Kelly says Eagles aren’t trading up for Mariota
Once he broke his silence, Chip Kelly couldn’t stop talking.
Kelly shot down months of speculation about the Philadelphia Eagles trading up to draft Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota; endorsed Sam Bradford as his starting quarterback; and denied a power struggle with former general manager Howie Roseman that ended with him taking control of personnel decisions.
“I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft,” Kelly said Wednesday about his former Oregon QB. “We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to go get somebody like that because we have too many other holes that we’re going to take care of.”
Of course, Kelly could be bluffing. NFL coaches don’t disclose draft strategy. Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan famously called Keith Byars “a medical reject” before selecting him in the first round in 1986.
But the addition of Bradford and the team re-signing Mark Sanchez means Philadelphia has invested nearly $17 million in two quarterbacks for 2015. Bradford was acquired from St. Louis on Tuesday for Nick Foles and a pair of draft picks. Kelly said the former No. 1 overall pick isn’t trade bait and he already turned down a first-round pick for him.
“We didn’t bring Sam here to be a (trade) chip,” Kelly said. “I’m the only Chip here.”
Kelly hadn’t talked to reporters since the day after the Eagles finished the regular season.
It’s been quite a hectic offseason.
First, Kelly assumed control of personnel moves when Roseman was elevated to executive vice president of football operations in a major front-office shakeup. That followed the dismissal of vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble. Kelly insisted owner Jeffrey Lurie made the decision to put him in charge.
“I get along great with Howie,” Kelly said. “The only difference is I have final say.”
Kelly pinned the last two drafts on Roseman, including the baffling decision to select linebacker Marcus Smith in the first round last year. Smith hardly played as a rookie.
Last week, Kelly began overhauling a roster that went 10-6 his first two seasons. He traded two-time All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy last week and released several starters. He also let Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin leave for Kansas City in free agency.
The Eagles have bolstered their defense by acquiring linebacker Kiko Alonso in the trade that sent McCoy to Buffalo, and by signing cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III. They also re-signed linebacker Brandon Graham.
They replaced McCoy by agreeing on a three-year contract with Ryan Mathews, according to two people familiar with the move. Both sources spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is pending Mathews having a physical.
Kelly’s appearance was unscheduled on a day the Eagles were set to introduce Bradford along with Byron Maxwell.
As for Bradford’s surgically repaired knees, Kelly isn’t concerned. Bradford hasn’t played since 2013 and has twice had surgery to repair his left ACL.
“We’ve done our due diligence so we feel very confident as to where Sam is,” Kelly said. “I think he’s got an outstanding skill set. He’s a big, strong, physical quarterback. He’s smart, intelligent. He’s one of the most accurate throwers when you see him throw the football. He’s wired right.”
And if you believe Kelly, Bradford — not Mariota — will be the starter in Philadelphia.
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