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In the words of the great Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly!” In less than 12 hours on March 3rd, 2015, the face of the Philadelphia Eagles changed. Whether those changes are for the better or worse remains to be seen, but until then, let us recap what happened in Eagle Land on that remarkable day, which will go down as one of the most exciting days in Eagles history.
The first shoe to drop was the releasing of cornerback Cary Williams. Williams, a two-year starter, came to Philadelphia on the heels of winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. The Florida native signed a three-year, 18 million dollar contract. Williams performed up to his contract, but in the final year of the deal, he was to count $8.2 million against the Eagles salary cap, and his production just did not warrant that high of a number. It has already been reported by numerous outlets that the cornerback is on his way to Seattle to seek his next place of employment.
The Eagles now enter Tuesday’s free agency period in need of adding a cornerback or two. William’s opposite starter, Bradley Fletcher, is also a free agent, and is not likely to be re-signed.
While Williams was not so big of a surprise, the next shoe to drop was the announcement of the release of stalwart defensive end/linebacker Trent Cole. Andy Schwartz of CSNPhilly.com reported back in December that the former Cincinnati Bearcat was open to restructuring his contract to stay with the Birds. But Cole, who is second all time in sacks in Eagles history with 88.5, refused to accept a pay cut, and as opposed to paying the aging defender a whopping $10 million dollars and having a cap hit of $11.625 million, the Eagles let the 10-year veteran go.
Cole was officially released the following day, and on March 5, he was already en route to Tampa Bay for a try out.
Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reported that contract negotiations between the Eagles and free agent OLB Brandon Graham were not close and it was likely that Graham would test the open market. If Graham were to leave the nest, shortly after the release of Cole, the Eagles will be in the need of finding an outside linebacker to add to a thin depth chart that includes just Connor Barwin and Marcus Smith.
The biggest surprise of the day was the shocking trade of LeSean McCoy. The All-Pro running back was sent to the Buffalo Bills in a trade for former defensive rookie of the year (and Oregon Duck) Kiko Alonso. McCoy, who Bleeding Green Nation’s Dan Klausner wrote the McCoy trade was a year in the making, held a salary of $9.75 million cap hit of $10.25 million. The trading of Shady leaves a viable hole in the Philadelphia backfield. McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing over the last five years with 6,155 yards and 40 touchdowns, now field a tandem in Chris Polk and Darren Sproles that has a combined 551 carries for 2,820 yards and 24 touchdowns (this does not include Matthew Tucker, who has been active for two games, but recorded zero stats).
While McCoy leaves Philadelphia holding almost every rushing record for the Eagles, the Birds welcome a young linebacker who has the ability to become one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL. Alonso, who starred for the Bills defense in 2013, was lost for the season last year due to a torn ACL, his second such injury. The former Duck will provide the Eagles with speed, strength, and great tackling ability, as he was third in the NFL with 159. Alonso also brings with him a small cap hit of just $1.172 million.
And with that, the face and identity of the Philadelphia Eagles has changed. Gone are stalwarts Trent Cole and Todd Herramans (released 3/2). Gone is the face of the franchise, LeSean McCoy. Gone is the outspoken Cary Williams. What we know now, for certain, is that head coach Chip Kelly is making the Philadelphia Eagles his own. He is making the Birds in his model, and if you don’t fall in line, you’ll be shown the door.
Hal Greenblatt covers the Eagles for PattisonAve.com. You can follow Hal on twitter at @HMGreenblatt