McCoy Traded to Bills (03/04/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
LeSean McCoy is headed to Buffalo, what does the trade mean for the Eagles and Bills?

The Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills have a trade in place that would send running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia. The trade cannot be made official until the new league year begins next Tuesday, March 10th at 4 pm ET.

What does the move mean for the Eagles and Bills?

To find out we simulated the 2014-15 season 50,000 times with McCoy in Buffalo and Alonso in Philadelphia. In the simulations we assumed the Bills would use Rex Ryan's offensive schemes and that Kiko Alonso is healthy.

With McCoy in Buffalo and Kyle Orton as the starter, the Bills have an average record of 9.2 wins and 6.8 losses. Buffalo would finish second in the AFC East behind the Patriots but would make the playoffs as the second Wild Card team.

In another simulation we switched Kyle Orton (he retired, again) for EJ Manuel as the starting quarterback. In this scenario, the Bills finish with an average record of 8.8 wins and 7.2 losses. Again, Buffalo finishes behind the Patriots in the AFC East but in this simulation the difference in quarterback is enough to cause the Bills to miss the playoffs.

Many expect the Bills to adopt a run first offensive approach with Rex Ryan as Head Coach. In such a scheme, McCoy, a Pro Bowler last year, would average 279 rushing attempts for 1,254 yards and 5.4 touchdowns. We would also expect the former Eagles running back to catch 45 balls out of the backfield for 264 yards and 1.6 touchdowns on average.

McCoy's rushing attempts and yards are projected to decrease (for the second year in a row) from his totals a year ago. There are a couple reasons why; first, the attempts are likely to decrease moving from Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense to a less efficient offense quarterbacked by EJ Manuel. McCoy's yards-per-carry will likely decrease running behind an offensive line that was 30th in rushing efficiency in our Power Rankings last year.

The addition of McCoy would help a Bills offense that ranked 20th overall a year ago by making the team's offensive rushing attack league average. The Bills are expected to have a solid defense but in a quarterback driven league, Buffalo will only go as far as EJ Manuel or possibly Matt Cassel takes them.

As for the Eagles, in addition to getting cap relief, trading McCoy saved Philadelphia $11.95 million against their 2015 cap, the team acquired third year linebacker Kiko Alonso. As a rookie, Alonso finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles but he tore his ACL last July causing the promising defensive player to miss all of last season.

If healthy, Alonso could make an immediate impact for a Philadelphia defense that was last in our overall rankings. In a world without McCoy, the Eagles are projected to have an 8.3 – 7.7 record on average, finish second in the NFC East and miss the playoffs.

Those results do not sound great to Philly fans but the Eagles are banking on the fact that running backs are replaceable, even one like McCoy that was third in the NFL in rushing yards and fourth in rushing touchdowns since he was drafted in 2009. We would tend to agree with the thought process, the Eagles had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL before last season but injuries kept that group from dominating. It shouldn't be hard to find a back that can succeed with a line (assuming health) like that. Plus, with the additional cap space Philly can improve its roster elsewhere.

Trading a high profile running back garners a lot of attention but McCoy isn't likely to make or break either franchise's playoff hopes in 2015. Both teams have questions at quarterback and until those are answered, there isn't much a running back can do in a league where passing is king.

Projected Stats McCoy on Bills (Orton) McCoy on Bills (Manuel) Eagles Without McCoy
Record 9.2 - 6.8 8.8 - 7.2 8.3 - 7.7
Division 2nd in the AFC East 2nd in the AFC East 2nd in NFC East
Playoffs 2nd wild card team Miss the Playoffs Miss the Playoffs