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LeSean McCoy trade is a good deal for Philadelphia Eagles

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"I take extra pride that I had an opportunity to coach Kiko. He’s awesome. I think everything that people are seeing in Buffalo is what I’ve known about him all along is that [he’s an] extremely dedicated, driven person both academically and athletically."

Chip Kelly on Kiko Alonso, 2013.

It's really no surprise that Kelly has acted so aggressively, so quickly, this offseason - his latest move trading LeSean McCoy for Alonso yesterday.

He won a power battle in the front office earlier this year, taking control of personnel decisions from former-GM Howie Roseman.

The roster constructed for him was not Super Bowl caliber. Last season's 10-6 team was patchy, a mess on the defensive side of the ball and talented, but inconsistent, on the offense. 

It ran a Chip Kelly playbook but lacked the personnel to maximise it. Time for Chip to take control.

McCoy's disappointing 2014 was not entirely his fault, the Eagles offensive line was hit by the injury bug. But, as Peter King reported after the trade, Kelly felt his RB was too much of a East-West runner.

Shady has always been slippery, his memorable 2013 campaign (1,607 yards, 11 TDs) was full of highlight reel jukes and breakaway runs.

But last season he finished 15th of 18 eligible backs on Pro Football Focus's elusiveness rating, a measure of how many yards gained by a running back versus yards gained by his offensive line.

That production, combined with his $11.95 cap hit, made him a prime candidate for trimming. Super Bowl winning rosters rarely boast expensive backs (McCoy's cap hit is second biggest behind AP).

In fact, of the top 15 biggest cap hits among RBs in 2014 only McCoy (2nd) and Lynch (4th) and the Carolina backfield (Williams and Stewart) had their teams in the playoffs. Cheap backs drove Green Bay, Dallas, Super Bowl winning New England, Arizona, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Most of the playoff field then.

With so many holes to fill on defense, shelling out that kind of money when a replacement-level alternative could produce similar results, didn't make sense for the Eagles.

The only surprise is that Kelly has opted for a straight-up player-for-player swap - a move rarely seen in the NFL.

Many speculated that the Eagles could move up from the 20th selection to draft Marcus Mariota, with McCoy a juicy trade piece for potential suitors. They still might.

But, rather than re-loading their arsenal of picks, they've gone for a young linebacker coming off ACL surgery. A franchise superstar for a potential franchise superstar.

It's the kind of deal most often seen in baseball - prospect for veteran. But the exceptional circumstances of this particular case mean it makes sense.

Running backs are no longer valuable roster pieces - committing $12m to one when you can get similar/better production for a fraction of the price makes business sense.

The running back draft class is deep, and there's plenty of free agents out there too.

When coupled with Kelly's other moves, the release of Trent Cole and Cary Williams, they've saved around another $15m. That should help them keep young contributors Jeremy Maclin and Brandon Graham.

Kelly is clearly comfortable trusting his system to produce yardage, rather than relying on a league-leading talent. His success so far, and league-wide evidence, suggests he's right.

Although not everyone agrees...

Jason Peters and Evan Mathis are both elite linemen, Jason Kelce is an excellent center and Lane Johnson is a top young prospect. There are questions over Andrew Gardner, but now Kelly has the freedom to upgrade.

A strong offensive is the bedrock to a strong running game - not the other way around. The Eagles have that, so there's little reason to think the ground attack will regress if everybody stays healthy.

As for Alonso, the Eagles get a potential All-Pro linebacker on a rookie deal. It fills a major need while at the same time opening up cap space to fill out all the holes in the secondary. Don't forget, Chip has to find three new starters at corner and safety.

The deal will strike comparisons with their city brethren, the Philadelphia 76ers. But this is no tear down.

Kelly doesn't have the luxury of a multi-year rebuild, NFL coaches just hope to play more than 16 games each year.

And it's important to remember that this deal isn't actually a player-for-player trade. In a salary cap league, every team is limited by the financials.

The Eagles have traded a top running back for a top linebacker plus the cap flexibility to improve the team across the depth chart. They can focus on defense in free agency and draft, and still have the ability to add offensive pieces too.

They have $48m in cap space per Spotrac, the fifth most in the league. Chip has made a calculation that Philadelphia were not going to win a Super Bowl with LeSean on that contract. The value he brought to the team did not exceed the value gained from using LeSean's money elsewhere plus Kiko.

It's difficult to argue against that, considering last season and NFL precedent.

So, while the emotional void left by Shady will be difficult for Eagles fans to come to terms with, it's exactly the right move at the right time for this organisation.

On just about every level, from front office to depth chart, from free agency flexibility to draft need, the Eagles have improved their long-term prospects with this trade.

It apparently took just 20 minutes to conclude. That might be a bit disrespectful to McCoy, but it's not surprising.

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Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills
LeSean McCoy

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