Weekend Reading: Bradford Created QB Controversy

Plus: Is Fletcher Cox in line to get a big contract extension before August?

Doug Pederson and Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson and Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

This weekend’s roundup of the national stories about the Eagles.

The Eagles are creating their own quarterback controversy, says Dan Carson of FOX Sports.

Sam Bradford started the initial quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Let’s be clear on that.

The moment he demanded a trade, took his toys and stormed off to Oklahoma to simmer—bingo, bango, quarterback controversy. Before Bradford’s overreaction to the Eagles’ drafting of Carson Wentz, there was no beef between he and any other backup in the stable.

Now, did the media pick Bradford’s tantrum up and run for the hills that have eyes with it? Yes. But did it create this awkward scenario wholecloth? No.

Nonetheless, the narrative around the Eagles locker room since Bradford’s return to the fold is that this fracture between Bradford and franchise and Bradford and Wentz was fabricated by the media. That any immediate unrest or power struggle regarding the starting quarterback position was just a falsehood or exaggeration created to fill pages.

The Birds can live with Jim Schwartz’s Carson Wentz advice, opines Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bedard.

So yeah, Schwartz didn’t bat 1.000 in his first press conference with the Eagles that focused on on-field matters, but it was minor miscue. Pederson hasn’t waited seven years to get a chance to be a head coach only to be thrown off course by what Schwartz said. As a former NFL quarterback, Pederson knows exactly what he’s doing at the position, and nothing’s going to alter his path.

But comments like those are what you get with Schwartz, who will turn 50 next week. He’s a high-energy guy who wears his heart on his sleeve in every setting. That’s how he endears himself to his players, and it’s been a key to his successful stints directing defenses in Tennessee (2001–08), Detroit (2009–13, as head coach) and Buffalo (2014). Schwartz prefers a simplified 4–3 scheme with little blitzing. He relies on putting his players in positions to succeed and tapping into what makes them tick so that they play with passion. This was a man who was carried off the field in Buddy Ryan-like fashion by his Bills players (at his request) after beating the Lions, after all.

“[He’s] the type of coach you love playing for,” said Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who played for Schwartz in Buffalo. “If a coach is being straight with you and not showing you no kind of shade, you want to give a guy like that your all.”

Sorting the quarterback carousel is the Eagles’ biggest upcoming roster decision, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

It’s already been one of the most heavily discussed stories of the offseason: How will the Eagles handle their quarterback quandary? Sam Bradford is set to be the starter; if he plays well, does Philly really elect to move on from him via trade? (The answer is likely yes.) How much would a team be willing to send the Eagles in a trade if Bradford plays well, understanding he’d need a new contract because his deal runs only through the 2017 season? If he struggles, how quickly would No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz assume a starting role?

Fletcher Cox is one player in line for a big contract extension before August, predicts Joel Corry of CBS Sports.

The Eagles have been one of the most proactive teams this offseason in extending the contracts of core players well in advance of free agency. Tight end Zach Ertz, safety Malcolm Jenkins and offensive tackle Lane Johnson have received contracts which make them among the highest-paid players at their respective positions.

Philadelphia’s only signing priority that hasn’t inked a new deal is Cox, who is making the transition to 4-3 defensive tackle under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Cox’s agent is Todd France. He also represents Marcell Dareus, who signed a six-year, $95.1 million extension (worth a maximum of $100.35 million through salary escalators) with the Buffalo Bills days before the start of 2015 regular season. That contract contains $60 million in guarantees, the new benchmark for a defensive player. France being adamant about the Eagles topping Dareus’ deal was expected at the outset of negotiations. There have been Philadelphia media reports of Cox’s camp rejecting an offer containing $60 million in guarantees. France quickly refuted this notion.

Under contract in 2016 for $7.799 million, Cox has been absent from Philadelphia’s offseason activities because a new deal isn’t yet in place. If the absence extends to the upcoming June 14-16 mandatory minicamp, the Eagles can fine him $76,580 for missing the three days.

Keep an eye on Wendell Smallwood for fantasy football purposes, notes Rotoworld’s Jesse Pantuosco.

Here’s another name to stow away for dynasty leagues: Wendell Smallwood. A year ago at this time, the Eagles were chock full of options at running back. After pulling the plug on DeMarco Murray, that’s no longer the case. Now the Eagles are left with injury-prone Ryan Mathews, aging scat back Darren Sproles and underwhelming third-stringer Kenjon Barner. That leaves the path to carries in Philadelphia relatively wide open.

Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing in his junior year at West Virginia and blew scouts away at the Combine. Head coach Doug Pederson hasn’t stopped raving about Smallwood’s play at OTAs and has called him a “natural pass catcher.” Mathews will break down eventually and Sproles isn’t equipped to handle double-digit carries. Don’t be surprised if Smallwood winds up starting for the Eagles at some point in 2016.

The Eagles get a ‘B’ for their offseason, writes ESPN’s Mike Sando.

Analysis: The quarterback situation in Philadelphia has looked like a disjointed mess at times. Why would the Eagles pay big money for Sam Bradford and then pay moderate money for Chase Daniel before going all-in for Carson Wentz with the second pick in the draft?

“What is the perfect-case scenario for them?” Yates asked. “If Bradford plays really well, do you trade him? That makes no sense. If he stinks, you not only cannot trade him, but you paid him $22 million in guaranteed money. The QB plan was very difficult for me to understand.”

It wasn’t so much a plan as it was a series of events.

“They had no choice at the time but to sign Bradford, and they paid a premium,” Polian said. “Then they were able to acquire Daniel as the backup, which was fine. They had solidified the position. Miami hands them a premium pick for guys they didn’t want anyway, and now they are able to parlay that into a trade up in three separate transactions to get what they believe is the quarterback of the future. What’s wrong with that?”

The Eagles rank No. 24 in the latest power rankings of Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke.

The transition into the Chip Kelly regime went well—the Eagles finished 10-6 and won the NFC East. How smooth the transition out is, after two disappointing years, relies on what Jim Schwartz can do with the defense and how Doug Pederson settles his cluttered QB situation.