, considering he is about to become a free agent. He joined Romo and Garrett at an SMU basketball game recently as well.

Murray has said he would like to remain with the Cowboys, but there hasn’t been much discussion about a contract before the market opens next Tuesday.
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By this time next week, or very shortly thereafter, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will sign a new free-agent contract that's likely to be larger than any non-quarterback deal in NFL history. The identity of the team whose logo will be on this contract's letterhead is unknown, and the speculation will only intensify over the weekend and into Tuesday, when free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET.

Suh
Some reports have begun to link the New York Giants to Suh, based on the belief that he'd like to play in New York and the fact that the Giants' defense needs ... well, a lot of help. It's a fun connection for Giants fans to make. Yes, obviously the Giants would benefit from having Suh on their defensive line. Any team would. He's a generational talent who'd upgrade anyone's line, and that's why he's going to make so much money.

But I don't think it's realistic for the Giants or their fans to honestly think they can sign Suh, and that's because of their financial situation relative to the rest of the league. Put simply, there are too many other teams with far more cap room, a mandate to spend money, and a need for the kind of instant and dramatic upgrade Suh would offer. Especially with franchise player Jason Pierre-Paul now on the books for $14.813 million for 2015, I don't believe the Giants have the salary cap wherewithal to bring Suh into the fold.

Based on the conversations I've had on this topic with various people around the team and the league, I believe the Giants will be among the teams to call Suh's agent this weekend and express an interest in signing Suh. As of Saturday, teams can contact the agents for pending free agents and talk contract parameters, and the Giants would be foolish not to at least find out what the asking price will be. Players like this don't become free agents very often, and before conducting their other business the Giants will do their due diligence and find out how much budget stretching it would take to sign him.

But based on those same conversations, I don't think the Giants will get very far, and I believe they know it. Once Pierre-Paul signs his franchise tender, the Giants will have $13,795,930 in cap room. Take off what they'll need to sign their draft picks and that drops it down to about $10 million. You could conceivably fit the first year of a long-term Suh deal under that number if you structured it correctly, but then you couldn't do much of anything else. And while the Giants could add more cap room by restructuring or eliminating the contracts of guys like Jon Beason, Jameel McClain and Trumaine McBride, that would open up more holes on defense that would need to be filled.

The two other ways of creating large cap room are difficult. The Giants could extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning and save as much as $11 million this year, but to this point talks on that front have been fruitless and the Giants appear inclined to let Manning play out the final year of his deal. The other option is to withdraw the franchise tender to Pierre-Paul and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, then spend his money on a pursuit of Suh. But doing that leaves the Giants without a real pass-rushing threat at defensive end, and they'd have to spend big to patch that hole, too.

So in conclusion, while I expect the Giants to poke around on Suh -- and I expect said poking to generate more headlines, clicks and discussion -- I don't think it's realistic to think they actually can get him. Teams like Jacksonville, Oakland and the Jets have cap room in the $40-60 million range and will be able to offer far more than the Giants can offer even if they did do all of the dangerous salary-cap dancing they'd have to do to get into the game. If you're a Giants fan and you want to dream and wish and hope, well, that's your right as a fan. But I don't think this is something, in the end, that the Giants can actually do.
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A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles trade of running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, and its impact on the Washington Redskins:
  • These were the two guys Washington most worried about two years ago: receiver DeSean Jackson and McCoy. They combined for 3,480 yards and 20 touchdowns during the 2013 season. McCoy, alone, contributed 2,146 yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • The previous Redskins' defensive staff loved McCoy and considered him the best back they faced because of his all-around game. Their plan every time they faced Philly was to stop McCoy. In the first game against Washington last season, McCoy only rushed 19 times for 22 yards -- but the Eagles won 37-34 because, well, they couldn't stop much else.
  • The Redskins actually did a solid job against him during his Eagles' tenure. In 11 games, McCoy rushed 206 times for 807 yards -- a 3.92 yards per run average. He added 51 catches for 479 yards, a 9.39 yards per reception average.
  • McCoy surpassed 100 yards twice against Washington, including the 181-yard game on the opening night of 2013. That game forced the Redskins to tweak how they defended the Eagles, specifically McCoy, and in the three ensuing games they played McCoy gained a combined 187 yards.
  • In five of the 11 games vs. the Redskins, McCoy rushed for 50 yards or less.
  • It's not as if McCoy had the same level of impact last season, rushing two less times than in 2013 but gaining 288 fewer yards. However, you wonder about the loss of Jackson and the impact it had on how teams defended McCoy. But: McCoy faced a seven-man front one fewer time in 2014 than the previous year and faced only four fewer six-man fronts (he averaged 5.09 yards against that look in '13; and 4.42 against it this past season), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • But McCoy was always dangerous and using he and Darren Sproles in the backfield at times last season put defenses in a bind. They were successful at using screens in which they'd fake a handoff to McCoy running one way -- defenses had to honor it because of who it was -- and then screened to the other side for Sproles, now in a favorable spot. McCoy would also serve as a blocker for Sproles on occasion. So McCoy's impact was more than just about him running the ball: It was receiving, a little blocking and a dangerous decoy.
  • Until we know what other moves the Eagles, make it's tough to say what they've truly gained or lost. Alonso had a terrific rookie season, but the Bills' defense flourished without him last season when he missed with a torn ACL. But the move also provided them with an extra $10 million in cap space. That could result in two or three more players -- or one (potentially) dominant one.
  • It's not as if Chip Kelly made McCoy; the Redskins' thoughts about him being the best, for example, pre-dated this marriage. So whether Kelly can just plug any back into his system and produce the same numbers is uncertain. Perhaps he can. But the passing game last season definitely missed Jackson, the other big name he jettisoned. And it's always dangerous when a coach thinks it's about his system and not the players.
  • But these moves for the Eagles also are about the future and re-shaping the roster to more of what Kelly wants or needs. Perhaps he's getting rid of McCoy a year or so too early; we'll see. McCoy did not look like he had the same burst and wiggle as he did in 2013. He averaged only 5.5 yards per reception. McCoy still finished third in the NFL in rushing, but he also gained a combined 1,976 yards before contact the past two years -- an NFL best. Just a hunch: I'm guessing Kelly attributed that in part to the line and his system. It's also unnecessary to have a running back count $11.95 million against the salary cap as McCoy would have (though at least McCoy is a three-down guy, which increases his value).
  • The Eagles still have talented parts on offense; the line should be healthy and strong. Receiver Jeremy Maclin is dangerous; receiver Jordan Matthews had a good rookie season and tight end Zach Ertz is a big threat as well.
  • But they will need to replace McCoy and that won't be easy. Then again, they have a lot of money and flexibility -- and it makes you wonder what other moves are on the horizon and how it will impact the Redskins. Will this aggressive mindset carry into the draft with Kelly trying to land quarterback Marcus Mariota? And will the team on the other end be the Redskins or someone else? It would be a steep price to pay for the Eagles, but Kelly isn't afraid to make bold moves.
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PHILADELPHIA -- The news about the LeSean McCoy trade was the final puzzle piece, the one that completed the picture.

The report from ESPN's Adam Schefter said that the Eagles were trading McCoy, their Pro Bowl running back, to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. It would be a blockbuster deal at any time. But on Tuesday, it was the last block on the top of the pyramid.

Earlier in the day, the Eagles announced the release of veteran cornerback Cary Williams. A few hours after that, news broke that outside linebacker Trent Cole was being released. Cole was the longest tenured player on the Eagles, as well as the franchise's No. 2 player in career sacks. Only Hall of Famer Reggie White got to more quarterbacks than Cole as an Eagle.

So what was happening? It seemed like chaos, but there is order in all the transactions, going back to the announcement on New Year's Eve that head coach Chip Kelly would have final say on all personnel decisions.

Kelly came to Philadelphia from the University of Oregon two years ago. For his first season, and most of his second, Kelly was content to coach the players he inherited. He didn't make finding his franchise quarterback a priority; he simply went ahead with Michael Vick and Nick Foles. He didn't jettison the veteran defenders with experience in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme. He had guys like Trent Cole and Brandon Graham change positions for the Eagles' new 3-4 defense.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesChip Kelly now has final say on all of the Eagles personnel decisions, and on Tuesday news emerged that the team was parting ways with cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Trent Cole and running back LeSean McCoy.
Now we know that was not Kelly's grand plan. That was Kelly getting a feel for the NFL after a career spent in the college game. That was Kelly assessing what he had and what he would need going forward. That was Kelly waiting until he was ready to jump-start his program.

He's ready.

The first tentative sign came right after the season, when Kelly was granted full control of personnel decisions. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie gave Kelly that power at the expense of general manager Howie Roseman. It seemed like a typical NFL power struggle, pretty much like the one former coach Andy Reid won a decade earlier to gain personnel control.

But in the past few days, the picture has become much more complete. Kelly isn't just kicking back in his big office chair. He's remaking the Eagles' roster in the image that has formed in his mind.

The first big domino to fall was guard Todd Herremans, a 10-year veteran who helped McCoy lead the NFL in rushing in 2013. But Herremans missed half of 2014 with a torn biceps and was going to be pretty expensive in 2015. Kelly released Herremans on Friday.

On Tuesday, it was Cole, a player who willingly made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. ESPN's Adam Caplan reported Tuesday afternoon that Cole would be released as soon as Wednesday.

A little earlier, cornerback Cary Williams was released after starting all 33 games in his two years with the Eagles. That includes last year's playoff game against New Orleans.

And then came the bombshell, Schefter's report that McCoy was out. That marked the second year in a row that Kelly stunned fans by getting rid of one of the team's offensive stars. Last year's release of wide receiver DeSean Jackson could be spun as Kelly looking to move on from a player who was a poor fit for the culture he was trying to establish.

But McCoy? He is 26 years old, one season removed from leading the NFL in rushing. Yes, McCoy's rushing yardage dropped from 1,607 yards in 2013 to 1,319 in 2014, but surely that had more to do with the injuries that threw the offensive line into chaos. Kelly certainly seemed to respect McCoy's game, especially considering the number of carries (626) he gave him over their two years together.

The decision to move McCoy accomplishes a couple of things.

Obviously, the first thing it does is bring Alonso to Philadelphia. An inside linebacker who played for Kelly at Oregon, Alonso will partner with Mychal Kendricks to give the Eagles a dynamic pair on the inside. That probably means the end of the road for DeMeco Ryans, who tore his Achilles tendon halfway through the 2014 season.

The trade also removes McCoy's $11.95 million number from the Eagles' salary cap. Kelly's outlook was summarized by Herremans in a radio interview Monday. Herremans said basically that Kelly prioritizes the quarterback and the offensive line.

"Other than that," Herremans told 97.5 The Fanatic, "I think that Kelly feels like he can kind of -- you know, the system will take care of it."

In other words, McCoy's great 2013 and very good 2014 were, in Kelly's view, reflections of his offensive system. That system will be successful with other running backs, all of whom will cost less than the $11.95 million McCoy was going to count against the Eagles' salary cap.

In the span of a week, Kelly has removed the two longest-tenured players, Cole and Herremans, from the Eagles' locker room. He has cut ties with Williams and James Casey, two free agents signed in Kelly's first, hurried offseason. And he has traded away McCoy, the Eagles' all-time leading rusher.

This part was easy, if shocking. The much harder part is building a better team from what is left behind. Kelly surely has a plan for that.

After all this, the widely held belief that he covets Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota seems even more reasonable. If you're trying to win in 2015, you keep McCoy. If you're going to build around a franchise quarterback, then you're better off moving on from a running back who won't be around when that quarterback is ready to win.

With all of these moves, Kelly has left himself with almost $50 million in salary-cap space. That's enough to be very active in free agency.

Kelly has taken full control of the Eagles. With that, he has the freedom to do things his way. But with that also comes some pressure. For good or bad, the Eagles are Chip Kelly's team now.
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have made moves to give themselves about $33 million in space under the 2015 NFL salary cap.

That’s a good thing, because the Eagles have also put themselves in position to fill a lot of holes in free agency.

The release of cornerback Cary Williams on Tuesday, along with the departures of guard Todd Herremans and tight end James Casey last week, subtracted $13.3 million from the Eagles’ 2015 salary cap. Williams’ release cleared about half of that, or $6.5 million. Casey’s release cleared $4 million, and the release of Herremans cleared $2.8 million.

But releasing Williams creates an urgency for the Eagles to add some defensive backs in free agency. With cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Nate Allen already due to become free agents, the Eagles need three new starters in their secondary.

Williams’ release leaves the Eagles with only Nolan Carroll, slot cornerback Brandon Boykin, and 2015 fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins at cornerback. Starting safety Malcolm Jenkins returns, as do special teamers Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski, and last year’s sixth-round pick, Ed Reynolds.

There is always the draft, of course. Several mock drafts have had the Eagles selecting a cornerback -- Washington’s Marcus Peters is often mentioned -- or a safety such as Alabama’s Landon Collins in the first round.

But it is a big step from college to the NFL for many defensive backs. If the Eagles hope to improve their secondary immediately, then free agency seems like a safer approach.

The Eagles also created a hole in their starting offensive line with the release of Herremans. They have some in-house candidates. Andrew Gardner, Allen Barbre, and Matt Tobin all started games in 2014. But none really distinguished himself as a potential upgrade from Herremans. That might require a draft pick.

There isn’t any urgency to replace Casey. He found his playing time reduced because of the emergence of second-round 2013 pick Zach Ertz. Casey excelled on special teams, however. Trey Burton, who had a strong rookie season on special teams, can fill in at tight end if needed.
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IRVING, Texas -- With the news that the Dallas Cowboys have reached an agreement with Cole Beasley on a four-year deal comes the natural wondering why they have not been able to strike deals for Dez Bryant or DeMarco Murray.

Beasley
Beasley's deal and the contracts for Bryant and Murray will be in far different neighborhoods.

Beasley's cap figure for 2015 is likely less than $2 million based on the $4 million signing bonus and how the Cowboys have structured deals in the past with the first-year base salaries being at or close to the NFL minimum. Once the contract numbers are filed, we'll know for sure.

The $7 million guaranteed for Beasley in the deal will be less than what Bryant and Murray will get in total compensation in the first year of their deals. As it stands right now, Bryant will make $12.82 million on the franchise tag in 2015. His guaranteed money should be more than $30 million. Murray is likely looking at a guarantee in the $20 million neighborhood.

Beasley's $3.4 million average is higher than some might have expected, but slot receivers are a valuable commodity. It is a mismatch game and Beasley, despite his size (5-8, 180 pounds) is a mismatch player. His quickness and field awareness make him difficult for slot corners to cover. Orlando Scandrick is one of the better slot corners in the NFL and he has trouble with Beasley at times.

In the past two seasons, Beasley has 76 catches and six touchdowns. His production rose toward the end of the 2014 season to where Tony Romo was looking at him and Jason Witten more than he was Bryant and Terrance Williams with how defenses were taking guarding the outside receivers.

The Cowboys could have put the low tender on Beasley as a restricted free agent for roughly $1.5 million and run the risk of a team making an offer they could not match. They would not have received compensation in return either because Beasley was an undrafted free agent. They could have put the second-round tender on Beasley for about $2.4 million, which would have guaranteed no team would have made a play for him.

But that would have eaten up more cap space in 2015, and that would have hurt the Cowboys' bid to keep Murray but had no impact on Bryant.

Every dollar counts in the salary cap.

Beasley got his piece of the puzzle and has earned it. But there is still room for bigger pieces, like Murray, that the Cowboys can fit into their puzzle.
PHILADELPHIA – If the Eagles can’t – or won’t – keep running back LeSean McCoy at his 2015 salary cap number then it begs the question: Why did Eagles owner Jeff Lurie keep Howie Roseman in charge of the cap and contract negotiations?

Roseman was the general manager in 2012, when the Eagles agreed to a new five-year, $45-million contract with McCoy. The deal included a signing bonus of $8.5 million and a total of $20 million guaranteed. The last of that guaranteed money is $1 million of McCoy’s 2015 salary of $9.75 million.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy, C.J. Spillman
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesLeSean McCoy is due a lot of money for 2015, but he has shown over the past two seasons that he deserves it.
That salary and McCoy’s cap number of $11.95 million have led to much speculation about whether McCoy is at risk to be released this month. McCoy himself has said he is willing to restructure his contract to lower the cap hit, but that he is not willing to take a reduction in salary.

And why should he? His agents and the Eagles negotiated this contract. This is the third year of a five-year deal. McCoy is just 26 years old and coming off the two most productive seasons of his career. A contract that would force a team to release a prime-of-his-career Pro Bowl player is, simply put, a terrible contract.

Coach Chip Kelly was not here when the McCoy deal was done. All Kelly has done in his two years in Philadelphia is hand the ball to McCoy 626 times and throw it to him 101 times (for 80 receptions). McCoy led the NFL in rushing in 2013. His numbers were down in 2014, but that had more to do with injuries to offensive linemen than anything McCoy did.

Kelly’s possible view was explained by guard Todd Herremans in an ESPN Radio appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic on Monday. Herremans’ explanation is all we have, given Kelly’s lack of media access.

“I think he values the quarterback position on his offense (the most),” Herremans said. “I think so. Well, the quarterback and the offensive line. Other than that, I think that he feels like he can kind of -- you know, the system will take care of it."

Kelly was certainly willing to trust his system to take care of the wide receiver position when he unceremoniously dumped DeSean Jackson last year. And it’s certainly true that Chris Polk has averaged 4.7 yards per carry over the last two years, while Darren Sproles averaged 5.8 yards in his first season with the team.

But the bigger number is that 626. Kelly has given McCoy the ball over 300 times per season, while Polk carried the ball just 57 times in two years and Sproles’ workload was reduced during the 2014 season. That’s a pretty definitive statement that Kelly values McCoy.

The Eagles have no pressing salary cap issues, no tangible reason they should do anything except pay McCoy the money they themselves agreed to pay him in 2015. Certainly, if restructuring so that he gets money in the form of a bonus will help the team’s cap flexibility, that’s no problem. But if the Eagles should find themselves tempted to part ways with McCoy because of his contract, they probably should feel the same about the guy who gave him that contract.
[+] EnlargeRandy Gregory
AP Photo/Nati HarnikThe Redskins are in need of a dynamic rusher, and Nebraska's Randy Gregory seems to fit Washington's profile.
The Washington Redskins don't have to select a pass-rusher with the fifth pick. They might make a move in free agency that negates the need; they could trade down. But if they stay there, there will be some interesting choices.

Nebraska's Randy Gregory will be, and has been already, projected to the Redskins by any number of mock drafts. That could be cause for celebration -- and a little bit of crossing the fingers. Gregory is a freakish athlete; he's also someone who needs work to make his game fit in the NFL.

So says ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Gregory's film supports Kiper's belief: In my write-up on him, it was clear he made athletic plays, but his strength is an issue, whether against the run or in beating his opponent in a pass rush where speed isn't working.

"Gregory has to get stronger," Kiper said. "He's more the developmental type. ...If he does, then you could be looking at a guy who can be a very good pass-rusher."

That word, developmental, could scare people. But with Gregory, there are things you can't teach or coach or improve. Like his athleticism and his length. Both are attributes of a (potentially) special pass-rusher.

It's often difficult for pass-rushers to make instant impacts, even if selected high in the draft. J.J. Watt is a dominant rusher now; he was drafted 11th overall and in his first year recorded 5.5 sacks -- and then 20.5 as a second-year player. Last year's No. 5 overall pick, Khalil Mack, had fantastic measurables (a 1.53 in the 10-yard split; anything under 1.6 is good) and showed good things as a rookie. He had just four sacks. St. Louis' Robert Quinn had five sacks as a rookie; two years later he had 19. Teams are trying to find guys who can make a long-term impact, not just an instant splash.

The trick is projecting who will develop into that special rusher. Which of the available pass-rushers could be that guy?

Gregory benched 225 pounds 24 times at the combine, an OK number. But Kiper said his film looked more like someone who benched that weight 15 times. In watching him, Gregory often had a tough time getting off blocks in the run game.

If the Redskins drafted him, they wouldn't necessarily need him as much in the run game with Trent Murphy available. Murphy played the run well, but lacks the explosiveness of any of the available-pass rushers in the first round. Gregory, though, likely would play a lot given how much nickel the Redskins are forced to play (partly because of the division).

However, they'd still have to cross their fingers and hope it pans out. Here's the thing: That's true of pretty much every player in the draft. The more players are scouted and watched, the more they're picked apart. The offensive tackles all have flaws as well -- some project more to guard. Nose tackle Danny Shelton has warts, too; there's concern about his inconsistent game film.

But with the pass-rushers, there is a choice. Florida's Dante Fowler, Jr., has the necessary size, but his game, too, is raw -- he has an explosive first step, but needs to learn how to react thereafter. For Gregory, it's about adding strength -- and staying explosive. Will that happen? It's a bet some team will make.

"Gregory's a great athlete," Kiper said. "Phenomenal athlete. He has the length; long arms. He could be spectacular in this league. He has to show he can be durable as well. He has enormous upside."

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