The Philadelphia Eagles entered this year's free agency period with a lot of cap space to work with and they certainly weren't shy to spend. The team signed five players on the open market. Two of those contracts were much bigger than the others: running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell signed to lucrative long-term deals. Philadelphia signed both of these players with the intent of them being key contributors in years to come.
But what if things don't go as planned? These players will need to perform well in order to justify their hefty contracts. The kind of risk involved here is exactly why ESPN's Mike Sando named Maxwell and Murray as two of the top 10 worst value contract signings this offseason. Via ESPN In$ider:
"2. Byron Maxwell, CB, Philadelphia Eagles - Maxwell signed a deal with $25 million fully guaranteed at signing even though he has played more than 13 games in a regular season just once since entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2011. Teammate Richard Sherman has a higher annual average, but his deal carried $12.4 million fully guaranteed (Sherman had time remaining on his deal, whereas Maxwell benefited from a wild cornerback market). How will Maxwell fare in a defense without the cast of playmakers he lined up with in Seattle?"
There's definitely concern about Maxwell playing away from the Seahawks. He won't have a play-making safety like Earl Thomas (have you ever heard of him?) covering his back. At the same time, Maxwell might not picked on as much as he was in Seattle. Teams would avoid throwing at Richard Sherman's side since he was the better corner. Maxwell might be targeted less considering he's now the top option in Philadelphia.
The structure of Maxwell's deal will keep him in Philadelphia for at least two years. He can be cut in 2017 for a cap savings of $8.1 million but with $3.6 million in dead money. The Eagles desperately needed not just one but two outside cornerbacks. Maxwell isn't not a risk, but he was probably one worth taking. His length makes him a perfect fit for what the Eagles value in their cornerbacks.
"6. DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles - In Dallas, Murray essentially had one highly productive season running behind arguably the NFL's best offensive line. He missed 11 games over the previous three seasons. Murray gets a $5 million signing bonus and another $13 million in fully guaranteed salary stretching into the third year of the deal."
I'd argue this contract is more concerning than Maxwell's deal. Murray is 27 and the shelf life for running backs is limited. He's coming off a huge workload in 2014 and already has an injury history. The Eagles can't cut him to gain any real savings until 2018.
With that said, the notion that Murray had only one highly productive season is silly. As Jimmy Kempski pointed out. Murray ran for 4.71 yards per carry in 2014 while he was 4.95 from 2011-2013. He's not a one-year wonder.
Interestingly enough, a few former Eagles appeared on Sando's list.
"7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills - McCoy's production fell off in Philadelphia last season as the Eagles' offensive line suffered injuries. His line won't be as good in Buffalo, and McCoy is nearing that age when running backs often begin to slip. That did not stop the Bills from giving him a deal with $15.75 guaranteed at signing and $2.625 million in annual proration."
"8. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs - Maclin's highly productive 2014 season with Philadelphia following a year-long recovery from a torn ACL helped him command a $12 million signing bonus with more than $10 million in fully guaranteed salaries over the first two years of the deal. Of course, coach Andy Reid's familiarity with Maclin was worth something to Kansas City. The Chiefs know exactly what they're getting, and as one salary-cap manager put it, "If you really want Maclin, you will give him that money to sign. That is life." Reid's presence makes adding Maclin a bit like keeping one of his own players, which is usually the goal for teams."