Eagles' Kelly a big fan of Reid's offensive players

Posted: March 03, 2014

Chip Kelly sure likes Andy Reid's players.

In a span of three days last week, the Eagles handed out approximately $133 million in contracts - $46 million of which was guaranteed - to four offensive players who were Reid acquisitions. Nine of the projected 11 starters on offense were here prior to Kelly's arrival and are under contract through at least next season.

Rip Reid for his last two seasons in Philadelphia, his subpar record in drafting defensive players, and some lousy late-tenure coaching hires, but he knew how to evaluate players on offense. And Kelly, by his and general manager Howie Roseman's actions, agree.

They doled out extensions to tackle Jason Peters (five years, $51.3 million) and center Jason Kelce (seven years, $40.1 million) and re-signed wide receivers Riley Cooper (five years, $25 million) and Jeremy Maclin (one year, $6 million) to new deals in a flurry last week.

Free agency is more than a week away, and the Eagles already have their starting offense essentially in place. There will be a Jason Avant subtraction here and a backup addition there, but Kelly and Roseman have kept the NFL's second-ranked offense intact for the near future, and they got it done in part because the aforementioned four players wanted to stay rather than test the market now or next offseason.

"I think I speak for the whole team when I say this - that everybody is with where this team is going," Kelce said. "It feels like there's been a revitalization of the whole culture here."

Reid brought them here, and they probably would have stayed if he kept winning, but Kelly, and what he is building, is why they're avoiding free agency. His scheme and play-calling played as important a part in Maclin's staying as perhaps anything.

The Broncos and New York Jets were also reportedly sniffing around, but Maclin said he never explored other options beyond preparing himself in case negotiations broke down and he did have to look for work elsewhere.

"I'm excited to get a chance to play in Chip's offense," Maclin said Friday.

Say what you want about the 25-year-old receiver, his two anterior cruciate ligament tears in his right knee, and his never having reached 1,000 yards receiving, but Maclin is valued around the league. And the Eagles got him for a bargain if he has the career season DeSean Jackson and Cooper had in their first year in Kelly's system.

But it may be difficult for all three to post big numbers. There are only so many passes to go around. Maclin, who wanted the one-year deal so he can perhaps get a larger and longer deal next year, said that he wasn't worried about getting enough touches.

"I think you got enough skill on this team . . . why not utilize everybody," he said. "Like I said, it's something that myself and the team talked about, and I trust everything that they say."

Roseman wouldn't say if the Eagles made any promises to Maclin in terms of his prominence in the offense. Cooper conceded he would be the No. 3 receiver a day before Maclin re-upped. But with Avant expected to go and room for the passing offense to grow, there should be opportunities.

"I don't think you have to look further than when you look at the Denver Broncos," Roseman said, "and how many options they have in their passing game and how big of an advantage that is when you have guys all around the field."

The Eagles threw the ball 508 times last season - 27th in the league - and 92.5 percent of the completions were caught by six players (Jackson 82, LeSean McCoy 52, Cooper 47, Avant 38, Zach Ertz 36, and Brent Celek 32). .

The Broncos threw the ball 675 times, second-most in the NFL, and had five receivers with 60 or more catches in 2013.

Kelly's offense is different from Denver's, and Nick Foles isn't Peyton Manning. Aside from the schematic differences, the Eagles ran more and relied on balance. But there were times, especially in the second half of games in which the Eagles were ahead, when Kelly could have gone to the air more.

But someone's going to have to take a hit, especially if Maclin expands Avant's piece of the pie and Ertz progresses, as expected. Cooper and Celek would probably be the most obvious candidates to see a reduction. But you get the genuine feeling they won't care.

Kelly has gained the players' trust, he has proven that he knows how to get the ball into his best players' hands, and he has fostered an environment that seems to have the Eagles putting team goals first.

Most of the players are out of state and heading back to their homes this offseason. But a core group has stayed in Philadelphia and worked out together at the NovaCare Complex. After signing his contract, Kelce tweeted that he was about to lift with Cooper, Maclin, Celek, linebacker Connor Barwin, and guard Todd Herremans.

"I think the organization here has really done a big effort over the last two years," Kelce said, "to put people on this team, in this organization, that have genuine desire to improve and to get better."

Players stuck around when Reid was here, too. He built a team that trusted him, bought into his system, and took advantage of all the organization had to offer. But the Eagles lost their way after a series of failed quick-fix attempts.

Kelly has brought in an entirely new approach, but he's winning with Reid's players on offense.

He still has his work cut out on defense. The Eagles still have free agency and the draft to address that side of the ball.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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