The Eagles had a game plan and they went out and made things happen. They cleared salary-cap space, addressed key positions and improved their draft positioning. They dealt players who no longer fit into their plans and brought in a handful who could have significant roles. On Wednesday's Day 1 of the 2016 NFL free-agency period, the Eagles had a lot to say.
In the spirit of narrowing it all down and making sense of a flurry of moves, here is the list of what the Eagles have *officially *done to date (some of the reported "agreed-to-terms deals" have not yet been officially announced by the team) and what the moves potentially mean in 2016 and beyond …
Eagles Trade CB Maxwell, LB Alonso To Miami
A year ago the Eagles announced the acquisition of linebacker Kiko Alonso in a trade that sent all-time franchise-leading running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and the team also announced the signing of cornerback Byron Maxwell in free agency.
Now both players are gone, remarkably.
Maxwell had an underwhelming 2015 season during which he showed very little of the tenacity and cover stickiness the Eagles expected after seeing Maxwell perform in the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Maxwell never looked like he wanted much to do with any kind of physical contact, nor did he prove to be a lockdown cornerback in coverage.
Alonso had a spectacular interception in the opening game at Atlanta and then was a massive disappointment the rest of the season as he tried to recover from the knee injury that wiped out his 2014 season in Buffalo.
The Eagles pulled off a terrific deal here, clearing significant salary-cap space – reportedly saving $4.9 million in 2016 by dealing Maxwell and clearing the rest of his contract off the books for future seasons, while Alonso's salary of $991,418 is cleared as well – and they received some compensation in the process, swapping picks with Miami in the first round of April's draft. The Eagles will now pick 8th in round one, while Miami picks 13th overall.
Eagles Trade RB Murray To Tennessee
For whatever reason, running back DeMarco Murray just never seemed to want to be an Eagle. The team signed him during free agency last season and he proceeded to have a rough season, gaining just 702 rushing yards after signing a reported five-year, $40-million contract. He was coming off a great season in Dallas in which he led the NFL in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage and the Eagles thought he would be a key part of a three-headed rushing attack.
Murray was outwardly sullen for much of the season. His play was uneven as the offense struggled to get anything going on the ground. Playing in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense that featured quarterback Sam Bradford in the shotgun, Murray was grounded before he started.
The Eagles dealt Murray to Tennessee and cleared more space for the team to use this year, as well as clearing a reported $9 million in guaranteed money off the books.
It's clear that head coach Doug Pederson wants players who want to be Eagles, and Murray didn't fit into that category. It's a strong deal for the Eagles in a lot of ways – locker-room chemistry, skill-set fit in the backfield and the ramifications to the salary cap.
Additionally, the Eagles and Tennessee swap picks in April's fourth round of the NFL draft. The Eagles jump up 13 places in the round. They now have the second pick in the fourth round – Day 3 of the draft – No. 96 overall.
Eagles Agree To Terms With OG Brandon Brooks
Interesting little nugget here: Brandon Brooks was drafted in 2012 with the 76th overall selection, a pick Houston acquired from Philadelphia in a trade that brought linebacker DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles. Brooks went on to start 44 of 50 games in the four years of play since, and he was the full-time starter at right guard the last three seasons.
What does it mean for the Eagles? It means that Brooks comes in and right away is penciled as the starting right guard, should the Eagles choose to play him on that side (Brooks started for a season at Miami of Ohio in college at left guard and had one start at left guard for the Texans in his time in Houston). Either way, Brooks fills a huge need for the interior of the offensive line. He's a big guy at 6 feet 5, 335 pounds and he's an immediate upgrade for a team that clearly made improving the offensive line a top priority in the offseason.
The Eagles are likely to play some power football in Doug Pederson's offense and Brooks has size and push to fit the profile of what the team wants in its offensive line. He was widely coveted and the Eagles won out with a five-year contract.
Eagles Agree To Terms With S Rodney McLeod
Rodney McLeod started for the St. Louis Rams the last three seasons and is known as a physical safety with cover skills. At 5 feet 10, 195 pounds, McLeod has good size and he's shown to be durable with 48 straight starts in the last three seasons.
He's going to have a chance to team with Malcolm Jenkins and do the things that coordinator Jim Schwartz wants in this defense: The safeties are going to have to show that they have the ability to cover in the passing game as well as support the running game with sure, sound and physical tackling.
McLeod was a bit of an under-the-radar name, but he was wanted as a free agent. The Eagles feel like they've upgraded here with his athletic skills and his physical play.
Eagles Agree To Terms With CB Ron Brooks
One day after signing cornerback Leodis McKelvin -- who is healthy and who has a chance to earn significant playing time in 2016 -- the Eagles added another former Buffalo Bills cornerback, Ron Brooks. A fourth-round draft pick from LSU in 2012, Brooks has been a backup in Buffalo and is here to add depth to the cornerback room.
The only certainty at cornerback is that second-year man Eric Rowe will stay at the position – some have wondered if he would move to safety, where he played for three seasons in college – and that Rowe will likely be penciled in as a starter entering the spring camps. Schwartz isn't handing out any starting jobs, however, and he's added competition to cornerback with the additions of McKelvin and Brooks. The Eagles have more versatility here than they did last year, when they had to use Chris Maragos and Ed Reynolds in the dime at safety positions and use Jenkins as a slot cornerback.
The hope is that by adding McKelvin and Brooks, to go along with Rowe, Jaylen Watkins, JaCorey Shepherd and some other young players, the Eagles can keep their cornerbacks in coverage and keep Jenkins at safety. It makes a difference. The Eagles really didn't get much from the safety positions when they used Jenkins as a nickel or dime cover corner last season.
It was a solid first day for the Eagles. They clearly had a blueprint and then went out and executed the plan, addressed some needs, cleaned up a salary cap that was muddled with a free-agency flurry in 2015 and also gained with their draft postioning for next month.
More is coming. The roster is fluid. The work is far from done.