By Sam Bush
Eagles coach Chip Kelly is nothing if not unpredictable.
While the rest of the NFL seems to be valuing wide receivers a whole lot more than running back — as least judged by their salaries — Supreme Leader Kelly is going the other way.
After Kelly signed running backs DeMarco Murray (photo above) and Ryan Mathews while declining to keep receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles have a wide gulf between what they’re planning to pay their running backs and what they’re planning to pay their receivers.
With a total cap hit of $12.6 million for their six running backs, the Eagles have the second-most cap dollars committed to running backs of any team in the league. Only the Vikings, who (for now) have Adrian Peterson and his huge contract on their cap, have a higher total cap hit for running backs.
But the Eagles’ payroll at wide receiver ranks 28th in the NFL, at $7.1 million. Over the last two offseasons, Kelly has decided to part with two expensive receivers (Maclin and DeSean Jackson) and has declined to spend a lot on their replacements, instead going with the relatively inexpensive Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
It’s also important to mention that Kelly seems to place particular emphasis on acquiring wide receivers who are good run blockers. A good block by a receiver downfield can be the difference between a 10-yard run and a 60-yard run, and Kelly thinks a receiver who blocks well can spring as many big plays as a receiver who makes the big plays himself in the passing game.
Of course, last year de-emphasizing big play receivers didn’t work out as well as Kelly would have hoped: The Eagles’ offense missed Jackson, who had a big year in Washington. Kelly needs to get his offense back on track this year, playing more like it did in 2013 than like it did in 2014. Kelly clearly thinks the way to do that is to spend money on running backs, not on wide receivers.