Weekend Reading: Eagles Most Improved?

Plus, are the Eagles home to the worst quarterback situation in the NFL?

Howie Roseman, Carson Wentz, Jeffrey Lurie and Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

Howie Roseman, Carson Wentz, Jeffrey Lurie and Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

Here are some links worth checking out as you start your weekend:

Jordan Plocher of Pro Football Focus thinks the Eagles are the most improved team in the NFC East.

Free agency grade: A-

Key additions: S Rodney McLeod, G Brandon Brooks, QB Chase Daniel, CB Leodis McKelvin, WR Chris Givens

Key losses: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, RB DeMarco Murray, S Walter Thurmond (see the Eagles free agency grade)

Draft grade: B

Key additions: QB Carson Wentz, C Isaac Seumalo, RB Wendell Smallwood, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, CB Blake Countess, S Jalen Mills, DE Alex McCalister, ILB Joe Walker

The NFC East is an interesting case, as it can be argued that in the short-term the Cowboys improved the most within the division with the tactical addition of Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is an incredibly well-rounded running back who gained 1,000 yards after contact, caught 92.9 percent of his pass targets, and had a pass-blocking efficiency rating of 99.0 last season. Elliott will help the Cowboys maximize their time left with QB Tony Romo as the starter, and as a result the Cowboys should be the NFC East team with the largest increase in wins next season.

From a long-term standpoint the Eagles will have improved the most within the division if Carson Wentz emerges as the franchise quarterback they need in a year or two. In theory, Wentz would still be on the frontside of his career as the Eagles’ starting quarterback while the Cowboys and Giants will be in the unfortunate position of trying to find replacements for long-term starting quarterbacks who retired (Tony Romo and Eli Manning, respectively).

Fox Sports’ Chris Chase thinks the Eagles have the worst quarterback situation in the country.

Congratulations, Warner Bros.; Batman vs. Superman won’t be the only high-priced disaster of 2016. The Eagles quarterbacking situation is the worst thing to happen to Philadelphia since, well, the previous half-century of professional football. This offseason, the Eagles gave $18 million to a guy who finished 25th in QB rating last year and has a 25-37-1 lifetime record with exactly zero seasons above .500, only to have Sam Bradford whine about his role in the offense because the team had the audacity to draft a quarterback. Behind Bradford is a backup who’s thrown 77 passes in six NFL seasons yet was signed to a deal worth up to $36 million. More than likely though, Chase Daniel will get around $21 million, a total that itself is $11.5 million more than any other backup quarterback in the NFL. (The backups of the NFC are making a combined $13.2 million in guaranteed money. Daniel is getting $12 million. And assuming Mark Sanchez starts in Denver, Daniel would account for 57% of backup money in the NFL.) Then there’s the decent quarterback prospect the Eagles traded away two drafts for waiting in the wings. Total cost for 2016? About $30 million, the most any franchise in the NFL is paying their QBs.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal speculates as to when Wentz will start a game for the Eagles.

Every NFL team says they want to sit their rookie quarterback for a year. The Jaguars swore that Chad Henne would start an entire season over Blake Bortles; Henne was benched midway through Week 3.

We believe what the Eagles are selling more than usual because of the steep upgrade in the level of play Wentz is facing after playing at North Dakota State. More importantly, the Eagles are spending $25 million on quarterbacks not named Wentz this year. Philadelphia insists it wants Sam Bradford to be its starter, while Bradford wants to be elsewhere. The rest of the NFL insists on yawning.

Despite his hard-line stance, it makes too much sense for Bradford to return to work before he starts getting fined for missing mandatory work. Even if Bradford doesn’t return, the Eagles have Chase Daniel, an experienced quarterback in coach Doug Pederson’s offense. The odds are that Bradford and Daniel make the majority of starts in Philadelphia. And since I’m way too optimistic about this Eagles roster, there is a real chance this team wins and keeps Wentz on the bench all season. You can make a Drew Brees-in-2004 run to the playoffs and boost your value, Sam! We promise.

Prediction: Sits all season

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated graded the 2013 draft, three years later. He gives the Eagles a B.

Average Career Approximate Value: 11.0.

First-round pick: OT Lane Johnson (No. 4)

Best pick: TE Zach Ertz (second round).

Worst pick: QB Matt Barkley (fourth round).

Comment: This is where you can make the argument that a more robust calculation would dock the Eagles points for their draft spot—Johnson did not deserve to be the fourth pick. Ertz and DT Bennie Logan make up for some of the misses.

Sam Monson of PFF rates Johnson as the 5th-best young tackle in the NFL.

Another player who is still working on ironing out the inconsistencies in his game, Johnson is excellent when his game is at its best, but there is still too much bad in it. He had to play games at left tackle last season as well as right, and those did not go well, but even in his regular spot there were poor performances. After surrendering just one sack in 2014, he was beaten for six last season, but he has three straight seasons of good run-blocking grades, and had nine games of excellent pass-protection out of 16. At 25 he still has time to develop, and could be higher up this list if he could figure out how to limit the bad days at the office.

Gregg Rosenthal also looked at prospective playing time for the 2016 running back draft class.

Wendell SmallwoodPhiladelphia Eagles — Projected touches: 125

It’s risky to project a fifth-round pick to do that much. But Smallwood has an NFL-ready skill set and a great opportunity for snaps behind injury-prone starter Ryan Mathews and 33-year-old scat back Darren Sproles. The Eagles really could use Smallwood and their other late picks to contribute because they traded away so much to draft Carson Wentz.

Will Brinson of CBS Sports evaluates the idea of a Sam Bradford retirement.

Retiring would be a bold play for a guy who just signed a two-year, $36 million contract with $22 million guaranteed.

But this isn’t an unheard of strategy, actually. Current Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, then with the Bengals, demanded a trade and said he would retire if Cincy didn’t acquiesce to his demands.

“I have $80 million in the bank. I don’t have to play football for money,” Palmer said in 2011. “I’ll play it for the love of the game but that would have to be elsewhere. I’m prepared to live my life.”

Bengals owner Mike Brown wouldn’t budge on Palmer’s request until the Raiders and Hue Jackson (shortly after Al Davis’ death) swooped in with a godfather offer that involved multiple first-round picks. Palmer was dealt to Oakland and eventually traded again to Arizona.

Bob Ford of Philly.com thinks Doug Pederson should know better than to hand out the starting quarterback job in May, as he did with Bradford.

When rookie head coach Andy Reid signed veteran backup Doug Pederson in 1999 and immediately installed him as the Eagles starting quarterback, come hell or high draft pick, Reid’s mentor, Mike Holmgren, shook his head.

“That can wreck your team,” Holmgren, the Green Bay coach, said.

Jobs aren’t supposed to be handed out in March or April. Players in the locker room like to believe in a meritocracy, particularly if the lack of one might cost them a football game. Plus, how can the fans accept a starter – and not call for his highly anticipated replacement – when it doesn’t appear the guy had to earn the position?

“It’s Doug’s job. I can’t put it any different than that,” Reid said that spring. “I’m not putting a time limit on it.”

The Eagles jumped in the DeLorean and fired up the flux capacitor this year, and while the comparison between the saga of Pederson and Donovan McNabb and that of Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz isn’t entirely parallel, it’s close enough. No matter what storybook plot is contrived to the contrary, the public can’t wait to see the golden child, and, truth to tell, neither can the organization. Everything else is baloney.

That is why – of all the myths and misdirections surrounding the current quarterback situation – the most egregiously wrong is that if Bradford had shrugged and been the good soldier after Wentz was drafted, that he could have serenely played the coming season without a 6-foot-5 shadow across his right shoulder.