Chip Kelly apparently has found two colossal pieces for his aggressive, on-the-fly alterations of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster. According to multiple reports, Philadelphia is prepared to sign both cornerback Byron Maxwell and running back Frank Gore once free agency officially opens on March 10.
(Maxwell's agent, Alvin Keels, tweeted Sunday that there was not yet any official deal between his client and the Eagles—likely because Maxwell is not allowed to sign until Tuesday.)
As first reported by Jayson Braddock, Maxwell's six-year deal is expected to include $25 million in guarantees and an average yearly salary in excess of $10 million. The latter number would catapult Maxwell into the top 10 highest-paid players at his position.
Gore's contract will carry far less of a financial hit ($7.5 million in guaranteed money over two seasons, per Philly.com), but the move itself may garner just as many headlines as Maxwell's leap from Seattle to Philadelphia. The 31-year-old Gore, a potential Hall of Fame candidate once his career ends, amassed more than 11,000 yards rushing during his 10 seasons with the 49ers.
McCoy, 26, has since agreed to a five-year contract worth $40 million total and $26.5 million in guarantees. Those numbers alone stand to elevate Gore's value, if he fits in well with Kelly's spread offense. Even now, Gore remains one of the league's most reliable downhill runners, plus he's a valuable weapon on passing downs as both a receiver and pass-protector.
Conversely, in addition to being five years older than McCoy, Gore hasn't carried the ball 300 times in a season since 2006; McCoy averaged 313 rushing attempts, and 353 total touches, during his two years under Kelly's watch.
Maxwell has smaller shoes to fill, even if his whopping contract will elevate expectations upon his arrival. Believed by most to be the top available free-agent cornerback, Maxwell, on paper, should upgrade the Eagles' secondary a great deal over the Cary Williams/Bradley Fletcher cornerback combo from 2014. Both Fletcher and Williams are free agents, Williams having been released earlier this month.
The 6-foot-1 Maxwell lined up opposite Richard Sherman in Seattle's secondary last season, thus receiving plenty of attention from opposing quarterbacks. He played well enough to price himself out of the Seahawks' comfort zone.
"Byron is one of ours," Seattle GM John Schneider said at last month's scouting combine. "It’s just it would be hard to see him leave but I would think his market will be very strong."
It was, but Philadelphia managed to get the jump on a number of teams believed to be interested in Maxwell. The amount of money Kelly dropped on the table ended the race in a hurry.
Grade for Gore signing: B+
Gore has been an exception to the rule that NFL running backs have a short shelf life. While San Francisco underutilized him at times, Gore has not missed a game in four years and has carried the ball at least 255 times every season during that stretch.
The salary cap savings Gore provides Philadelphia over McCoy is a boost, but it's also rather obvious that Kelly has a specific type of back in mind for his offense. Gore is a handful between the tackles, can be trusted in the red zone and has averaged 8.4 yards per reception for his career.
He'll be 32 come May, so there is some reason for pause. Otherwise, the Eagles should be mighty satisfied with turning their run game over to such a steady veteran.
Grade for Maxwell signing: B
Was there a better cornerback out there for the taking? Nope. Does that mean Maxwell is worth $10-plus million per year and $25 million guaranteed? We'll see.
For as impressive as he was in Seattle, Maxwell has just one season as a full-time starter (and fewer than 2,000 career snaps) under his belt. His talent should make for a rather smooth team-to-team transition, but the jury will be out for some time on what level of dominance Maxwell can provide sans Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and the rest of the Seahawk defense having his back.
Philadelphia absolutely had to swing for the fences in the secondary this offseason. With Brandon Flowers and Kareem Jackson re-signing with their respective teams and the 2015 draft class looking light on lockdown cornerbacks, the options were limited.
So credit to Kelly for setting his sights on Maxwell and following through with an overwhelming offer. Now, Maxwell has to show he was worth it.