PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles had to be very determined to trade DeMarco Murray. They were able to send the disgruntled running back to the Tennessee Titans, and were also able to free themselves of his contract and his miserable presence in their locker room.
The trade, first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, won’t be finalized until Wednesday, the opening of the NFL’s new league year. But it almost doesn’t matter what the Eagles get in return from the Titans. Removing Murray was enough to make this a one-sided trade in the Eagles’ favor.
The idea that the Eagles are removing every trace of fired coach Chip Kelly is accurate, but it's not the whole story. Yes, Kelly signed Murray to that five-year, $40 million contract last March, but it would be a misrepresentation to say that Murray was a “Chip Kelly” guy.
The truth is that Murray was unhappy playing for Kelly almost from the very beginning. Murray seemed out of place in the locker room and in the offense during training camp -- even if the Eagles attempted to ease him back after his workhorse 2014 season with the Dallas Cowboys.
But things became worse once the season started. Murray rushed for 11 yards on 21 carries in the first two games combined. He missed a following game with a hamstring injury. By early December, Murray was out of the starting lineup. He carried the ball a total of 38 times as a backup in the Eagles’ final six games.
Kelly’s firing seemed to indicate an opportunity for a fresh start. So did the $13 million salary-cap hit the Eagles would have taken if Murray was released or traded. It appeared as if the two sides would have to try to get along for the 2016 season.
New head coach Doug Pederson seemed like a good candidate to repair the damage. As the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator, Pederson was able to keep Jamaal Charles happy and productive. When Charles suffered an ACL tear last season, the Chiefs’ running game remained effective. Backups Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware combined to rush for 1,037 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015.
Despite the chance for a new beginning in a new offense, there were rumblings that Murray was still dispirited. NFL Network reported that the Eagles were open to trading him. Still, that salary-cap hit made it seem very likely that Murray would be back.
Now we know the Eagles were as eager as Murray to end the relationship. That’s understandable. His unhappy presence was an issue last season. After the Eagles’ biggest win of the season -- a 35-28 upset of the Patriots in New England -- word got out that Murray had spent the flight home from Massachusetts talking with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie.
The Eagles had to deal with that distraction as they prepared for the Buffalo Bills and LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia's all-time rushing leader. Kelly had traded McCoy, creating the opening that Murray and Ryan Mathews filled in free agency.
By Sunday, it was a coin flip which running back liked Kelly less -- McCoy or Murray.
The damage was done. While it might have appealed to the Eagles to coax a great season out of Murray after Kelly failed to do so, the better move was to cut the cord. The Eagles worked out a renegotiation of Murray’s contract to lessen the salary-cap penalty and traded him.
There’s no coincidence here. The Eagles traded away Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso on Monday. Those are three players Kelly acquired in an equally frenetic couple of days last March. The Eagles clearly want to erase as many of Kelly’s moves as they can.
There are exceptions, however. They did sign quarterback Sam Bradford, another Kelly acquisition, to a new two-year contract last week. Having an association to Kelly isn’t the be-all, end-all here.
But a link to Kelly doesn’t help if you aren’t a good player. Murray gained 702 yards all season. Maxwell was nowhere near being a $63 million cornerback. Alonso played poorly after missing the 2014 season with a torn ACL.
Kelly's remnants are scattering around the NFL now. It will be as if they were never Eagles at all. And that seems to be the whole point.