Eagles' offseason moves an indictment of Chip Kelly

One head coach was actually jealous.

He watched from afar as the newly reminted architect of the Philadelphia Eagles, Howie Roseman, cast aside Chip Kelly's big-ticket signings from a year ago in exchange for better currency in the upcoming NFL draft. Roseman sent the flaky, underachieving cornerback Byron Maxwell and the unreliable, underachieving linebacker Kiko Alonso to Miami to move from No. 13 to No. 8 in the first round of the upcoming draft. He also sent the malcontent running back DeMarco Murray to Tennessee for a fourth-round pick.

"Some of these moves he's made here are really good," the head coach said. "You start trading these guys that you don't really want and really haven't done much, and you get rid of their money and get draft picks. I'm like, 'Why aren't we getting that done?' I'm wondering how he pulls it off, how he got people to make some of these deals. I thought it was really good what he's done so far."

What Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations and de facto general manager, has done since regaining the power he lost one year ago is rid the Eagles of most of Kelly's highest-profile acquisitions. To some, it looks like Roseman has done to Kelly what Kelly did to Roseman during his three-year reign: jettison hand-picked, big-name players while remaking the roster to his own liking. To others, it looks like Roseman simply has made sound business decisions in his second stint with personnel control.

"They wanted a chance to start fresh and get better," one former NFL executive said. "I don't think there's any motive there other than a pure football evaluation and a reflection of this regime."

What is clear is that this regime, led by a man who astonishingly survived a power struggle with Kelly, isn't doing business the way the old regime did.

Given what transpired during Kelly's final year in Philadelphia and the abrupt way his tenure ended last December, it is only natural to view the Eagles' offseason moves as an indictment of the former coach and his performance as a talent evaluator and general manager. After firing Andy Reid in 2012, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie allowed Reid to speak to the team, and the players gave Reid a standing ovation. Lurie was nearly in tears.

No one cried after Lurie fired Kelly with one game remaining last season, most especially Roseman.

Kelly had all but ousted Roseman in January 2015 after Roseman fired Kelly's personnel chief and trusted ally, Tom Gamble. Kelly neither liked nor trusted Roseman, then the Eagles' general manager. Armed with a 20-12 record from his first two seasons, Kelly wrestled personnel control away from Roseman. But in perhaps the biggest misstep of his three years in Philadelphia, Kelly did not demand Roseman be fired; Roseman had to move his office to another part of the Eagles' training facility, but he received a title promotion and a $200,000 raise.

When Kelly's high-priced acquisitions -- including Murray and Maxwell -- failed to meet expectations and the team fractured, Lurie sided with his long-time employee over his prickly coach.

And Roseman, who declined an interview request for this article, went to work on a series of moves that prompted new coach Doug Pederson to tell NFL Network at the owners meetings last month: "It's never been about Chip Kelly's guys," even though it looked that way.

First, Roseman reverted to an old Eagles practice of re-signing several of the team's own players before their contracts were up. He gave tight end Zach Ertz a five-year extension for $42.5 million with $21 million guaranteed. He signed tight end Brent Celek to a three-year extension for $13 million with $6 million guaranteed.

Roseman signed right tackle Lane Johnson to a six-year extension for $56.26 million ($35.5 million guaranteed), defensive end Vinny Curry to a five-year extension for $47.25 million ($23 million guaranteed) and safety Malcolm Jenkins to a four-year extension for $35 million ($21 million guaranteed).

Those moves calmed a rattled fan base that has long been skeptical of Lurie's true intentions and Roseman's acumen. But according to the league source, with the exception of the Celek deal, the moves were not fiscally sound.

Ertz is now the NFL's fifth-highest paid tight end, based on average per year, behind only Seattle's Jimmy Graham, Kansas City's Travis Kelce, Jacksonville's Julius Thomas and New England's Rob Gronkowski.

The Eagles are paying Johnson, currently a right tackle, $11.525 million per year, nearly $5 million per year more than the NFL's second-highest-paid right tackle, Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga. Eventually, Philadelphia will move Johnson to left tackle, a position manned by Jason Peters, who has been to six Pro Bowls since joining the Eagles in 2009. Even so, only four left tackles will make more per year in 2016 than Johnson.

With an average annual salary of $8.75 million, Jenkins is the fifth-highest-paid free safety behind Kansas City's Eric Berry, Seattle's Earl Thomas, New England's Devin McCourty and New Orleans' Jairus Byrd. And at $9.45 million per year, Curry will average more than Oakland's Bruce Irvin, the 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

"The philosophy of the approach of re-signing guys was very smart in anticipating the very dramatic increases in the cap and contracts in the next wave of free agency, and their ability to persuade agents when [the agents] shouldn't have been taking steps to do the deals was very effective on their part," the league source said. "Here's what got lost: The rationale for signing players early -- just being very blunt about it -- is you know you're going to get a good deal. You're assuming the risk of a player's quality of play and injury from the player to the team. So the team should get a benefit for that, which should be in the form of the average of the deal of the structure of the contract. Teams that sign players early around the league believe that, and that's what Howie believes and the Eagles believe.

"But the reality is that now that we've seen free agency come and go, I think in hindsight they massively overpaid Malcolm Jenkins in the extension and massively overpaid Lane Johnson for his extension and massively overpaid [Sam] Bradford for his extension. So they actually got bad deals and shifted the risk of injury and quality of play from the player to the team. That's the exact opposite of what you want to do. Otherwise you might as well wait."

The deal Bradford signed before free agency began -- two years at $17.5 million per year, when the Eagles essentially were bidding against themselves -- had other general managers groaning because it set the market for quarterbacks. It's why Brock Osweiler was able to get $18 million per year over four years from Houston despite having started only seven games in four seasons in Denver.

"They'll pay a price for this," the league source said. "They'll either end up not keeping guys, or they'll eat up more of the cap than they should have. When you do bad contracts, it has an impact on your roster. It can affect how long you keep them, or it can affect the other things you have the flexibility to do."

On the positive side, getting out of the $21.5 million guaranteed to Murray, Maxwell and Alonso was "a cap windfall," one general manager said. It allowed the Eagles to be active in free agency; they spent almost the same amount of guaranteed money on guard Brandon Brooks, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. Plus, in trading Maxwell and Alonso to Miami, Philadelphia moved up five key spots in the draft.

"He gave up two guys that weren't in his plans to move up five spots," the head coach said. "That to me is a great move, very significant. It's going to be a very different player."

The difference in picking at 13 versus at eight, the head coach said, is the difference in acquiring a difference-making offensive player, such as Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott or Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, versus a difference-making defensive player, such as Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack or Florida defensive back Jalen Ramsey.

Or, if the Eagles are in love with one of the quarterbacks expected to go high in the draft, it would be easier to move up from eight to select one of them.

A panel of five ESPN analysts -- including former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik and former Philadelphia director of pro personnel Louis Riddick -- gave the Eagles an "A" gradeInsider for their moves in free agency.

"It is a makeover," Polian said, "but unlike in Cleveland, it is a makeover that you can say, 'Oh yeah, this makes sense, this makes sense, this guy fits.' Now, how well they play remains to be seen, but at least you see things fitting."

At the NFL owners meeting, Lurie spoke publicly for just the second time since hiring Pederson, the Chiefs' former offensive coordinator who Reid personally recommended. Lurie called Roseman's offseason moves "outstanding" and said Roseman had "a great plan" regarding the trades, the free-agent signings and the contract extensions.

Someone close to Lurie said Lurie is well aware of Roseman's shortcomings, but the 64-year-old owner didn't blink about returning Roseman to power.

"It may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy," the league source said. "It's obvious. I'm not telling you anything people don't know. Howie has Jeff's ear. And Jeff trusts him a lot and puts a lot of weight in what he has to say, and he's influenced by him.

"This isn't to say that Chip didn't have detractors that are justified and he didn't have some players in the locker room that were more than happy to see him go. But [Bill] Parcells had that. [Bill] Belichick has that. To only get one year after winning 10 games back to back and with a team that was pretty depleted from a talent perspective -- some of it your mistakes and some of it the things you inherited because of the failures of the people before you -- I'm not sure that happens if you don't have someone in the building that Jeff trusts and has his ear pointing out the mistakes versus the successes."

Like Murray, Maxwell and Alonso, and wide receiver Riley Cooper (cut) and quarterback Mark Sanchez (traded to Denver for a conditional seventh-round pick). Kelly liked them all, and now, like him, they're gone.

"That dynamic is so interesting: Howie's in, he's running it all, then he's out, then he's totally back in," the head coach said. "It's so extreme. I think Howie will do a great job and I think Chip was a disaster, but then again, this whole power thing kind of cracks me up, who's got the power and all that. It seems like it causes a lot of strife."

And, it seems, a lot of offseason personnel moves.