In the span of a week's time, the Eagles have, according to reports, cleared enough room within the salary cap to do whatever they desire when free agency begins on March 12. Just how much they want to do is a different story, and one we won't know until the process begins.
It has been an incredibly interesting month since the Eagles made Chip Kelly their new head coach. We heard snippets from Kelly for a few weeks about his reasons for taking the job and his football philosophies as he went through the process of filling his coaching staff and making some cap-related roster decisions.
In the last week, then, we're learning about the direction Kelly wants to take. He released offensive tackle Demetress Bell, a no-brainer of a move after his lousy 2012 season. Bell's release saved the Eagles a bundle under the cap, and absolutely nobody was surprised by the move.
Then Kelly introduced his coaching staff, which includes a healthy mix of NFL experience and collegiate success and we are off to the races trying to determine how the Eagles will conduct the offense and whether they will play a 4-3 or a 3-4 or, most likely, a little bit of both, on defense.
And then there was the bombshell on Monday: The Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick came to terms on a restructured contract, one that reportedly voids in March and is, in reality, a one-year contract that is incentive laden and, in the end, provides the Eagles a huge amount of salary-cap relief.
Now, according to the unofficial numbers crunching, the Eagles have in excess of $20 million under the projected salary cap. They have great flexibility to make personnel moves. There is no word on how active the Eagles want to be in free agency, but when you are a rebuilding team the idea is to get out of the hole as quickly as possible, and being locked in a bad salary-cap situation does not help the cause. The Eagles are fine there.
Signing Vick is a good deal for both sides. The Eagles are offering Vick no guarantees other than he has a chance to earn a starting job. Signing him to the new deal gives the team a lot of financial relief. Kelly is high on Vick's skills -- his mobility, his quick release, his strong arm and the pressure that Vick puts on a defense with his legs -- and understands that the poor play these last two seasons -- there were just too many turnovers and bad decisions -- have to be cleaned up in order for Vick to win the starting job at quarterback.
Along with keeping Vick, the Eagles have second-year man Nick Foles, who certainly doesn't have the quick feet or the mobility. Defenses aren't going to blink if Foles has a run/pass option on the edge. They're going to play the pass, and if Foles leaves the pocket with the ball in his hands, the defense is going to drill him.
But Foles has skills that were very evident in his rookie season. He's accurate throwing the football. He works the pocket well. He's smart and mature and is a natural leader. Kelly stresses being multiple in his offensive thinking, and Foles allows the Eagles to devise part of their scheme around the more traditional drop-back style of play at the quarterback position.
This much, I think, we know: Just because Vick signed a contract doesn't mean he's the starting quarterback. Kelly danced around that issue masterfully on Monday during his press conference. He basically committed to nothing and continued to repeat that all jobs are open, and that competition is the daily theme around here.
As for the coaching staff, the energy jumps out of the room with these guys. They want to work for Chip Kelly and they want to create something special here. It may not be conventional in every sense of the word, but the goal is to do what's best for the football team and win games and make the Eagles great. I know that Pat Shurmur's offensive expertise ranges far beyond the West Coast scheme he coached in with Andy Reid for 10 seasons here. I know that Bill Davis has all kinds of experience in every defensive alignment in which he's coached for more than 20 seasons. I know that Dave Fipp's Miami Dolphins special teams were outstanding in the two seasons he was there, and that he has work to do here to make the Eagles more explosive in the return game.
I know that anything is likely to happen with Kelly. He doesn't contain his thinking in the NFL box. The respect for what has been in place in the league is certainly there, but Kelly is going to push the envelope and see what works. What doesn't work, he's not going to do again.
We've only just started the fun. There are going to be plenty of twists and turns along the way. On this day, a very busy Monday, the Eagles cleared cap space, kept a talented player who wanted to remain with the organization that gave him a second lease on his NFL life and introduced a hungry group of coaches who are in Philadelphia with new ideas and a fresh outlook on the game.
Good stuff. Can't wait to see what the rest of the week brings, with the NFL Scouting Combine and free agency just around the corner ...