Bills, Eagles: make splash with Alonso-McCoy swap
It’s rare two big names get traded for each other in the NFL, but that is what just happened in the NFL this evening. The Eagles traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso.
In 2013 as a rookie, Alonso made a great first impression as a coverage linebacker. He had four interceptions early in the year, and allowed just 6.6 yards per catch. He missed all of 2014 due to injury. This past few years the Eagles used DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks as their two inside linebackers. Although Kendricks missed a few games in the middle of the season, he had a breakout year grading out a +19.1. This very well could lead to the release of DeMeco Ryans. Ryans played decently well in 2014, but now he may no longer have a place on the defense. Releasing him would free up $6.9 in cap space with no cap hit. We could see Alonso and Kendricks together in Philadelphia for the next several years.
It is unlikely that McCoy’s replacement is currently on the Eagles’ roster. The running back with the second most snaps was Darren Sproles, but he will be 32 by the time the season starts so it’s unlikely he can be efficient with a significant role increase. Chris Polk also received 97 snaps, but failed to make a case to be a starter.
Earlier in the day it was announced Trent Cole would be released, and he had the second largest cap hit on the team. Trading LeSean McCoy eliminates the player who had the biggest cap hit, and the potential release of DeMeco Ryans gives them even more cap room. This would allow the Eagles to make a run at multiple high-tier free agents to find a new running back as well as new players on defense.
For the Bills there was a need at running back. Fred Jackson has continued to play well even though he was 33 last season, but at age 34 it is inevitable his play will decline soon. With C.J. Spiller as a free agent, the Bills needed a back. In 2013 LeSean McCoy had a great year behind a great run blocking line. In 2014 he failed to be as effective with just 2.1 yards after contact per carry. Matching him up with coach Rex Ryan will lead to an interesting 2015 season. It would make sense to see McCoy playing in running situations, and Fred Jackson playing on passing downs.
Part of what made Alonso expendable is the play of their linebackers in 2014. The young duo of Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown played admirably. There have been rumors of a reunion of David Harris and Rex Ryan, and now those rumors make more sense. They could have certainly found a use for Alonso, but it wasn’t a luxury the Bills defense needed.