SOME EAGLES FAVES WILL HAVE TO GO IN A TRADE FOR MARIOTA

While Evan Mathis is still an excellent offensive lineman, Mathis is also 33 years old and coming off a season in which he only played nine games because of injuries.

By Peter Gleason

When Eagle coach Chip Kelly became Supreme Leader and persuaded owner Jeff Lurie to demote Howie Boy Roseman from GM to glorified office boy, there were those in the media who questioned the efficacy of placing all that power in the hands of someone so new to the NFL.

How is that look now, you chuckleheads?

Kelly and Eagles are on the verge of completing the first off-season in the Era of the Chip, and they are also on the verge of drafting Marcus Mariota, the perfect vessel for Kelly’s offense.

Like any newly installed personnel head, Kelly is putting his stamp on the roster. As it usually does, that process looks like it will involve jettisoning some players brought in by the previous regime — many of whom are notable players with high salaries — so the future of the roster can be reshaped in the personnel man’s vision. This is standard NFL personnel stuff. Just because Chip Kelly is the one doing it, doesn’t make it any different.

If you’re shaping a roster for the future, 32-year olds like Todd Herremans and Trent Cole probably aren’t part of your long-term vision, and the same goes for the 30-year old Cary Williams. Herremans and Cole in particular have been good NFL players for a long time, but Herremans was injured and ineffective for much of last season, while Cole was never a pure fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker in Philly’s new defense. With their high salaries, they were cuts that made logical sense if you consider anything beyond their talent, regardless of if you thought they were coming or not when the offseason began.

That trio of moves alone created $17.725 million in cap space. Would that money be better spent on Herremans and Cole’s age-33 and 34 seasons and a year of Williams, or on younger players who may be around for much longer? It’s arguable that the incumbent players would provide more immediate value, but Kelly isn’t solely concerned with immediate value now that he’s in charge of player personnel. He’s building for both the short-term and the long-term.

An Evan Mathis trade would be of a piece with those previous moves. While he’s still an excellent offensive lineman, Mathis is also 33 years old and coming off a season in which he only played nine games. Given his high salary (he has a $6.5 million cap hit this season, per Spotrac), it makes sense that Philly would look to move him, especially considering he’s not signed beyond 2016 and would be unlikely to be re-signed at that point anyway.

Possible trades of Fletcher Cox, Mychael Kendricks and Brandon Boykin, though, do not seem to align with the “long-term over short-term” theory. All three players are 24 years old. Cox in particular has reached an elite level of play at his position, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best 3-4 defensive end last season. He could often be seen knifing into the backfield, and played especially well against the Cowboys (twice) while helping hold DeMarco Murray to subpar games, and absolutely dominated the Carolina offensive line in a Monday Nighter, getting to Cam Newton repeatedly throughout the evening.

When the Kiko Alonso trade was made, many pointed out the fact that he and Kendricks could potentially form one of the best long-term inside linebacker tandems in the league, possibly picking up the torch from Patrick Willis and Na’Vorro Bowman (if not necessarily being quite as dominant, which is nearly impossible).

Meanwhile, Boykin was easily Philly’s best corner last year and is arguably a better cover guy than the newly rich Byron Maxwell. At the very least, he’s one of the better slot corners in the NFL. Among the 25 cornerbacks who played in the slot on at least 50 percent of their team’s pass defense snaps, Boykin allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating last season, and he didn’t give up a single touchdown.

There have been rumors of Bradford being on the block as a potential Mariota trade-up piece basically since the Eagles acquired him. The Browns are supposedly interested in Bradford, they have two first-round picks, and the Eagles-Browns-Titans trio seems like it could be a fit once the draft clock starts. We’ve written about the dangers of trading up in the first round for a quarterback multiple times, but Kelly is in the unique situation of having coached his (rumored) target in college, which changes the calculus a bit. Considering all the different factors involved, a potential Bradford-picks-Mariota deal is seemingly the only Eagles rumor that really makes strategic sense from a team-building perspective.

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