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Instant Debate

Eagles, 49ers among teams that have experienced great change this offseason

Six NFL teams kicked off mandatory minicamp this week, with 25 more set to follow suit next week. (The St. Louis Rams are the only squad that doesn't hold mandatory minicamp.) As players and coaches report for duty across the league, and we get a glance at what teams will look like this fall, one question comes to mind: Which franchise underwent the most extreme makeover this offseason?

I can't remember the last time a head coach made over a team like Chip Kelly has with the Eagles. Gone are quarterback Nick Foles (whose passer rating of 119.2 in 2013 ranks as the third-highest in NFL history among players with 100 or more pass attempts in a season), receivers DeSean Jackson (1,332 yards, nine touchdowns in 2013) and Jeremy Maclin (1,318 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2014) and running back LeSean McCoy (2926 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons). And Kelly made those changes despite winning 20 games since arriving in Philly two years ago.

Still, I have to think Kelly knows what he's doing. It takes guts to trade a starting quarterback, but Kelly did come away with the better player in Sam Bradford -- and the position should be upgraded, provided Bradford stays healthy. Adding DeMarco Murray made up for losing McCoy. Kiko Alonso -- acquired from the Bills in the McCoy swap -- seems to be getting overlooked, but he's a strong defender who will contribute in a big way. At the end of the day, I have a lot of faith in Kelly. I don't see a debate here, ladies and gents.

The San Francisco 49ers have lost their star coach, their Pro Bowl feature back, half their offensive line and roughly 27 players on defense. This was a reverse makeover, ripping off the fashionable clothing and rouge to reveal a weaker team, one that will vie for the basement of the NFC West.

The mass exodus of talent -- via retirements and free agency -- is unprecedented. Jim Harbaugh struggled last season, but you can't mask the loss of a supremely creative coach who propelled this team to three straight NFC title games. I'm not ready to ask Jim Tomsula to walk the plank, but the drop-off is tangible from a coaching perspective.

While the rest of the division has grown stronger, the 49ers have seen their rugged, beat-you-up mentality washed down the river. I need to see them play before writing them off, but the pressure is already ratcheted way up in San Francisco. This could get ugly. Chicago sure did change things around this offseason: new GM, new head coach, several free-agent signings. But how about the switch to the 3-4 for the first time in franchise history?

The Bears also will likely employ a different brand of offense this year, as the drafting of yet another running back ( Jeremy Langford) -- one year after taking Ka'Deem Carey -- points to a re-emphasis on the run game. Matt Forte will still get his 20 touches, but Chicago will be able to spell him and still take pressure off Jay Cutler. On that front, no Brandon Marshall means Alshon Jeffery will be the man, with newcomers Kevin White and Eddie Royal feeling out their roles. There has even been talk of moving Kyle Long to tackle.

And if all that isn't enough, how about the culture change under John Fox? This is a different team indeed. Certainly no shortage of potential answers here ... Just to name a few candidates (with notables in parentheses): the Bills (Rex Ryan, LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, Percy Harvin, Matt Cassel), Bears (John Fox, Ryan Pace, Pernell McPhee, Kevin White replacing Brandon Marshall, change to 3-4 defense), Jets (Todd Bowles, Mike Maccagnan, a new secondary led by Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, James Carpenter, Leonard Williams, Ryan Fitzpatrick), Eagles ( Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, Nelson Agholor, a remade secondary) and Redskins (Scot McCloughan, potentially eight new starters).

Still, my choice is the San Francisco 49ers. First and foremost, they parted ways with Jim Harbaugh. No matter what your feelings are about the head coach, he turned the franchise around, posting a 44-19-1 record over four years and making three straight NFC title games. And that's just the beginning of the Niners' crushing attrition. They've been hit with a number of key personnel losses, with the retirements of Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Anthony Davis and Chris Borland, as well as the free agency defections of Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Chris Culliver and Michael Crabtree. That'd be a tough talent drain to overcome even if the 49ers didn't have a brand new coaching staff. The positive is that general manager Trent Baalke has done a good job of drafting, but it might take some time for the new starters to mesh with the new systems. The Bills underwent the most extreme makeover this offseason. Buffalo added a number of key playmakers via free agency/trade, and the moves have transformed this team into a potential juggernaut in the AFC. Adding the likes of LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Jerome Felton to a young offensive core that already features Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods on the perimeter gives the Bills an explosive offense capable of complementing one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL. (If, of course, Buffalo can get better production from the quarterback position.)

Throw in Rex Ryan's swagger, and the Bills are suddenly one of the most compelling stories heading into the regular season -- and, quite possibly, a playoff team. New quarterback, new running back (and a new backup RB, too), new go-to receiver, two new starting corners (including, presumably, a rookie), new starting linebacker (who is coming off ACL surgery) ... Yeah, that's a lot of new pieces for Eagles coach Chip Kelly, meaning Philadelphia is the pick here.

Kelly is taking a handful of gambles offensively (most notably, at wide receiver and with QB Sam Bradford), and if they all pay off, Philly will win the NFC East. If they don't, the Eagles will struggle to be a .500 team. The San Francisco 49ers have experienced the most staggering talent/brain drain I've seen in NFL history. Jim Harbaugh's departure set the stage for a makeover in philosophy before player departures and retirements even began to take root. The losses of Antony Davis, Chris Borland, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox, among others, necessitates massive changes on both sides of the football -- especially in the trenches.

How the 49ers will replace the talent while installing new systems is one of the big mysteries shrouding this offseason.

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