The Philadelphia Eagles Front Office has been very busy this off-season. They have hired a new head coach, found a new Vice President of Player Personnel, and are now on the road to turning over probably at least one-third of the roster.
Between all these moves however, how much better has the team gotten, and how much closer to a Super Bowl are they?
The unfortunate answer is not very.
I recently saw someone give this Front Office an "A+" for the release of Nnamdi Asomugha. I find this odd because they are currently paying him at least 4 million dollars to not play for them, and on top of that, they could not even get a meager 7th round draft pick from any team in the league in return. This is not an A+ move by any standard, but more like a desperation move made by a poorly run team that had no other options.
If they had kept Nnamdi, even if he had restructured his deal they would have been paying an old 32 year old player at least 7-8 million a year who now struggles with tackling, covering, and pretty much everything involved with playing football. To keep him would be a poor move, but getting rid of him for nothing, while having to even pay him 4 million to do so, is just as bad, if not possibly even worse. The 4 million Nnamdi is being paid to go away is equivalent to at least 5 normally priced players making the NFL minimum. In essence, they are paying the salary of 5 players just to make a guy go away, who they overpaid for massively and who ultimately failed completely. This was not a move that would garner an A+ from any rational football mind, and it does not garner that from me. Keeping Nnamdi would get them a D, and releasing him under these poor circumstances gets them a solid D+.
Moving onto Free Agency, the team just signed more players then anyone on the first day of Free Agency with five signings. They then upped that tally to eight by day three and even trading for an additional player, making nine acquisitions in some 70 hours of free agency.
This does not sound like some kind of new strategy where they are building through the draft, but more like the front office they have always been under Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman, always trying to make a "splash" and try to seem relevant in some way.
Unfortunately for them, many of these moves will probably not make much of an impact. For instance the signing of corner back Bradley Fletcher, as well as many of these other signings was praised as a decent move by some. When looking at Bradley Fletcher quickly, you do like what you see. A bigger Corner at 6 feet tall and close to 200 pounds, a former 3rd round pick who also runs a 4.4 40 yard dash.
Unfortunately however, when one looks closely at his record you will find he has torn the ACL in his right knee twice in three years already, thus only starting 27 games out of 64 since he has been in the league. Once you factor that in, the odds that he will be able to play a significant amount of time is very, very unlikely. According to his history he will likely re-injure his ACL or suffer some other injury within one year or less. Similarly, a move like this is not one of an exceptional front office but rather a mediocre one that is trying to sign someone, anyone, that might help them in their woefully weak areas of talent assessment. For that reason this move would receive a C+, and nothing more, as he will probably never make a lasting impact on this team.
Going down this list of signings and acquisitions the red flags are almost all there. Safety Kenny Phillips suffered an ACL injury himself and has missed significant time as well. He even had micro-fracture surgery which is a last ditch effort to try to generate cartilage in a knee that has none. He even played 1 season after that drastic surgery , but at this point how much does he have left ? It is unlikely Kenny Phillips starts anything more then 20 games for this team, thus rendering this another C move.
Even one of the higher profile signings they made of Conner Barwin, does not come without baggage. He is a former 2nd round pick that had only 18.5 sacks in four seasons. He missed almost an entire season with a broken ankle as well, and averages about as many sacks per season as the great Mike Mamula. Conner Barwin however will at least help the team in an area of need, giving this move a decent, but not fantastic, B+.
It is not all bad however as they did sign starting cornerback and Super Bowl winner Cary Williams to a 3 year 17 million dollar deal. I would give this move an A- as he is a solid player without significant injuries who also comes from a winning organization.
Making a trade for another ACL injured 2nd round bust Aurelius Benn however is another C- move that may or may not amount to anything. (They traded a late 6th round pick to Tampa Bay for him.)
More C+ to B- signings include the often injured Safety Patrick Chung from New England, and special-teamer linebacker Jason Phillips.
The club does however get an A- for signing solid back-up Nose Tackle Isaac Sopoaga from San Francisco.
Additionally James Casey would merit a B+ as he should thrive in this offense of Chip Kelly's, but is also an undersized Fullback/Tight End hybrid that would not make much of a contribution on most other teams in the league.
This is not even mentioning to be what I believe is a mistake in hiring head coach Chip Kelly himself. There are many, many reasons why Chip Kelly will fail to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia and only one or two that may point to the opposite. Of all college coaches coming into the NFL with no experience (such as Chip Kelly has) the success rate on a Super Bowl's is down near 5%, or, almost zero. The only coach to ever succeed in that regard was Jimmy Johnson, while highly touted guys such as Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Steve Spurrier and others all had similar impressive college records but failed to even reach much more then.500 at the NFL level.
Furthermore many of these college coaches came in expecting to run what they ran in college, and upon finding a struggle against bigger, tougher, stronger, and faster NFL defenses they would generally insist on doing things thier own way, instead of trying something new, thus increasing thier frustration and quickening their exit back to the college ranks where they could pad their stats against weaker, inferior opponents as compared to the NFL.
The NFL is no cakewalk, no matter how many wins a guy has in college, no matter how many bowl games he won, it ultimately means nothing in the NFL. For these reasons this Eagles Front Office has had a very mediocre off-season signing a coach with 0 NFL experience and now following that up with the signing of many injured and questionable players who may or may not contribute at all.
One good thing I can say is the hiring of Vice President of Player Personnel Tom Gamble from San Fransisco was a nice move, however it was to replace the departed Ryan Grigson of which they had no one in the VP position for the 2012 season. Furthermore, they had some of their worst drafts in many years with Ryan Grigson in the same position in 2010 and 2011, so the addition of Gamble may only have minimal impact with an inexperienced General Manager in Howie Roseman still in charge.
Overall, this team has made some changes this off-season, but many of the changes have not actually gotten the team any closer to being a well run championship team that will actually win a Super Bowl. Most of these moves have been NFL-average moves, no better then an average NFL team struggling to compete, and certainly no better then the smart well run teams that win championships in this league. I sincerely hope Chip Kelly proves me wrong and wins a Superbowl in Philadelphia, but it is entirely unlikely, and much more likely that he goes back to college within 5 years or less, with the Eagles still being without a single Super Bowl championship.