Eagles Wake-Up Call: Bradford Deal Buys Time
One year, and $22 million.
That’s the investment the Eagles made to find out if Sam Bradford is their franchise quarterback for the future, and it’s a smart investment to make. You’ll hear a lot of numbers about Bradford’s contract — two years, $36 million total, $26 million “guaranteed” — but the way Howie Roseman and the Eagles negotiated the deal, the true investment is far less than that.
If the Bradford decision backfires, the Eagles can cut the quarterback loose in 2017, having only paid him $22 million. The reported $26 million “guaranteed” isn’t fully due at signing, with $4 million of that through a roster bonus due next March, per Andrew Brandt.
Although the Eagles would save $14 million in cap money if they cut him in 2017 (per Over the Cap), they would take a $9.5 million cap hit that year. While Bradford clearly didn’t come back on the cheapest deal possible, the contract does appear to be a good compromise between both sides with the aforementioned team-friendly elements — plus a couple more.
Had this agreement not been reached, it would’ve been very unlikely for the Eagles to find a better quarterback to start next season. Plus, with this contract, Philadelphia can still be somewhat of a player in free agency, while still getting a deal done with Fletcher Cox.
That’s because Bradford’s 2016 cap hit is only $12.5 million, which ranks 22nd among NFL quarterbacks and is less than his 2015 number. The Eagles could also save $3.5 million against the 2016 cap by cutting Mark Sanchez, who ranks 28th among NFL quarterbacks in terms of 2016 cap hit.
Because Bradford’s cap hit in the first year of his deal is so small, it skyrockets in the second season to $23.5 million. However, it seems unlikely the Eagles would ever pay that as they’d probably restructure the deal if they decide they want him long term.
Given the nature of Bradford’s deal, it doesn’t prohibit the Eagles from drafting a quarterback next month, even with the No. 13 pick. While the Eagles have holes to address along the offense that would help a potential franchise quarterback, they could still take a “project” like Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, whom many consider to be at least one or two years away from starting in the NFL.
Philadelphia also has multiple third- and fifth-round picks, and could target wild cards like Ohio State’s Cardale Jones or Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
But what this contract is intended for isn’t to lock up the guaranteed future face of the franchise.
Instead, it buys time — quite literally — to answer the question in the next year or two that the Eagles couldn’t figure out last season: is Bradford a long-term solution and franchise quarterback? If yes, then they’ve found an answer at the most important position in football. If no, they’ve given themselves an escape route, but it’s one that leads them back to where they’ve been the last several years.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles signed Sam Bradford to a two-year deal Tuesday, reportedly worth $36 million.
The Eagles interviewed analyst Daniel Jeremiah for their player personnel job.
Breaking down the film on the “Achilles’ heel” of Jim Schwartz‘s defensive scheme.
On the Eagles’ free agency wish list, and whether it will all fit under the cap or spill over.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
From ESPN’s Phil Sheridan, Jason Peters seems like the most likely cap-saving casualty, especially if the Eagles take a lineman in the first round of the draft.
New Eagles coach Doug Pederson has been very complimentary of Peters, indicating that he thinks the eight-time Pro Bowler has several good seasons left. And it might be that Peters will benefit from a more orthodox practice schedule. Chip Kelly’s demanding approach likely was harder on older players like Peters and [DeMeco] Ryans.
But that’s part of the point. Ryans will turn 32 this summer, so he is more than two years younger than Peters. He has been limited by injuries the past two seasons. But the main reason he was expendable was the crowded linebacker situation. With Jordan Hicks, Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks on the roster, the Eagles felt they could move on from Ryans.
They likely do not feel that way about Peters. Not today. But if the Eagles take an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft, they could conceivably part ways with Peters. That would save them $6.7 million in cap space, enough to cover their entire rookie salary pool.
In his offseason outlook for the Birds, Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar says the position the Eagles need to improve most is cornerback.
Cornerback: It’s indicative of Chip Kelly’s shortcomings as a personnel executive that the two positions he focused on most before the 2015 campaign—cornerback and running back—remain two of Philly’s big question marks.
We’ll get to running back in a minute, but we have to start with the decision to sign former Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. The current Eagles regime is stuck with Maxwell and his $9.7 million cap number for 2016, because the team would take a ginormous $16.3 million total penalty if they cut him.
Moving on from Maxwell doesn’t become a real possibility until after June 1, 2017, when the release penalty would drop to $4.2 million. Last season, Maxwell allowed a 65% completion rate on the passes thrown his way, with three touchdowns and a 100.7 opponent quarterback rating. Nolan Carroll was slightly better, but he’s a free agent, and Schwartz may want to do a clean sweep of the guys he can control. E.J. Biggers is entirely replaceable.
Todd McShay will break down the draft for us.