TURNS OUT, having Chip Kelly in charge of personnel is a lot like having Chip Kelly in charge of your offense, only there are no pauses for the officiating crew to get set for the snap.
The Eagles blazed through the first 36 hours or so of the NFL's "legal tampering" period before the start of free agency tomorrow afternoon at 4 with a definite sense of purpose.
The biggest move was the agreement with Seattle corner Byron Maxwell, first reported by Houston radio host Jayson Braddock, for what ESPN said was $63 million over 6 years, with a $25 million guarantee. The Birds spent the most for what everyone would agree was their biggest need, and they got the top corner on the market, given that it's unclear Darrelle Revis will be leaving New England.
Then, in the wake of the news that LeSean McCoy was getting $26.5 million in guarantees to relocate to Buffalo, under the terms of last week's trade - making Shady the NFL's highest-paid running back at $16 million this year - a league source confirmed an ESPN report that the Eagles will sign 49ers star running back Frank Gore to a 3-year contract, with $7.5 million guaranteed in the first two seasons.
Gore turns 32 in May, but unlike McCoy, who turns 27 in July, Gore epitomizes the straight-ahead, slashing style Kelly prefers. This move might portend more of a running back by committee approach, which Kelly utilized at Oregon, instead of Kelly cultivating a prime-time superstar who needs to be fed the ball. Darren Sproles and Chris Polk are still in the mix, and this is said to be a fine running back draft.
The Eagles also clinched a 2-year deal with returning quarterback Mark Sanchez, league sources confirmed. A source said Sanchez is guaranteed around $5.5 million, and can make as much as $16 million as the Eagles' starter. It would seem perhaps an odd contract to give someone to play behind $650,000 starter Nick Foles, but it wouldn't seem so odd a figure to pay, say, the mentor to a rookie QB along the lines of Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
Or, Kelly might just envision Sanchez winning a starting QB competition with Foles.
Regardless, the major Eagles acquisitions thus far are for the defense - inside linebacker Kiko Alonso and Maxwell, two impact players for coordinator Bill Davis.
There is every indication that trend will continue, with the Eagles starting the "legal tampering" period with more than $45 million to spend. The Eagles are expected to stay aggressive, though their plan might have hit a bump with the Patriots retaining safety Devin McCourty. According to NFL Network, McCourty signed a 5 year, $47.5 million deal.
There wasn't much weekend news about Steelers pending free-agent outside linebacker Jason Worilds, but the Eagles are expected to bid there, as well, after jettisoning Trent Cole. Cole, by the way, continued his free-agent tour in Cleveland over the weekend.
Maxwell will take one of the starting spots vacated by Cary Williams, who was released last week, and Bradley Fletcher, who is expected to hit free agency tomorrow. Maxwell has not staked out his own land mass, like Revis, but he's younger - 27 vs. 30 this summer - and he seems very well-versed in the man-press coverage the Eagles prefer.
Maxwell, 6-1, 207, was a sixth-round draftee out of Clemson in 2011 who didn't become a starter until Brandon Browner was suspended in 2013, but he played so well, the Seahawks let both Browner and backup Walter Thurmond walk in the offseason. This past season, Maxwell was the member of the "Legion of Boom" who got the most business, with opponents reluctant to throw at Richard Sherman, but QBs averaged just an 81.1 passer rating against Maxwell.
Maxwell, known as a sure tackler, talked publicly last week about what a good fit he would be in Philadelphia. In the end, the Eagles' most serious competition seemed to be the Seahawks, who didn't want to break up their group.
Gore is more of a surprise. He is the 49ers' all-time leading rusher, with 11,073 yards on 2,442 carries, a total that includes eight 1,000-yard seasons. The 49ers, while transitioning to 2014 draftee Carlos Hyde as the workhorse, nonetheless seemed sensitive to the feelings of fans who didn't want to see No. 21 go, but given Gore's mileage and hard-charging style, the Eagles presumably guaranteed a lot more money than San Francisco had in mind.
"Wow Frank Gore leaving our division," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "Always had a great deal of respect for his game. Brings it every carry. Doesn't say much just plays."
McCoy, the all-time leading rusher for the franchise Gore is joining, tweeted about flying to Buffalo yesterday after agreeing to a deal worth as much as $40 million over 5 years, agent Drew Rosenhaus said.
McCoy had only $1 million guaranteed remaining on his current contract, which ran through 2017. When the offseason began, it was widely assumed that the Eagles and McCoy might agree on a revision that would lower his $11.950 million cap number this year. But there is no way the team was going to guarantee another $26.5 million to a running back with 6 years of mileage on his odometer.
McCoy has wanted a pay boost since he led the NFL in rushing in 2013 and set the franchise single-season record. Last offseason, then-GM Howie Roseman's take on this was unequivocal - the Eagles signed McCoy to a deal that reflected his status as a premier NFL running back. You don't get extra money for doing what the contract envisioned you doing.
So, even though Kelly seems to have traded McCoy on a whim - the Bills said the talks began and ended within a few minutes last Tuesday - in the long run, there was a looming difference over money that probably would have forced a split.
Speaking of differences over money, 10-year Eagles guard Todd Herremans has agreed to a 1-year, $3.5 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts. This isn't a shock, given that Colts GM Ryan Grigson worked for the Eagles when Herremans was drafted and was a big booster. But Herremans had a $4 million base this year with the Eagles and a $5.2 million cap number. A source indicated several weeks ago that Herremans would not be willing to take less money to stay with the Eagles. Yet, he is taking less money to join the Colts, and his cap number will be considerably less.