By Barbara Harrison
One of the intriguing elements of the Eagles’ trade of LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills is:
How little top-notch running back are now valued in the pass-happy NFL.
It’s nearly impossible to execute a big trade in the NFL. The salary cap is too complicated and teams rarely want to take on any salaries. But the Eagles and Bills did exactly that on Tuesday night, swapping Eagles star running back LeSean McCoy for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso.
The trade is a case study in how the modern NFL values positions. McCoy made three Pro Bowls in the last four years, led the league in rushing in 2013 and was third in the league last season. Alonso, while a solid player, is not considered an elite linebacker. He was among the best rookies in the sport in 2013, but a knee injury kept him out all of last season.
The exchange is a clear indictment of what teams will pay for a top running back.
The Eagles, chasing a championship, weren’t interested in McCoy’s $10.25 million salary cap hit scheduled for next season.
The move will have a far-reaching impact. It means that current Bills running back C.J. Spiller will hit the open market as a free agent and that the Eagles, who rely on a running back more than most NFL teams, will be in the market for a rusher. That could end up being Spiller himself.
The Bills get a new offensive weapon for coach Rex Ryan, who is entering his first season with the Bills. While with the Jets, Ryan became famous for relying on the run game and using the quarterback as a last resort. It remains unclear who the starting quarterback in Buffalo will be since Kyle Orton retired at the end of the season.
The Eagles also clear precious salary cap room before the start of free agency next week. The team will likely target defense after their defensive secondary failed routinely last season. They ranked 31st in pass defense. Alonso will likely help more in the run defense, where they ranked 15th in yards allowed.