I was shocked to see that LeSean McCoy was traded to Buffalo for former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso, but it’s a move that I think makes sense for both sides.
As Jason states in his article regarding this trade, this move is a major win for the Eagles in the sense that McCoy was set to have a cap hit of $11.95 million this year and if the cap is $143 million, that means that McCoy would have taken up 8.36% of their cap, which is about what Reggie Bush made in 2009 for the Saints as the second highest paid Super Bowl champion running back of the cap era, 8.61% of the $123 million cap that year. The highest paid Super Bowl champion running back was Emmitt Smith in 1995 with a salary of $3,400,600, 9.17% of that year’s cap of $37.1 million.
Due to Darren Sproles being on the books for $4.1 million in 2015, the Eagles had $20 million committed to the running back position group, which is 13.99% of the cap. That 1995 Dallas Cowboys backfield is the only Super Bowl backfield that cost more at $5,553,700, which was 14.97% of the 1995 salary cap.
The 1990s were a different era completely with Daryl “Moose”Johnston as their seventh highest cap charge at $1,402,900, which was 3.78% of the 1995 cap. Although Johnston was an extremely productive fullback with 359 total yards and three touchdowns, it’s a position that the Eagles don’t even have on their roster and production that they easily make up with tight ends and receivers. So comparatively, the Cowboys halfbacks cost 11.19% of the cap compared to the 13.99% that the 2015 Eagles were slated to spend.
But considering that Johnston was productive and had only ten less catches than Sproles had in 2014, let’s include him in this discussion. The Eagles 2015 backfield would have cost 93.45% of what the 1995 Cowboys backfield cost, so for arguments sake, all things being equal the Eagles would have had to produce 93.45% of what the Cowboys backfield produced. This doesn’t take into account that Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman, two Hall of Famers, had the best seasons of their careers in 1995. Nor does it take into account the defense that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed led by Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Charles Haley.
Figure 1: 1995 Cowboys vs. 2015 Eagles (Click on the figures to enlarge them)
Now, McCoy would have cost the Eagles 91.17% of what Smith cost the Cowboys, so I put together this figure to show what 2015 McCoy would have to produce to be at 91.17% of Smith’s stats that year. I also show what he did in 2014 and 2013, which was the best season of his career and resulted in only two less total yards than Smith’s 1995 season.
Figure 2: Emmitt Smith vs. LeSean McCoy
Considering that Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty or whoever starts for Philadelphia isn’t going to be Troy Aikman, I think that the Eagles backfield of 2015 would have had to be better than the 93.45% that I stated above. I think that McCoy would have to be more like 2013 LeSean McCoy, which is similar to the 1995 Emmitt Smith outside of his insane touchdown production, but I don’t know if he can do that for a few reasons.
First, McCoy only cost the Eagles 4.01% of the salary cap in 2013, which, if that was the case in 2015, would allow the Eagles to build a stronger team around him. Second, with Darren Sproles taking up 2.87% of the cap, they’re expecting him to produce, thus taking away from McCoy’s production and because of this among his decline in play last season, I feel like Jason’s right when he mentions that he probably would have been asked to take a pay cut if they didn’t make this trade.
While the Eagles did have a lot of issues on the offensive line this season, they did have some strong players on the line. Their best line combination was Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Andrew Gardner at right guard, and Johnson at right tackle. Mathis missed Weeks 2-9 and Kelce missed Weeks 4-9 with injuries, while Johnson missed Weeks 1-4 with a suspension for PEDs.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kelce had a 7.5 rating at center, Gardner had a 1.2 as a guard, Johnson was the second best right tackle in the NFL, Peters was the best left tackle, and Mathis was the best left guard. From Week 10 on, McCoy had all five of his best linemen and he performed well with 87 yards a game at a 4.56 average and four touchdowns. With Sproles bringing in 20 catches for 143 yards over the last eight games, McCoy only had eight catches for 61, which illustrates his reduced role in the passing game with Sproles.
A huge indicator for me is that he went from the best rated running back in football in 2013 according to PFF, to the third worst rated back in 2014. This was indicative of what I saw when I watched him, he didn’t look like the same player as the guy in 2013 and he didn’t look comfortable in the offense this year, always seeming to look for home runs rather than taking what he was given. While I think he can rebound in 2014, he was nowhere near worth 8.36% of the Eagles cap, when they have other needs to fill and could easily replace him with this deep running back draft.
I think a change of scenery will do him well and that cap number will be better utilized in Buffalo with Rex Ryan. While McCoy excelled in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2013, I think the Ryan’s ground and pound style that utilizes the fullback will better suit McCoy’s style. McCoy was drafted by the previous regime and Andy Reid uses the fullback. According to PFF, going back to 2009, the starting fullback for the Jets played 355 snaps a season, while the starting fullback for Reid’s teams played 313 snaps a year. McCoy will be back in his comfort zone as this is also more similar to the offense he ran at Pittsburgh in college.
In 2009, Thomas Jones had over 1402 yards and 14 touchdowns, which are numbers I could see McCoy eclipsing. Brandon Spikes played well last year with Alonso out and Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown played well on the outside. The Bills were fourth in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed and they did it without Alonso. I think that Rex decided to ensure he had a top-flight runner for the first time in his career as a head coach. If Shonn Greene can run for 1000-yards twice in Ryan’s ground-and-pound offense, what can McCoy do?
Like Jason said, McCoy will now take up one-third of the Bills projected cap room and should rework his contract for more cap relief as he’ll be 27 at the start of this season. Since none of the money in 2016-17 is guaranteed for McCoy and he’ll be 30 the next time he’s projected to hit free agency, it’s in his best interest to rework a deal with another year or two on the back end.
On the Eagles side, my first thought was that I’d really like to see them take Melvin Gordon in the first round, but was is everything that they’re doing right now posturing to set themselves up for Mariota…?
Could they trade the Jets something along the lines of Nick Foles, this year’s first rounder, next year’s first rounder and a second rounder to get him?
Considering how well Mariota knows the offense and his talents, I think it’d be a good move for the Eagles and Mariota as we can at least project him better in Philly than anywhere else and he will hit the ground running as he won’t have to learn a new offense.
With all the cap space the Eagles have and the solid team they have right now, I think the writing is on the wall for a deal like the one I just threw out there. The biggest thing for the Eagles right now is ensuring that Mariota will be available where they’re looking to deal.
Their four biggest needs are at cornerback, safety, outside linebacker and now running back. Since they keep going down to Houston to sign away Texans, I could see them getting Kareem Jackson to play corner and/or Brooks Reed to play outside linebacker. It’s a pretty deep outside linebacker group and considering the amount of money they’ll have to spend, they have their pick of a group that includes the Ravens Pernell McPhee, who was the second best 3-4 OLB according to PFF, Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats from Pittsburgh, and the brother of Eagles’ linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Sam.
The big get this offseason for safeties is Devin McCourty and the Eagles would be wise to go after him with the cap space they have. At corner, I would go after Jackson like I said above and Bryon Maxwell would be a great pick up. I could go on and on with predictions, but the real story is that the Eagles now have $40 million in cap space and they could get $6.9 million more by releasing DeMeco Ryans after this deal as they now have Mychal Kendricks (the sixth best ILB in the NFL last year by PFF), Kiko Alonso (the ninth best in 2013), Brad Jones is a great back up and they could resign Casey Matthews at a reasonable price.
So this deal for Alonso could allow them to open up around $18 million worth of cap space when it’s all said and done. That’s what great organizations do.
Mark my words…Chip Kelly is going to get the quarterback that he calls the best he’s ever coached. The quarterback position is too important for the Eagles not to get Mariota now that they’ve set themselves up as well as they have. If you can trade away a quarterback your staff isn’t confident in, two first rounders and a second rounder for the pick that will secure the player you see as the face of your franchise for the next 15 years, you do that. And from the Jets standpoint, with everything they need, it’s a good deal for them. Nick Foles is a good quarterback and I think he’ll fit well with what they’re trying to do offensively.
So with that…take it away Sister Hazel!
I hope you enjoyed some of the Super Bowl stats and analysis that I started the article off with. I’ve been working with Jason to put together our First Annual Caponomics book that will be done in May where we analyze the 21 Super Bowl winners of the salary cap era and create theories based off of the data provided. We then use that data to analyze what teams did right and wrong in 2014 and will do that on an annual basis. If you’re interested in purchasing this book when it comes out or pre-ordering it once we get the link ready, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you have any questions if you’re interested.
It’s been a lot of fun to research and write, plus everyone I’ve spoken to about it has been intrigued, so I really think we’re onto something and I’m confident that it’s something all you CapHeads will enjoy. Feeling very good about it and look forward to sharing the things I learn through the process on Twitter and here as we launch this book.