Eagles Offseason Outlook: Quarterback
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
Nick Foles and Matt Barkley are under contract, while Mark Sanchez is scheduled to become a free agent.
Foles has become a polarizing figure around these parts. Critics will point out that he completed just 59.8 percent of his passes (26th), averaged 6.96 YPA (26th) and had 10 interceptions to go along with four fumbles in eight games. He was 19th in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric that ranks quarterbacks.
Supporters will argue that he was playing with a banged-up offensive line, didn’t have the benefit of a quality run game and has already shown in 2013 that he can play at a high level.
My take? I think Foles is a competent starting quarterback. If everything is working around him – the pass protection, the run game, etc. – he can be effective, and you can win games with him. I think his mental makeup fits what Chip Kelly is looking for, and Foles probably doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness.
My biggest concern with him is how he reacts to pressure and imperfect circumstances. The problem is the offensive line isn’t always going to be healthy, and the running game isn’t always going to be clicking. The way Foles reacted when put in those tough situations last season is worrisome, and in addition to the turnovers, he didn’t see the field well at times. If he’s not performing at an elite level in terms of decision-making, Foles is in trouble because he is not gifted physically.
As for Sanchez, I’m sure the Eagles would be interested in bringing him back in a backup role, but given how bad some of the quarterback options are around the league, he may find a better option elsewhere.
The coaching staff has showed no confidence in Matt Barkley up to this point, and he figures to be fighting for a roster spot next summer.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
I think the Eagles will add one or two quarterbacks via free agency/trades and/or the draft. As things stand right now, I don’t think they’ll be landing Marcus Mariota.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Kelly will try to acquire his former prized pupil. But Mariota figures to kill it at the combine and in the interview rooms in the coming months. There’s been plenty of buzz recently that the Bucs will go ahead and select him at No. 1. Things could change, but I just don’t see the Eagles being able to get into position to land Mariota.
I think Foles is the favorite to be the starter in September. The trade rumors seem far-fetched to me. Foles is cheap (cap hit of $815,880) and competent. There’s no reason to just give away a player like that, especially if you don’t have other great options. And he only has one year left on his deal. What are teams really going to give up for him unless Foles agrees to a long-term deal beforehand?
As we mentioned in last week’s post, Kelly’s system is QB-friendly in that it can help with completion percentage and shot plays downfield. But the system needs an excellent decision-maker, and as Kelly looks for options, it wouldn’t hurt to finally add a quarterback who can do some damage in the run game. That element has been missing from the offense.
I think Sanchez will end up signing elsewhere, and I think the team will look to replace Barkley with a developmental prospect who has some upside.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top-10 free-agent quarterback options, per Rotoworld:
1. Mark Sanchez
2. Jake Locker
3. Brian Hoyer
4. Matt Moore
5. Ryan Mallett
6. Christian Ponder
7. Tarvaris Jackson
8. Shaun Hill
9. Michael Vick
10. Matt Hasselbeck
As you can see, there’s just not a lot there.
Because of his athleticism, Locker could be interesting as a backup, but he’s just a 57.5 percent career passer and has had trouble staying healthy. Ponder is also a good athlete, but has been a disappointment in Minnesota. It’s worth noting that the Eagles took a look at Thad Lewis (not on the above list) during the season last year.
But the options, overall, are slim.