Thoughts On the Eagles/Bradford Situation

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Howie Roseman doubled down on his public commitment to Sam Bradford after a report surfaced that Bradford — unhappy with the team’s decision to move up in the draft for a signal-caller — has demanded a trade and will no longer attend the offseason training program.

From the team’s website:

Howie Roseman spoke with Comcast SportsNet’s John Clark after the report was released and continued to back Bradford.

“I want to reiterate our support for Sam Bradford and go back to our statements last week – that Sam is our starting quarterback,” Roseman said. “His agent and Sam know how we feel about him. These workouts are voluntary. We look forward to seeing Sam again in the near future.”

As a follow-up question, Roseman was asked if there was concern that Bradford will not show up for the mandatory portions of the offseason program.

“No, I think you talk about Sam and what a pro he is,” Roseman said. “Him and his agent, we’ve worked well together for a long period of time. He loves to play the game. We look forward to seeing him soon.”

It’s not easy to find merit in Bradford’s chosen stance here. For one, it’s difficult to imagine he was actually blindsided by all of this. The Eagles have been pretty open about their desire to find a possible quarterback of the future all offseason. If that message somehow eluded him, he needed only to look at the structure of his own deal (essentially a one year contract with a team option for a second) or the endless reports about the Eagles’ hopes of moving up in the draft for a QB to get the picture.

It’s understandable if he is unhappy with the decision, but his resume does not come close to supporting this type of power play. Bradford has a career record of 25-37-1, a well-established injury history and some concerning stats, like the one our friend Sheil recently pointed out:

Since 2010, 20 quarterbacks have attempted at least 2,000 passes. Among that group, Bradford ranks last in passer rating, yards per attempt and touchdowns.

Yet he still netted a two-year, $35 million deal this offseason with $22 million guaranteed and was given the starting job — a title he continued to hold even after the move up to 2. With $5.5 million of that cash already in his pocket, Bradford has decided to distance himself from the team as it works to fight past the large learning curve that comes with a new coach and a new system. He may have clued  some teammates into this decision, but not everyone got the memo.

“Nah,” replied one of Bradford’s offensive weapons when asked if he relayed any message to the team. “At least he didn’t tell me.”

As for the reaction?

“I mean, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.”

Roseman’s comments suggest that Bradford may return once the sessions are mandatory (and fines can be doled out). When he does, you wonder to what degree his standing with the team — and this city — will have been compromised.

Perhaps he gets his wish and gets dealt. Teams like the Broncos and Jets have some uncertainty surrounding their quarterback situation, and in theory could be interested in adding someone like Bradford. But it’s hard to see them paying full price while offering meaningful compensation at the same time. Even if there is a willing partner and a reasonable deal to be done, it remains true that Roseman — who would have to absorb $11 million in dead cap money by moving Bradford — wants him to be the team’s starting quarterback this season. The team’s stance has not changed in this respect, publicly or privately.

In other words, the odds seem decent that he’ll still be property of the Eagles for 2016. From this perspective, the right move may have been for Bradford to seek out a trade behind the scenes while continuing to put his best foot forward with the Eagles. Or, not seek a trade at all and instead put all his efforts into making sure Carson Wentz never sees the light of day.

“Honestly, if you’re the starter, who cares? Who cares?” Doug Pederson responded when asked at the owners meeting how he thinks Bradford might react to the Eagles bringing in a young quarterback. “Why are you looking over your shoulder if you’re the starter? And that’s the way Sam has to approach this, even with Chase [Daniel] there, and even if we go out and draft a quarterback this year. If you’re the guy, you’re the guy. You’re looking forward and not behind. If you’re constantly looking behind you, then we’re going to have a problem.”

(H/T Zach Berman)

Bradford owns much of the responsibility here, though it’s at least worth asking if the Eagles thought this plan out well enough. They understandably wanted to be covered at quarterback in the short and long-term, hence why they felt justified in spending so many resources on Bradford, Chase Daniel and now (most likely) Wentz. But is it a realistic set-up?

“The problem I see in Philadelphia, they have too many quarterbacks to be friendly with,” Jon Gruden said recently. “How are they going to distribute any reps and get anybody ready when you’ve got Sam Bradford making $18 million, you’ve got Chase Daniel who is a back‑up making $7 million, and now you’re going to have the number two pick in the draft.  I don’t know how you’re going to get these guys all reps and get them ready, but Doug Pederson will have to answer that.  That will be a challenge.

“So there could be a trade. I don’t want to start any rumors in Philadelphia, but if they do draft a quarterback with all they have invested in him, I’m sure they want to give him as many reps as possible, and that’s going to make somebody, I think, unhappy and perhaps expendable.”

To make such a set-up work, you need to have players with the right temperament and the process needs to be completely transparent. As we outlined, all the signs were there that the Eagles planned on taking a quarterback, perhaps early. But was that directly relayed to Bradford? What exactly did they tell him prior to him signing his contract?

Asked last week if he had talked to the Eagles about their draft plans, Bradford replied, “Uh, no. I think that’s a little above my pay grade. Those guys make decisions regardless of what we players think they should do.”

A day later, the Eagles pulled the trigger on the deal. Certainly they are under no obligation to loop Bradford into the front-office thinking, but it may have proven beneficial in this case.

As is, they have a situation where the declared starting quarterback is unhappy and wants out. The boat is rocking at One NovaCare way as it has all too frequently of late. Not exactly the preferred environment to introduce Wentz into starting Thursday night.