This week, we’ll offer offseason outlooks for the Eagles, position-by-position. Each day, we’ll answer a pressing question and rank the position on the priority scale. First up is quarterback.
PRESSING QUESTION: WHAT’S THE PLAN AT BACKUP QB?
Kapadia: We know (barring something completely unforeseen) that Nick Foles will be the man going into 2014. Chip Kelly said as much at the end of the season. But Kelly has maintained time and again since the day that he took the Eagles’ job that you need two capable quarterbacks to get through a 16-game season.
The primary option from 2013, Michael Vick, seems unlikely to return. But I think the other QB on the roster, Matt Barkley, is the leading candidate to back up Foles next season.
I know Barkley averaged just 6.1 YPA and threw four interceptions (no TDs) in spot action as a rookie. But he’ll now get a full offseason to work with Kelly and the coaches. If you want evidence of how important that can be, look no further than the leap Foles made from Year 1 to Year 2.
The options on the free agent market are not exactly enticing. Barkley’s played a lot of football in his life, and the Eagles obviously like his skill set, or they wouldn’t have moved up to take him in the fourth round of last year’s draft. The truth is if he’s not ready to be the backup in 2014, there might not be a reason to keep him on the roster.
McManus: The day after the loss to the Saints, Howie Roseman was asked how the emergence of Foles will impact their offseason approach to the QB position.
“I think we have to be careful in saying what we don’t need or what we may have on the roster because you never know what you may need going forward. The way we’ll look at it, if there is a talented player player at any position and we have him highly ranked in the draft and he’s on the board when we pick, we’re going to be interested in him. I think if you get into the mode of, ‘We have this so we don’t need,’ you never know where the league is going to take you.”
The Eagles won’t be shy about drafting a quarterback, in other words, even though Foles laid claim to the starting job with an outstanding 2013 campaign. The idea is to keep adding talent to the roster, and the Eagles don’t want to pass up talent at any position because they think they have the future figured out.
With Vick likely to sign elsewhere, they’ll probably be in the market for a third signal-caller regardless. Barkley has the best shot at securing the backup position, but as we learned Kelly likes to establish a competitive environment in camp and will award the job to whoever earns it.
PRIORITY SCALE: FROM 1 TO 5
* 1 indicates there is no need at all to address the position in free agency or the draft. 5 means it’s of the highest priority that the Eagles focus on the position in the coming months.
Kapadia: Put me down for a 2. The Eagles have two of three of their QB spots filled for 2014, so this isn’t a need position.
But the organizational philosophy is that you don’t pass up quality at this spot. That’s why drafting a quarterback with some upside in the mid-to-later rounds this spring would not surprise me.
The plan as I see it: If there’s an inexpensive free agent (like Trent Edwards from a couple years ago) who seems like a fit, sign him. If there’s a developmental prospect available in the draft at the right spot, pick him. Let the new guy(s) compete with Barkley for the backup job in the summer, and go from there.
As we’ve seen in the past, being in a position where you have too many capable quarterbacks opens up the possibility of taking advantage of other needy teams.
McManus: I’m at a 3. It’s the game’s most important position, and right now the picture beyond Foles is cloudy. It’s impossible to know whether Barkley will establish himself as a strong No. 2 option. That uncertainty can’t sit well with Kelly, who routinely preaches that you need two quarterbacks in this league.
As you mentioned, Sheil, the free agent class is uninspiring. Perhaps they’ll pick a QB up on the open market as a “just in case” and then see how the draft shakes out.