Eagles face several questions after abrupt finish
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Eagles cleaned out their lockers, packed their bags and headed home after becoming only the third team since 1990 to miss the playoffs following a 9-3 start.
While 12 NFL teams get set for a run at the Super Bowl, the Eagles (10-6) are among those preparing for a long offseason. It was a disappointing finish for a team that expected to contend after winning the NFC East title in Kelly's first season.
So, now what?
Chip Kelly isn't going anywhere and he plans to retain his coaches. Nick Foles isn't guaranteed the starting job at quarterback. LeSean McCoy could be trade bait. Jeremy Maclin will become a free agent.
And the defense needs work. Plenty of it.
''Our goal is to win this thing and to do that, you have to look at everything, no matter what it is,'' Kelly said. ''You don't know what presents itself, so you have to take a look at everything and say, `Hey, what do we think?' When the chance or an opportunity comes, you have no idea what you're going to get, but (you say), `Can this help make us a better organization?' We have to make decisions based on that.''
Here's some things to look for in Philadelphia's offseason:
FRANCHISE QUARTERBACK: Neither Kelly nor owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Foles a strong endorsement for 2015. Foles regressed statistically after his breakout year in 2013. He was turnover-prone, but led the Eagles to a 5-2 record in games he started and finished. Mark Sanchez revived his career in Philadelphia, set a franchise-record with a 64.1 completion rate, but also made too many turnovers. Foles has one year left on his rookie contract, so should be back. Sanchez will be a free agent who should get offers to compete for a starting job somewhere.
''I expect to be the quarterback,'' Foles said.
FREE AGENCY: Re-signing Maclin after his best season one year removed from ACL surgery is a priority. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, safety Nate Allen, linebackers Brandon Graham and Casey Matthews and wide receiver Brad Smith also will be unrestricted free agents. Defensive end Cedric Thornton and running back Chris Polk will be restricted. Fletcher struggled and ended the season benched. He isn't expected to return. Everyone else is in the mix.
CAP SPACE: The Eagles will carry over nearly $16 million in cap space from last year so they'll have room to pursue free agents, keep players they want and extend a few contracts. McCoy, who is heading to his third Pro Bowl, counts for almost $12 million on the cap in 2015. Kelly wants him back, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he was asked to restructure his deal. Linebacker Trent Cole's cap number is $11.6 million, so the 32-year-old former Pro Bowler will have to take a pay cut to stay here. Same for cornerback Cary Williams, who counts for $8.2 million against the cap. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans ($6.9 million) is coming off surgery for an Achilles, but Kelly made it clear he's important to the defense and the team.
KELLY VS. ROSEMAN: Kelly's one-word response ''good'' when asked about his working relationship with GM Howie Roseman suggested perhaps there's friction between the two men. Kelly praised Roseman for his work on contracts and the salary cap, but also made it clear he has final say on roster decisions and personnel. Roseman, however, takes pride in making football decisions and his 2012 draft suggests he knows what he's doing. Kelly lauded Tom Gamble, the vice president of player personnel as a ''heck of a football guy'' and said he'd support him if he got the opportunity to be a GM for another team. Stay tuned.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The front seven made progress in the second year under defensive coordinator Billy Davis. But the secondary allowed more big plays than any in the league and needs revamping. The Eagles could change three-fourths of the starting unit, bringing back only safety Malcolm Jenkins. Davis' job is safe, even though he came under scrutiny for allowing Fletcher to cover top receivers such as Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson one-on-one with the season on the line.
''I thought our transition from coming in here and playing a Wide-9, 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense over last two years, I think Billy has done a really good job,'' Kelly said.
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