Ranking the Eagles' offseason moves

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly put his stamp on this team by letting DeSean Jackson (left) walk and getting nothing in return.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly put his stamp on this team by letting DeSean Jackson (left) walk and getting nothing in return.
Posted: July 25, 2014

1 Releasing DeSean Jackson: You can dispute my ranking of this as the most important move, certainly. If the offense still works smoothly - I think it probably will - and if the Redskins don't win the NFC East - I think they probably won't - then this isn't the most important move of the offseason, from an on-field perspective. But in terms of headlines generated, and in defining what Chip Kelly expects, it certainly was. The Jackson release highlighted an offseason emphasis on players who put football and the team first. It illustrated how far Kelly will go to make this his team. "It was a decision we made after we sat down after the season and evaluated everything," Kelly said last month. "We did it at every position. Where do we see ourselves going, and how do we improve? I don't think it was a short-term thing. It was a well-thought-out thing. Everybody had a pretty good understanding. Everybody weighed in on it, and then we made a decision and moved forward."

2 New contracts for Jason Peters, Riley Cooper, Jason Kelce, Donnie Jones and Jeremy Maclin: The Eagles prioritized getting these deals done more than anything else they did during the free agency period. With Jackson gone, tucking Maclin back into the fold, for 2014, anyway, became extremely important. During the spring, Kelly recalled that before last year's training camp, looking at Maclin, he was "very excited about how he would fit into what we do." Then, of course, Maclin suffered a torn ACL on the first day of full-squad workouts. His rehab seems to have gone very smoothly. The last time Maclin played on a team with Pro Bowl-level quarterbacking and a solid offensive line was 2010. He caught a career-high 70 passes for 964 yards.

3 Signing of Malcolm Jenkins: I'm ranking Jenkins ahead of Darren Sproles among acquisitions because the role outlined for Jenkins seems really significant - he will be the leader of the back end of the defense. Kelly and other coaches have been effusive about his early grasp of the scheme. Plus, playing safety, he is expected to stabilize the team's most enduring weakness. The Eagles felt their biggest defensive problem last season was missed tackles at the safety position, mostly by the departed Patrick Chung. If Jenkins fixes that, they think the D will be a much better unit, especially on third down.

4 Trade for Darren Sproles: We don't know how his role will look, but we know that he was part of the offensive equation that made the Eagles comfortable with the idea of letting DeSean Jackson go for nothing. We also know Sproles took umbrage, when we all started talking about him primarily being a receiver at this point in his career; he wants to make it clear that he's still a viable running back. Except, Sproles hasn't run for as much as 250 yards in either of the last two seasons, and his receiving yardage in those seasons has roughly tripled his rushing total. So we'll see. It's unusual for a 31-year-old running back to be more than a role player. "We'll be different in how we use Darren from how we used Bryce [Brown] and Chris [Polk, last season]," Kelly said last month.

5 Drafting Jordan Matthews: Could have gone several ways in the fifth spot here. The backup quarterback switch from Michael Vick to, presumably, Matt Sanchez. The Bill Lazor-to-Bill-Musgrave change at QB coach. But I'm going with the second-round draft pick, because he had such an impressive spring, and because there definitely ought to be a solid role for him in the Jacksonless receiving corps. History says not to expect great production from rookie wide receivers. If Matthews is a reliable red-zone target, and catches, say, 45 passes overall, that's a pretty strong year. Haven't seen him in pads yet, but I really think the SEC's 6-3, 212-pound all-time leading receiver could do even better than that.

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