PHILADELPHIA -- Brandon Boykin was one of the Philadelphia Eagles players whom Chip Kelly exiled. On Monday, Boykin signed with the Carolina Panthers, a team with a legitimate chance to be back in the Super Bowl next year.
In Boykin’s case, his exile was a trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he never quite seemed to find a role or favor with the coaching staff.
Boykin was the Eagles’ fourth-round draft choice in 2012. As a rookie, he started four games and played in all 16. He was primarily used as a nickel cornerback, lining up against opponent’s slot receivers.
In 2013, Kelly brought his 3-4 defensive scheme to town. He also brought his “big people beat up little people” philosophy for evaluating players. At 5-foot-9, Boykin was clearly on the “little people” side of that equation.
Neverthless, he had a great season in 2013. Boykin intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown. Because of the mediocre play of outside cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, many fans and media members advocated moving the productive Boykin to a starting cornerback role.
But that was not the way Kelly did things. In 2014, Boykin was still in the slot. He had just one interception. During training camp last year, Kelly traded Boykin to the Steelers.
Now, finally, Boykin got to choose his destination. As a free agent, he chose to sign with the Panthers. He will be coached by former Eagles assistants Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott. Those two successful defensive coaches are willing to work with an undersized cornerback who is as productive as Boykin has been.
Last year was "just a really weird year,” Boykin told ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton. “A lot of things happened to me that were really out of my control that I still don't understand. But the past is the past. I've grown from it. I'm thankful for my time there [in Pittsburgh]. They gave me the opportunity that I needed to ultimately get here. I played a lot at the end of the season and was able to put some really, really good things on tape.''
Boykin is one of 15 pre-Kelly draft choices who were discarded by the coach in his three seasons in Philadelphia. A few – DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin -- have moved on to lucrative opportunities elsewhere. A few, such as Trent Cole and Todd Herremans, were reaching an age where their salary cap situation might have led to a change regardless of the coach.