With LeSean McCoy deal, it's Chip Kelly's team

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.

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.