The Philadelphia Eagles have a dilemma at the quarterback position, and that happens to be the most important position in professional sports.
I love Twitter. In fact, it might be the greatest social network ever invented. In 140 characters or less, you have the opportunity to state your opinion on any topic you wish. You can also rant about things nobody really cares about, which @TomAresco has been guilty of on more than one occasion. When I am not trying to prove that Drake is the best hip-hop artist out, or that Kanye West has lost his mind, I am talking Philadelphia Eagles football.
Lately, the hottest topic of conversation has been the quarterback position; to Sam Bradford or not to Sam Bradford, that is the question. There are a few ways the Eagles could go with this, and I am not opposed to either direction. I don’t think that the expectations will decrease, however, no matter which direction they go. Expectations — that’s the name of the game.
The Case for Sam Bradford
Many on Twitter, or better yet “Eagles Twitter”, have expressed a serious issue with paying Bradford at market value. As we know, Bradford is not under contract and there will be at least one team willing to pay an arm and a leg for a quarterback in 2016.
There are many reasons that folks do not want Bradford back. The three most commonly cited reasons: He is mediocre, he is prone to injury and the team has too many holes to fill to win now anyway. I understand all of those statements. He did not light it up in 2015, he missed time due to injury and the team does have holes to fill.
With that being said, Bradford showed vast improvement down the stretch. His chemistry with key components such as wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz cannot be emphasized enough. Ertz just signed a mega-deal to stay in Philadelphia for another five seasons, and it wouldn’t be farfetched to think he’d like Bradford tossing him the ball.
You simply cannot ignore the fact that Bradford played behind a worn out offensive line with benchwarmers at the guard positions. You cannot ignore the fact that the Eagles led the NFL in dropped passes, and that Bradford had a higher drop percentage than any quarterback in the league. You cannot ignore the fact that Chip Kelly coached one of the most miserable seasons in recent memory. The lead running back rushed for 702 yards and tempo was valued over creating mismatches. You could write “insert quarterback here” and I would guess that whoever you wrote was unsuccessful given those circumstances.
While Bradford’s stats weren’t world-on-fire type numbers in 2015, he proved that he is pro starter. His accuracy all over the field is superior to any available quarterback (and to most starters), his pocket awareness is masterful and given an improved supporting cast he could be poised for a strong season. Improvement through additions and internal improvement are two things that the Eagles need no matter who the quarterback is. A paced, West Coast offense that relies on the run and short passes could pay dividends for the quick-release quarterback.
Bradford will be expected to play at a high level if he is given a big contract. The Eagles could franchise tag him and see how that works out, but a long-term deal is probably more assuring to all involved. Picking a quarterback in the first round, 13th overall, will set expectations high as well. There is no guarantee that one of the soon-to-be rookie quarterbacks will work out, either. Many think Bradford is a risk, but a rookie could be even riskier. Sam Bradford might be a boring box of stale doughnuts, but at least you know what you’re getting.
This year’s quarterback class is as shaky as any and it’s tough to decide if any prospect is worth it this early in the process. On top of that, it is basically impossible to predict if the worthy prospects will be available at 13th overall, or if the Eagles have any interest in trading up the board.
There are three quarterback prospects that seem like they’ll go in the first round; Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz. They’re all big quarterbacks with NFL tools, but it is still unknown if they will pan out in the big leagues. Of the three, I like Wentz the most. He doesn’t have the pedigree because he went to a small school (North Dakota State), but his tools seem legitimate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wentz shoot up the board after the combine is complete. The Cleveland Browns could select him 2nd overall if they want to entrust him to be their franchise quarterback.
There are many benefits to drafting a quarterback, but none of them ensure that the Eagles would be getting a great player. Benefits such as saving money and giving the coaching staff a chance to develop a young signal-caller don’t really have anything to do with the quarterback being the right pick. It’s nice to have the money to add some pieces, but spending the 13th pick on a QB gives up a valuable asset that could have been spent on a franchise offensive tackle, wide receiver or defensive player. The coaching regime can try to develop the young guy all they want, but he may just not be good enough. Those are realities that have to be taken into consideration.
I am not saying that I’m against drafting a quarterback. If the right prospect is there, and the staff does their homework, then they should go for it. However, it is just as risky as paying a quarterback big money. It will limit the Eagles in the draft, and the entire draft’s success will be related to the success of that quarterback. It will be exciting to see what they do, but risk is always involved in these decisions. Quarterback is obviously the most important factor to a team’s future, so this choice could inevitably make or break the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia.