Eagles Wake-Up Call: Quarterback Outlook
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. In the first installment, we’ll cover the quarterbacks.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
It’s fascinating how many different lenses you can look at Sam Bradford’s season through, and it reveals how a person feels about the quarterback when they pick their lens.
You could point to his record-breaking statistics. Bradford’s 78.9 completion percentage was the highest ever by an Eagle with more than 30 attempts. He set team records in both completions (346) and completion percentage (65.0%) over the course of the season, and he tied a team record by throwing for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games.
But Nick Foles also broke some records, and how did he turn out? Plus, Bradford ranked 26th in the NFL in passer rating, and 25th in yards per attempt.
However, he clearly improved from the start of the year to the finish. Over the last three games, Bradford threw for 1,061 yards, the second-highest three-game total in franchise history, and five touchdowns for a 98.0 passer rating.
Although some think Bradford threw the deep ball ineffectively, he completed seven of his 14 passes thrown more than 30 yards for five touchdowns and a 135.4 rating. While others may argue his stats are inflated because of easy completions, his passer rating from balls thrown behind the line of scrimmage or less than 10 yards down field was below his overall rating.
But other stats don’t paint such a rosy picture. Bradford ranks 24th in DYAR, a Football Outsiders metric measuring a quarterback’s performance compared to the replacement level.
My point? Whether the Eagles should bring Bradford back isn’t nearly as black and white as some make it out to be, and there are reasonable arguments to be made on both sides.
Currently, Mark Sanchez is the only quarterback under contract for the 2016 season, and he comes with a $5.5 million cap hit, per Over The Cap. However, if the Eagles cut Sanchez, they’re only on the hook for $2 million in dead money, meaning they would save $3.5 million.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
Although I’d prefer to take the Chip Kelly approach to this section (it depends on how the offseason expresses itself), I expect the Eagles to try to retain Bradford. Re-watching his improved accuracy, eye manipulation and pocket movement on film moved me into the Bring Bradford Back camp, and I think that will make Doug Pederson hopeful Bradford isn’t close to his ceiling.
Something that stands out to me is Albert Breer’s report in September a few days before the season started. Here’s the relevant part:
One of the main problems the Rams had with [Bradford] at the end was his eye level — after all his injuries in St. Louis, he had a tendency to stare down the rush. It’s worth monitoring whether the problem resurfaces early in the season.
Eye level was a problem that appeared to bother Bradford early on, but he clearly overcame it. Pat Shurmur talked multiple times about how quarterbacks typically don’t recover mentally from a torn ACL until several games after they’re physically fine. This seemed to ring especially true with Bradford, who had no problem at the end of the season with taking a hit while delivering the throw.
Tim made a good case for using the franchise tag on Bradford, but that’s only necessary if Pederson likes Bradford, but isn’t sure he’s the long-term solution. If Pederson thinks Bradford is The Guy, the Eagles should re-sign him to a multi-year deal.
One report that recently shook up the Eagles’ perceived options at quarterback is that Pederson may try to acquire Nick Foles. While Adam Schefter doubled down on his story, Zach Berman and Jeff McLane refuted it and Les Bowen dismissed it.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top quarterback free agents, according to FOX Sports’ WalterFootball.com:
- Kirk Cousins
- Brock Osweiler
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Case Keenum
- Drew Stanton
- Matt Moore
- Chase Daniel
- Matt Hasselbeck
- Colt McCoy
Washington is expected to keep Cousins in 2016, even if that means applying the franchise tag to do so. Fitzpatrick wants to return to the Jets, and New York plans to re-sign him. It’s unclear whether Denver wants to bring Osweiler back, but they’ll likely need a new quarterback with Peyton Manning’s expected retirement.
Doug Pederson likes Daniel, as Tim reported, but does he like Daniel enough to be the Eagles’ starting quarterback? And with Keenum as one of the best quarterbacks likely to be available, it’s no wonder Bradford could receive around $20 million per year.
THE DRAFT LIST
Here are the top quarterback prospects in the draft, according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc.:
- Jared Goff, California
- Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
- Connor Cook, Michigan State
- Paxton Lynch, Memphis
- Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
- Jacoby Brissett, N.C. State
- Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
- Cody Kessler, USC
- Taysom Hill, BYU
- Brandon Allen, Arkansas
This will be one of the most interesting NFL drafts in recent history, at least in terms of the quarterback position. The picture could clear up as April approaches, but right now, there are a lot of varying opinions about this quarterback class.
As we mentioned in our latest mock draft roundup, Wentz is particularly the source of disagreement. Some think the Browns may take him at No. 2 overall, while others expect him to fall out of the first round. The uncertainty and lack of an elite quarterback prospect makes it even riskier for the Eagles to let Bradford walk in free agency.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles released Riley Cooper, saving close to $3 million in 2016.
LeSean McCoy is reportedly under investigation for an alleged assault on off-duty Philadelphia police officers.
“What’s the over/under on the amount of Eagles fans who simultaneously grumbled, ‘And we got Danny f-ing Watkins’?” Tim’s Philly slant to the Super Bowl.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
CSN Philly’s John Gonzalez looks at the Eagles’ offseason moves through green-tinted glasses.
Chip Kelly is out: We’ll start where Roob and Sessler left off. I didn’t mind Kelly, but Jeffrey Lurie obviously did. You don’t fire your head coach with one game left in the regular season if everything is operating smoothly behind the scenes. Now he’s across the continent. Watching how he does in San Francisco will be almost as much fun as the endless amusement he gave us last year when he staged a front office coup, detonated the roster, brought in players he wanted, absorbed endless criticism from former players about myriad topics, stumbled to a losing record and got axed before the season was over. The man was a comet passing through our entertainment airspace. Godspeed.
Doug Pederson is in: Who knows if he can coach? His explanation for why the Chiefs’ botched their final drive against the Patriots in a playoff loss at New England was troublesome. It echoed Andy Reid in all the wrong ways. But, good news, he’s not Chip Kelly. That has to count for something in an organization that was desperate to get rid of the guy who came before Pederson. Plus, the man can wear a suit.
Terrell Owens will eventually get into the Hall of Fame, writes Paul Domowitch of the Daily News.
I’m not defending his behavior. The man was an absolute disruptive jackass at times. But he also was an incredible player who, with the exception of his second and final season with the Eagles, helped his teams more than he hurt them.
And you know what? Just last year, we put a guy in Canton who was every bit the locker-room tsunami that Owens was: Charles Haley.
Despite his behavioral problems, which later were attributed to bipolar disorder, Haley was considered a guy who helped teams win, which he indeed did. I’m just confused why the same people who championed Haley are viewing Owens through such a different prism.
We’ll take a look around the country to see what media members are saying about the Eagles.