Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Bradford/Sanchez Hypothetical

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Today’s question comes from Doug, via email:

If the Eagles traded Sam Bradford for Cleveland’s No. 19 pick and drafted Byron Jones as well as Nelson Agholor, would they be a better team now (with Mark Sanchez as the starter)?  How about long-term?

You could pretty easily kill a happy hour debating this scenario, Doug.

There are many layers to the question, and part of the argument has to do with roster building. So let’s say for a moment that the Eagles were able to flip Bradford to the Browns for the No. 19 pick and Jones. Where would that leave them?

With a pretty fascinating secondary of Byron Maxwell, Jones, Eric Rowe and Malcolm Jenkins. That’s a massive upgrade in talent from a year ago. Jones and Rowe will probably go through growing pains as rookies, but in 2016 and beyond, those four could comprise a really good defensive backfield.

Dealing Bradford would mean Sanchez assuming the starting role. The end of the world? I wouldn’t go that far. Sanchez completed 64.1 percent of his passes and averaged 7.8 YPA last year. Bradford has never matched either of those numbers in a single season. The problem with Sanchez has been the interception rate (3.6 percent last year). He’s always had trouble taking care of the football.

As for the effects on roster building, remember that by the time Russell Wilson took over in Seattle, the team had a lot of nice pieces already in place. Unlike an organization such as Indianapolis where the Colts got their quarterback first and proceeded to build around him, the Seahawks were able to build up the rest of the roster and then find their QB as the final piece.

Could the Eagles have followed a similar model? It takes some luck, but sure.

Of course, it should also be pointed out that the Seahawks swung and missed with guys like Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Flynn before landing Wilson. And that strategy seems to be one the Eagles may be forced to follow. Take some swings, and hopefully you eventually connect. In Bradford, Chip Kelly saw a QB with more upside than Nick Foles and a guy who has done a good job of taking care of the football. In our All-22 breakdown of Bradford, we tried to explain what Kelly sees in his new quarterback.

But to answer the initial question, I think short-term, the Eagles would be about the same (maybe a little worse) had they flipped Bradford. Rookie defensive backs face a tough transition, so the Jones/Rowe payoff would not be immediate.

Long-term though, they might have been better off pulling the trigger. Given Bradford’s injury history, there’s a lot of risk. And at some point, the Eagles will have to decide whether or not to sink even more money into him.

Building up the secondary and filling existing holes might have been the better option. Sure, Sanchez would have been unlikely to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl this season, but they’d have fewer needs and more flexibility going forward in the event that they saw another QB they liked.

The bottom line depends on what you think of Bradford. Some seem to believe he’s guaranteed to be a significant upgrade over Sanchez in this offense if he can stay healthy. Maybe they’re right. But I see more of a question mark than a given, so I would have flipped him for the first-rounder if given the opportunity.


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Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice thinks Maxwell is the player the Eagles can least afford to lose to injury:

In 2015, the Eagles are going to face the following #1 receivers on their respective teams: Odell Beckham Jr x2, Dez Bryant x2, DeSean Jackson x2, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans (or Vincent Jackson if you’d prefer), Kelvin Benjamin, and Marques Colston (or Brandon Cooks). The Eagles will also face Rob Gronkowski, who may deserve the attention of a bigger corner.


It’s not as if Maxwell is among the league’s elite at CB by any stretch, but he’s an above average starting CB, and the only proven outside corner the Eagles have. If they lose him, they’re likely starting a rookie and whoever outlasts the rest of the bunch.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz thinks UDFA free agent John Harris has a shot to stick with the Eagles:

Harris is a good fit for the Eagles. He can play in the slot or on the outside. He will need to work on his route-running and making better cuts, but that is true for most college receivers. I love the fact he catches the ball so naturally and is such a physical player. He’s not afraid of contact and can take some good shots. He will catch short passes and work the middle of the field. He has good RAC ability due to a combination of some elusiveness and the ability to break arm tackles.


We’ll have more on the rookies.