No Shady. No Clowney.
Every cutdown day is a gamble. Players are released. Deals are done ... and they’re not. Two deals that the Eagles didn’t do hold special intrigue.
They didn’t re-sign LeSean McCoy, their all-time leading rusher, after the Bills cut him Saturday. Instead, Andy Reid signed McCoy in Kansas City.
The Eagles also didn’t trade for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. They instead kept six other defensive ends -- who combined for fewer sacks last season (8 1/2) than Clowney had by himself (nine). The Houston Texans traded Clowney to Seattle for two sacks of magic beans, and paid him almost half of his salary to leave.
McCoy and Clowney will make a combined $12 million from their new teams. The Eagles have almost $20 million available in salary cap space. It’s simple math.
These unmade deals will haunt general manager Howie Roseman.
“We have to bet on our young players. We have to bet on our scouting," he explained Saturday night. “We have to bet on our coaching, and we are going to take that bet at that position.”
He was speaking specifically about his defensive ends, but he could have been referring to his running backs. The situation is the same.
McCoy will be a role player in a stacked Chiefs offense playing for the coach who drafted him. If he finishes with 1,000 all-purpose yards and, say, eight touchdowns, and Roseman’s backs finish 28th in the league (again), the Shady lovers will howl.
Roseman echoed his sentiment to Angelo Cataldi on WIP’s morning show on Tuesday.
“It’s not like we sit there and we see a pass-rushing defensive end available and we don’t pick up the phone and figure out what it’s going to cost,” Roseman said. “Same thing at the running back position. I think it’s hard, it goes to this saying that we’re talking about. We’re not just trying to collect talent, we’re trying to build a team.
"With that, you can’t always have everything exactly that you want, especially because we want to have a team that’s competing for championships this year for sure, but also moving forward. ... At some point, you have to let young players develop and play.”
Clowney will be a part of Pete Carroll’s defensive scheme, and he’ll roam all over the line, stuffing runs and pounding passers opposite Ezekiel Ansah. If Clowney racks up double-digit sacks for the first time in his career, and if Roseman’s ends combine for less than 10 (again), pity poor Howie.
What if McCoy and the Chiefs face Clowney and the Seahawks in Super Bowl LIV? In Philly, that story writes itself.
The Birds will start Derek Barnett, a first-round pick in 2017 who missed 10 games last season and all of the 2019 preseason with a shoulder injury. In that same 2017 draft, the Carolina Panthers took Daeshon Hall in the third round but then cut him in 2018, after which he landed on the practice squads of the San Francisco 49ers and the Texans before the Birds signed him in December. Hall will see backup time with Josh Sweat, a fourth-round pick of the Eagles last season, and fourth-round rookie Shareef Miller.
Don’t forget: 31-year-old starter Brandon Graham collected just four sacks last season, and 31-year-old end/tackle Vinny Curry had 2 1/2 for Tampa. Roseman drafted them both and adores them like sons. He’s paying them $15.75 million in salary and bonuses this season. Clowney will cost the Seahawks just under $9 million.
That’s who Roseman is betting on at defensive end.
His young horses at running back: fourth-year grinder Jordan Howard, whose overall production has diminished each of his first three seasons; second-round rookie Miles Sanders; and third-year utility back Corey Clement, who is coming off an injury. There also is 36-year-old Darren Sproles, who, in the last two seasons, has played in nine of a possible 32 regular-season games.
Should Roseman have signed Shady for the $3 million Reid paid? Absolutely.
Granted, running backs tend to hit the wall suddenly and permanently, and McCoy’s 3.2 yards-per-carry last season indicates that, at 31, he might well be done.
He’s not. Being in Kansas City will extend his warranty. Running behind a good offensive line and playing with a deep threat such as Tyreek Hill, an all-pro tight end such as Travis Kelce, and an MVP quarterback such as Patrick Mahomes, McCoy will quickly push ahead of the other Chiefs backs. Want to make a bet? Bet on him to win Comeback Player of the Year.
McCoy would have enjoyed the same situation in Philly, with Carson Wentz, former teammate DeSean Jackson, tight end Zach Ertz, and an even better offensive line.
As for Clowney, that’s a no-brainer. You put the most talented players at the most important positions, and defensive end is the second-most important position in the NFL. Talent wins, and Clowney is more talented than any end they’ve had in years -- certainly, since Trent Cole and, arguably, since Reggie White. Finally, Clowney is a 26-year-old pending free agent playing for a $100 million contract.
“Hungry dogs run faster,” as someone once said.
If you have concerns that McCoy or Clowney might disturb the team’s chemistry; come on. This is the NFL. If you’re worried about locker-room disruption then you need a stronger locker room.
Remarkably, according to two NFL sources, some members of the Eagles’ front office didn’t sniff McCoy, and they didn’t think Clowney was worth the $15.967 million tag price, or even the $9 million, much less the assets lost in the trade: a 2020 third-round pick and linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin.
Really? Renting an elite pass rusher for the right to draft the next Josh Huff?
In the end, no. Roseman, one of the better GMs in the league since 2017, saved his assets and his cash, and trusted his process.
“We have to understand that we have to develop players," Roseman said. "And when we are talking about our roster, and we have a lot of guys who are good players and make good money.”