By Ray Boyd
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles have been anything but quiet over the last few days. With free agency officially set to begin on Tuesday, the Eagles have already made a number of headlines.
On the eve of NFL Free Agency, CBS 3 Sports Director Beasley Reece sat down with CBSPhilly.com to share his thoughts on the drastic changes taking place with the Eagles.
The Eagles have made a lot of news regarding the names that are leaving the team, but on Monday afternoon they made an announcement about a player who would be staying. The Eagles agreed to a 4-year contract with Brandon Graham. The commitment means it is finally time for Graham to prove himself.
“He proved that he could make the switch from a down lineman to a stand-up linebacker,” Reece said. “He showed a lot of advancement and promise. He’s a big guy, bigger than most linebackers.”
Reece added that Graham finished the 2014 season in strong fashion and called the resigning a “good short-term move.”
Although Reece admitted that the move makes sense, he understands that Graham still has limitations.
“He’s still not the prototypical zone cover and run defense linebacker.”
The Eagles also made quite the stir on Tuesday night when reports came in that the team was sending Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Reece took a second to fill in Eagles fans who may not be familiar with what they’re getting in Alonso.
“He’s a prototypical linebacker,” Reece said of Alonso. “Strong, great instincts, I mean he was a beast before he got hurt.”
Alonso missed the entire 2014 season following an ACL tear, but put up amazing numbers as a rookie in 2014 and is still only 24-years-old meaning he can be around on this defense for a long time.
Reece mentioned that the injury does not worry him all too much.
“The ACL is not the problem that it was when I tore my ACL,” Reece explained. “I had one of the first arthroscopic surgeries and came back the next year almost as fast as I was.”
Reece added that players today return to form even faster due to the advances in sports medicine.
Pure instincts at the linebacker position is something that Reece seems excited to see Alonso bring to the Eagles.
“It’s something that we’ve missed around here. This guy’s a great addition and they’re fixing the defense.”
The other big name that will be joining that side of the ball is Byron Maxwell who will reportedly sign with the Eagles when free agency begins on Tuesday.
“Maxwell is the lead story,” Reece said. He even said something that should put Eagles fans at ease if they are worried about Maxwell’s potential.
“This is not Nnamdi Asomugha who played great and then came here and got exposed,” Reece said. “They have film of [Maxwell] being thrown at and challenged because nobody wanted to challenge the people on the other side of the defense or the people in the middle.”
Due to the reputation of the rest of the Seattle secondary, Maxwell was targeted at an extremely high rate, but only allowed an 81.1 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. He finished the season with two interceptions and 12 passed defensed.
Reece characterized the reported Maxwell addition as a “major upgrade,” for the Eagles’ secondary.
All of these moves are a testament to how drastic Kelly is being with changing the team. Reece understands some reluctance from the fans, but he believes Kelly is doing what he needs to do with the franchise.
Reece explained that Kelly “gently transitioned,” the roster in his first two seasons in Philadelphia resulting in back-to-back 10-6 seasons and one playoff appearance.
“It takes drastic moves to make drastic changes,” Reece said. “I think he believes that now is the time to strike. He’ll bring in new corners. He’ll look for a safety. He’ll look for a quarterback even and make moves to get the kind of guy he wants to play quarterback.”
Reece used a rather interesting analogy to explain why he believes Kelly will eventually have a more mobile quarterback running his offense in Philadelphia.
“If you got a buddy who dated brunettes in high school, his college sweetheart was a brunette…if you see him with a blonde, it’s just a date or it’s a blind date. He’s going to end up with the kind of person he’s comfortable with.”
In case you were wondering, Nick Foles is the blonde in that analogy.
Who is the brunette soul mate you ask? Marcus Mariota perhaps?
“I think things are pointing in that direction,” Reece said of the Eagles making a move to try to acquire Kelly’s former Oregon quarterback.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a deal for Nick Foles to one of those top teams like the Jets. I think [Kelly’s] putting himself in position where he can get close.”
Reece added that the reported Jeremy Maclin move to Kansas City did not come as a surprise to him. Maclin’s season was one that was going to position him to take advantage of the market and he did so.
Reece explained that he believes Kelly is so confident in his system that he was not going to overpay to retain Maclin. He added that DeSean Jackson and Maclin both had career years under Kelly and that the coach believes he can fit guys into the system and get similar production.
The reviews from the fans seemed mixed on what Kelly is doing with the Eagles and some experts are calling into question whether or not he knows what he is doing at this level. However, Reece believes he is doing what he needs to do to put this team in position to win and believes other teams are taking notice.
“I believe that Chip is changing the NFL,” Reece said. “Teams around the league are doing things the way he does things. They’re trying to run more plays and trying to signal better from the sidelines.
“Chip came in and shocked everyone the first year with the speed and the number of plays.” Reece explained that it was no coincidence that other NFL teams began to speed up their play as well in 2014.
Reece added that in three to four years, the entire NFL will have matched Kelly’s style if they want to and will be “better at being Chip than Chip.”
“The league will catch up to him by next season, so he needs his people. He needs his people in place right now.”