Maybe the only thing to do is shrug, conclude that both teams are happy with what they got, and move on.
But there stood Byron Maxwell, followed closely by Kiko Alonso, in the interview tent Monday at the NovaCare Complex, unwelcome reminders of a sad 2015 season that ended a disaster of an Eagles era, Chip Kelly’s three-year talent drain.
A year-and-a-half since the ensuing trade with Miami, Howie Roseman’s first big move after Kelly was fired and Roseman returned to power, the Dolphins have a competent starting corner in Maxwell, a competent starting linebacker in Alonso, and they have Laremy Tunsil, the starting left tackle they drafted with the Eagles’ original 2016 first-round draft pick, 13th overall.
The Eagles have Carson Wentz, the quarterback drafted after Roseman hopscotched from 13th to eighth to second overall, sending a package of draft picks to Cleveland, and Wentz looked worth every bit of that in Monday’s practice, one of his best.
Maxwell and Alonso showed last season that they are better than what they delivered to Eagles fans. They might not be superstars, maybe Maxwell was never worth $63 million over six years, maybe Alonso, on his best day, isn’t a guy you’d trade LeSean McCoy to get, but of course, the Dolphins didn’t do any of that. They did inherit Maxwell’s contract, but after paying him a fairly reasonable $8.5 million this season, they can get out of it in 2018 with no dead cap charges. They ended up drafting at 13 the same player they said they’d targeted at eight; you could argue they gave up nothing but money for Maxwell and Alonso, who signed a four-year, $28.91 million extension with Miami in March.
So, lower expectations , but even so, the Maxwell and Alonso who played for the 2015 Eagles just weren’t very good. What the heck happened?
“I think the things that happened in Philly made me a better leader for Miami. Made me a better football player and a better person,” Maxwell said after the first day of joint Eagles-Dolphins practices, in advance of Thursday’s preseason game. “I was able to handle getting benched in Miami and bounced back. It was tough in Philly – just losing, losing your coach; so it helped, going through all that.”
Maxwell said “I was surprised” to be traded a year after signing such a huge free-agent deal, but he said he knew “something just, like, wasn’t right” because he’d never heard from anyone on the staff of new Eagles coach Doug Pederson after Pederson was hired, more than six weeks before the March 9 trade.
“Usually you hear from your coaches and I didn’t hear from any of them, so it was like, ‘I might be on the move,’ but I was surprised, though. … But I’m happy, I’m glad they made that choice; it worked out for both of us,” Maxwell said.
Eagles fans snickered when Maxwell was benched early last season, but he rebounded well and finished 2016 with 15 passes defensed, 50 percent more than in his lone Eagles season, though he played 14 games in 2015 and only 13 last year.
Eagles safety and special teams ace Chris Maragos won a Super Bowl with Maxwell in Seattle, then suffered through 2015 with him here.
“That’s a good question,” Maragos said, when asked what happened to Maxwell with the Eagles. “The Byron I know is a really competitive guy, goes out and works hard … Sometimes those transition years are pretty tough. He was in Seattle’s system for four years. Coming to a new place, maybe it was a little bit hard for him to transition.”
Maragos said he wasn’t surprised to see Maxwell go.
“Obviously, he was getting paid a lot of money, you expect to get a lot of production,” Maragos said. “They really felt like he wasn’t living up to that.”
Maxwell was asked if he thought the Eagles missed him last season more than they’d anticipated.
“Yes,” he said.
Alonso might be even more disliked by Eagles fans than Maxwell, given that Kelly blithely tossed away McCoy, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher – who showed us last week that he’s still elite – for a skinny linebacker he’d coached at Oregon who was coming off an ACL tear.
Of course, the trade wasn’t Alonso’s fault. It’s hard to parse what made him effective as a Buffalo rookie in 2013 and then effective again for the Dolphins last season, after he looked lost and hesitant for the Eagles.
Alonso, a man of very few words, wasn’t much help in unraveling that mystery. He said his knee “was good” in 2015, though in fact he reinjured it early in the season and several sources close to the situation have said they didn’t think Alonso was able to play with confidence and abandon the rest of the year.
“How do I look back? Obviously it wasn’t the year we wanted. It is what it is,” Alonso said.
Alonso said he was “not really” surprised to be traded after one season here.
“It was obviously the second time I had gotten traded. I was definitely more surprised the first time around [when he was traded from Buffalo for McCoy], but given the year [the Eagles] had, I wasn’t that surprised.”
Alonso caught up with old friends, including tight ends Zach Ertz and Trey Burton. Alonso attended Ertz’s wedding in the offseason.
“I think he might have been injured, but other than that, I really don’t know. Technique and scheme and all that play into it, too,” Burton said, when asked why Alonso wasn’t more effective as an Eagle.
Alonso doesn’t seem to have done a lot of soul-searching about his college coach getting fired here, then Alonso getting tossed into a trade.
“I don’t really get caught up in that. I just go with the flow,” he said. “They traded me, I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to Miami.’ ”
He said Kelly came to Miami OTAs one day this spring. He didn’t say what they talked about.
Mychal Kendricks was here for Alonso’s lost year. Asked what he made of it, it was hard to tell if Kendricks was strictly talking about Alonso, or reflecting also on his own struggles.
“Trying to learn the defense, playing through injuries, splitting reps with a lot of other people, I don’t know. It’s all adversity. I’m happy that he saw it through and everything worked out for him,” Kendricks said. “He’s a really good dude.”
Even if he’s happy now with the Dolphins, Maxwell’s pride clearly was stung. He acknowledged that he checks out how Wentz and the Eagles are doing.
“I’d be lying if I told you I don’t want to do better than the Eagles do. I do,” he said. “I want to win more games than them. I want to prove ’em wrong.”
That concept seemed not to have occurred to Alonso. Asked if he keeps tabs on Wentz, wants the trade to work out in Miami’s favor, Alonso just laughed.