Price to move up in draft too steep for Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly said he never got close to buying his dream home, but if he drove all the way from the No. 20 neighborhood to the No. 2 neighborhood, then why get in the car in the first place?

The Eagles coach wanted Marcus Mariota desperately; that is not in dispute. Kelly said he never got very far in discussions with the Titans for the former Oregon quarterback. But various reports had him offering a package of picks and players that would have been the definition of mortgaging the future.

But Kelly, who ultimately selected Southern Cal wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round of the NFL draft, said that the Titans' initial asking price was too rich for the Eagles' blood. The same could be said for the Buccaneers, who took Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first pick.

"We had a conversation with both teams in the front, but it was way too steep for us," Kelly said Thursday night at the NovaCare Complex. "It didn't get very serious."

One report from the NFL Network had Kelly offering two first-round picks - presumably the No. 20 pick this year and next year's selection - a third-rounder, defensive end Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, cornerback Brandon Boykin, and possibly more to the Titans. He also reportedly dangled quarterback Sam Bradford in another package.

Another report from Fox Sports had the Eagles offering "two first-rounders, a quarterback, and another player" to the Buccaneers to leapfrog the determined Titans and land Mariota.

Poll

Thumbs up or down on the Eagles’ selection of Nelson Agholor?

Kelly called the reports "false."

"We didn't offer any players. We didn't get into any discussions," Kelly said. "It was just really a steep price. It's like driving into a nice neighborhood and looking at a house and saying, 'That's really nice,' and they tell you the price and you turn around and go the other way. So we didn't walk in the front door and take a look around.

"Part of our plan as we've said all along is that we're going to build this team and we still think there's a lot of value in this draft and future drafts. We want to try to hold on to our picks if we can."

Kelly said in March that he would never "mortgage the future" to move up that far, but his definition was never known, and the fact that he even made calls showed at the least that it was something he had entertained.

But it is likely he was more than willing to give up what was reported. And who could blame him? Mariota would have been the ideal quarterback for his system. He was in college. Why not here? But the Titans ultimately couldn't pass on a prospect with that kind of talent despite the projection it will take to see him become an elite thrower in a pro style offense.

"I think they made the right maneuver," Kelly said of the Titans. "If I was in the same position I would have done the same thing."

Kelly wasn't and now he's back to Plan B. It's hard not to think that he outsmarted himself this offseason. He made a bold move to trade for Bradford by shipping Nick Foles and a second-round pick to the Rams. He beat the Browns out for Bradford and even boasted that he had a first round offer the day after the deal.

But he couldn't swing a deal with the Browns for Bradford that would have given him another first-round pick and aided his Mariota cause. Bradford's camp had made it clear through an ESPN report that he wouldn't negotiate a contract extension with a team other than the Eagles.

So Kelly was left with just two first-rounders to offer and a slew of players who may or may not have been a match. He'll deny the players were in the package, but what else could he have said? Kendricks and Boykin may be gone before the end of the draft, but Bradford is now definitely his quarterback and Cox isn't going anywhere, either.

"Do I feel like I have to have a conversation with him? No," Kelly said when asked if he needed to assuage Bradford after the rumors. "I talked to him tonight about taking a wide receiver. He seemed pretty fired up about that."

Kelly confirmed that the Eagles have been in discussions with Bradford about an extension, although he wouldn't say how close they are to an agreement. If the Eagles were always serious about keeping Bradford, a deal would have likely been done before the draft.

But Kelly had to keep his options open, of course. Bradford probably knew he was the second- best house in the neighborhood. He's a bit of a fixer- upper. But it's unlikely he enjoyed the last few weeks of speculation.

Kelly should be able to get Bradford's head right, just after Bradford gets his knee to 100 percent. But the coach's master offseason plan lost some shine when he couldn't purchase the mansion on the hill.

The drive home must have been tough.

 


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane