Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Case For Franchising Bradford


Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

The Eagles will soon have to make an all-important call on how to proceed at the quarterback position.

February 16 is the first day that teams are able to designate franchise or transition players. That window remains open until March 7 — two days prior to the official start of free agency. Howie Roseman and crew need to decide whether the right move is to apply that tag to Sam Bradford. 

Early signs suggest that neither side is in a hurry to get Bradford into a long-term contract. The Eagles front office has had no problem identifying Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox as part of the core group that they want to commit to. When it comes to Bradford, however, there have been plenty of niceties but few true indicators that either party is ready to ink a lucrative multi-year deal.

Doug Pederson did little to alter that perception seemingly when talking to CSN Philly about his preference between drafting and developing a  young QB like the Eagles did in 1999 or going with a veteran like Alex Smith as they did with the Chiefs.

“The thing with going to Kansas City is we needed a quarterback,” he said. “So the immediate fix is to find the top available free agent. I think in our situation, you may not have to go that route. Therefor, the draft, there are some good quarterbacks in this draft.  I’d love to be able to pick one up, develop him and eventually he becomes your guy over time. Several ways to skin a cat, but I think in our situation I think we’ve got a quarterback that’s on our roster right now, if he’s our guy, that we can win with.”

Some are interpreting that to mean that they’re going to let Bradford walk. To me, that sounds like a head coach that both feels like he can win now with Bradford but is also committed to finding the quarterback of the future.

Which brings us back to the tag. We polled a number of agents and NFL insiders to get their take on what Bradford might legitimately command if he hits free agency. While most noted that this is a difficult market (and difficult QB in particular) to project, the consensus was that Bradford may come in at around $18 million per season when you consider the rising cap and the going rate for veteran signal-callers.

Meanwhile, some industry experts predict that the quarterback franchise tag number will be around $19-20 million in ’16. If the Eagles view Bradford  as the top option for now but would like to develop a QB, why not go year-by-year?

Would Bradford go along with the program? While we don’t get the sense that he’s dying to come back to Philadelphia, there are worse fates than making $20 million for the year with a chance to play yourself into a more lucrative deal — whether it be in Philly or elsewhere. And the Eagles are in a bit of a win-win either way: if Bradford signs the tag right off, the QB of the present is in the fold; if he refuses, the team can rescind the tag should it land a solid option along the way. And by keeping him under your control, it leaves open the possibility of working out a trade somewhere along the line.

It largely comes down to cost versus projected performance. We’ve been told that Pederson likes Chase Daniel, for instance. How much does he like him? What’s the cost and how does he stack up next to Bradford?

While Bradford has plenty of question marks attached to him, it’s easy to make the case that he’s the best choice in the short-term. Going off Pederson’s comments, he seems to hold the 28-year-old in pretty high regard.

“He’s a smart quarterback. He’s tall. He is athletic. He’s got a nice arm. Good decision maker. He pushes the ball down the field,” said Pederson of Bradford in his conversation with CSN. “Things you really like from your quarterback position. Much like Alex [Smith]. And those are the things that we worked through with Alex Smith  over a three-year period, and he had his finest year obviously in Year 3, and so I could see the same things going forward with a Sam Bradford. If he’s our guy, then we’re going to make him the best quarterback in the National Football League and put him in positions to make plays for us on game day.”

But Pederson also seems to like the idea of grooming his own QB. Put it all together, and the best route may be to be tag Bradford so that the team is equipped with a competent quarterback for now while leaving their options wide open for beyond the ’16 season.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Howie Roseman talks publicly about the team’s approach to re-signing Fletcher Cox.

“At the end of the day, I bleed green. That’s just what it is.” Vinny Curry talks his new deal.

Josh examines the importance of rest, and what the future holds for the Eagles’ offensive line.

“In my opinion, we’ve got a little bit better talent here.” On Doug Pederson‘s priorities.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor offers up his take on Vinny Curry’s big five-year deal, and how the fifth-year player will work in Jim Schwartz‘s defense.

Curry is the kind of disruptive force you want on your team. One of the big disappointments with Bill Davis and his staff is that they couldn’t make better use of Curry. In Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme, Curry will play DE in the base defense. When they go to the Nickel or Dime, he can play DE, DT or even NT.

Curry should thrive in the 1-gap, attacking defense. He has the initial burst to beat blockers off the ball. He can also win by using a good rip move or by shooting hard to the inside. He mixes things up with power moves from time to time.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles use Curry. Will he start at LDE? No matter how he, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are used, there will be more of a natural rotation because of the 4-3. All 3 guys played DE in certain sets under Davis, but Graham and Barwin were LBs in the base 3-4. That made the rotation a bit more complicated.

This is another good move by the Eagles. It is critical to find DL that can get to the QB or at least affect him with pressure. Just think about the Giants. Their DL struggled to get pressure and the team only had 23 sacks for the year. The 4-3 is predicated on having rushers that can penetrate and pressure. Curry has played well in a limited role the past few years, but he now has a chance to shine.

Malcolm Jenkins didn’t pull punches in critiquing his former head coach, Chip Kelly, writes CSN Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman.

Much has been made of Chip Kelly’s communication issues with Eagles players since his firing. Between Lane Johnson‘s candid comments the day after Kelly’s dismissal and Jeff Lurie‘s emphasis on emotional intelligence during the coaching search, it was clear Kelly just didn’t connect with his players.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the Eagles’ leaders who enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2015, said on ESPN’s SportsNation Tuesday that Kelly’s main problem was he just wasn’t “proactive enough.”

“He’s not proactive enough to really get the pulse of the team, especially when you have the offseason that we had last year where he’s getting rid of guys and making all of these changes,” Jenkins said. “When you have a situation like that, you have to be able to communicate with your players and instill confidence in them that their jobs are secure, that they can trust you. It just wasn’t there.”

COMING UP

We’ll take a look at what the national media are saying about the Eagles.


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