Can Eagles afford to keep McCoy and Maclin?
The Eagles want running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to return, but at what cost?
"Do I want LeSean back? Yeah. Do I want Jeremy back? Yeah. Is that the reality? I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. What if somebody gives us 17 first-round draft picks for LeSean? We're going to look at everything."
- Chip Kelly, Dec. 29, 2014
LeSEAN McCOY has rushed for 5,075 yards the last four seasons. The only running back in the league who has run for more during that period is the Skittles-munching, word-conserving 4-by-4 who will line up in the Seahawks' backfield Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX (5,357).
Jeremy Maclin bounced back from a torn ACL to have a career year this season, leading the Eagles in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
The prospect of the Eagles opening training camp next July without one or both of them is not something the team's fans really are in the mood to contemplate at the moment.
But it could happen.
Kelly and the Eagles have difficult decisions to make on both McCoy and Maclin. Maclin can be a free agent in March. There no doubt will be a pretty good market for an 85-catch, 1,318-yard, 10-touchdown, one-drop wideout with an outstanding work ethic and precious few diva qualities.
The Eagles want him back, but at what price? Would they be willing to put the $12 million-plus wide-receiver franchise tag on him if they can't re-sign him?
McCoy isn't a free agent. His contract has 3 years left on it. But his cap number is about to increase from $9.7 million to $11.9 million. The Eagles almost certainly would like to restructure McCoy's deal, and McCoy indicated in December that he wouldn't be totally opposed to that. But that's a long way from "Sure, where do I sign?"
What happens if they can't work something out? Would the Eagles be willing to keep a running back with 1,461 career rushing attempts and an $11.9 million cap number?
"One of the attractive things about this [Eagles] job is there aren't cap issues," Kelly said at his season-ending news conference in late December. "We don't look at it and say, 'Oh my God. We're going to have to cut 12 players because we're $40 million over the cap.'
"[But] you have to put the whole team together. I think that's where people make mistakes in this whole process. [They say], 'I want [Daily News football writer] Les Bowen. Give him everything he wants no matter what it is.' And then the rest of our team is going to stink because Les can't carry us.
"Sorry, Les. But that's just the deal. It's a team game. You need a supporting cast."
The Eagles need some cornerback help and they need some safety help and they need some linebacker help. And while they usually are careful not to overspend in free agency, they might have to this year if they hope to address a couple of those positions sufficiently to make a Super Bowl run in 2015.
Which brings us back to Maclin and McCoy. If the NFL had no cap, re-signing Maclin at whatever it takes and holding on to McCoy would be no-brainers.
But there is a cap. So the Eagles have to examine Maclin's and McCoy's worth more closely and ask how much is enough and how much is too much.
Maclin led the Eagles in just about every pertinent receiving category. But does he deserve top-of-the-line wide-receiver money?
He finished tied for 13th in the league in receptions and tied for 12th in touchdown catches. He was 15th in receiving first downs. His .594 catch percentage was only the 40th best among the league's wide receivers.
He had just 16 third-down receptions, which was fewer than teammates Jordan Matthews (25) and Zach Ertz (23). His six red-zone receptions were the 55th most in the league. Forty-six guys had more red-zone TDs than Maclin (three), including Matthews (six).
Despite a rash of injuries to his offensive line, McCoy, who won the league rushing title in 2013, still managed to finish second to the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray this season with 1,319 yards.
McCoy is only 26, but already has played six NFL seasons. His 1,461 carries rank ninth among active running backs. Most of the eight in front of him - Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew - are on the downside of their careers.
While the run game is a key element of Kelly's offense, he, like a growing number of other NFL coaches, might feel he can find a younger, cheaper replacement(s) in the draft.
Take a look at the leading rushers for this year's 12 playoff teams. The Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch is the only back with a salary-cap number above $5 million ($8M). The leading rushers for nine of the 12 playoff teams had a cap number under $2 million.
And this year's draft is supposed to be especially rich and deep in running backs.
No Maclin and no McCoy? Hey, like Kelly said, they're going to look at everything.
Figuring the Eagles *
The Eagles used "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) 66.4 percent of the time this season, which was 5.5 percent less than they used it last year (71.9). But during a nine-game span, from the first Giants game in Week 6 to the second Dallas game in Week 15, they used "11" personnel groupings 74.6 percent of the time. The Eagles' 16-game formation breakdown this season:
RB TE WR Plays Pct. Pct.
1 1 3. . . 748 34.8 65.2
1 2 2. . . 344 57.3 42.7
2 1 2. . . 23 30.4 69.6
2 3 0. . . 3 100.0 0.0
1 3 1. . . 7 85.7 14.3
2 0 3. . . 2 0.0 100.0
* In their last 11 regular-season games, the Eagles had one of the league' best run defenses, holding opponents to 3.50 yards per carry. Only the Lions (3.16) allowed less during that period. In those 11 games, the Eagles were seventh in yards allowed per carry on first down (3.68), third on second down (3.07) and 21st on third down (4.39).
* For the second straight year, the Eagles' offense underperformed in the red zone. It finished 23rd, converting just 49.2 percent of its red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Last year, the Eagles finished 18th (52.6 percent). Mark Sanchez finished 19th in red-zone completion percentage (.511), Nick Foles 28th (.436).
* Nick Foles had the highest percentage of pass attempts of 20 yards or longer this season. Fifty-nine of his 311 attempts, or 19.0 percent, traveled 20-plus yards. Mark Sanchez was 14th. Thirty-seven of his 309 attempts, or 12.0 percent, were 20-plus yards. Sanchez was 16th in the league in completion percentage on 20-plus yard throws (.352). Foles was 19th (.322). The 10 quarterbacks with the highest completion rate on throws of 20 yards or more:
Player, Team Cmp. Att. Pct.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, HOU. . . 20 38 52.6
Tony Romo, DAL. . . 29 61 47.5
Aaron Rodgers, GB. . . 26 56 46.4
Matt Ryan, ATL. . . 31 69 44.9
Andrew Luck, IND. . . 39 88 44.3
Peyton Manning, DEN. . . 31 70 44.3
Brian Hoyer, CLE. . . 29 67 43.3
Drew Brees, NO. . . 27 64 42.2
Austin Davis, STL. . . 16 39 41.0
Russell Wilson, SEA. . . 21 52 40.4