Thoughts On A Potential Quarterback Competition
Further evidence surfaced this week that the Eagles are trying to lock up Sam Bradford. NFL.com’s Albert Breer echoed earlier reports that the Eagles and Bradford have had preliminary contract talks, but that no real progress has been made to this point.
The issue, as we’ve laid out previously, is that Bradford doesn’t have a ton of incentive to sign a deal right now. He has already banked $65 million over his career and is scheduled to make an additional $13 million this season. The 27-year-old isn’t exactly hard up for cash. He can afford to bet on himself. Given that he is coming off a pair of ACL tears, his leverage isn’t at its max at the moment. Any offer would probably reflect that. That leverage shoots north for the free-agent-to-be, however, if he thrives this season under Chip Kelly.
So it won’t be easy, but they’re trying to find some common ground. And who knows? Maybe they will.
Kelly was asked: If something were to get done before camp, wouldn’t that essentially eliminate a true quarterback competition?
“The best players are always going to play. I think that’s always been the way it has to be, and that’s the way it will be.”
But a long‑term deal with a significant amount of money would indicate —
“One more time. My theory is the best players always play. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys on the team if the best players aren’t playing. It’s not fair to this city, it’s not fair to the staff and it’s not fair to anybody if the best players aren’t playing, and the best players are always going to play.”
The Eagles have already invested pretty heavily in Bradford and are showing a willingness to double down on that investment by way of an extension. They’re betting that he can provide the answer to the quarterback riddle, and will give him ample opportunity to do just that.
That said, Kelly is not going to start Bradford just for the sake of it. If Mark Sanchez clearly outperforms Bradford this summer, Sanchez will get the nod.
What are the odds of that happening?
Well, at the moment Sanchez is further along when it comes to both health and command of the offense. He appears to be past a shoulder injury that he believes held him back some last year. The six-year vet has a full year of experience in this system under his belt, and spent the bulk of the offseason training program running with the first-team offense.
“Obviously he’s just sharper, just because of his knowledge,” said Kelly of Sanchez. “He knows where No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 are. He understands protections better. It’s not the first time. The game of football is a huge game of repetition and you can’t manufacture those repetitions unless you’re out on the field actually doing them. So he’s got that whole year in the bank, so to speak.”
Bradford hasn’t had much in the way of repetitions to this point. He gingerly eased his way into action this spring. When we first saw him a few weeks back, he wasn’t even doing all of the warm-up exercises at the start of practice. Gradually he ramped up his workload, and by the end was participating in 7-on-7s. When the big arm and the quick trigger flashed, you got a glimpse of the skill set that makes him attractive. This was all conducted in a controlled environment, though, with no threat of a pass rush at his feet. Bradford wasn’t asked to move much past half-speed during the spring workouts, and didn’t have the look of a player that was all the way back quite yet.
The expectation is that Bradford will be ready for 11-on-11 work when training camp opens in six weeks. Things start moving very quickly once you get to that time of year. The team’s preseason opener against the Colts is August 16, just two weeks after camp begins. At that point, the shadow of opening day is in sight. How much will Bradford be able to do? How comfortable will he look? Will he get to full form by the time the curtain lifts in Atlanta?
With such questions still lingering, it would be wrong to suggest that Sanchez has no shot at winning the job this summer. Would the coaches prefer it if Bradford laid claim to the gig? I think so. If it’s close, will the scales slide in his direction? More than likely. Judging by their actions, they envision Bradford being the guy. But Sanchez was afforded a sizable head start, which should at least keep him alive in the competition in the short term.