Eagles Analysis: The QB Search

Sep 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) looks downfield during the second quarter of a game against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium. The Bears won 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) looks downfield during the second quarter of a game against the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium. The Bears won 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadephia Eagles have made waves this offseason in the quarterback department; first in re-signing incumbent starter Sam Bradford, and then again in securing a reliable back-up in Chase Daniel. The Eagles haven’t stopped there though, as the brain-trust is now making the rounds, checking in on each of college football’s top QB prospects, and leaving a number of fans scratching their heads trying to comprehend the process. To be sure, the Eagles have taken an unconventional approach to this point in resolving their quarterback quandary, but there is a method to the FO’s madness.

It all starts with the first move: locking up Sam Bradford. Simple on the outside, but inarguably more complex on the inside, the Bradford deal has a number of implications moving forward. The Eagles organization undoubtedly has confidence in Bradford, otherwise Howie Roseman and Jeffery Lurie wouldn’t have made a concerted effort to get him under contract. Now, the level of confidence that they have is up for debate.

To recap, the 2-year pact is essentially a 1-year deal with a second year option; the Eagles can cut ties with Bradford following 2016 with minimal consequences. On the other hand, if Bradford succeeds, the staff will likely move to retain him through 2017, with the option of leveraging the franchise tag for year 3.  There are a number of variables in determining the full implications of this deal; however, the closer look dictates that it is more team-friendly than not. The Eagles hold the majority of the leverage in this situation, given the flexibility of the deal. Bradford’s market clearly didn’t express itself like agent Tom Condon had hoped it would, and the Eagles didn’t feel the need to commit long-term. Now, that isn’t to say that the Eagles aren’t sold on Bradford’s ability, but they took the responsible, prudent route in determining what was best for the organization moving forward; covering themselves while retaining a potentially valuable, albeit risky, asset.

To supplement the Bradford move, the Eagles wasted little time in bringing career journeyman and former Doug Pederson protege Chase Daniel in to handle back-up duties. A lot has been made of Daniel’s contract, considering the perceived exorbitant pay for what the organization likely hopes amounts to a glorified clipboard-holder. Still, the Daniel acquisition holds merit. Daniel’s impact on the field far transcends a simple back-up role. Pederson himself has discussed the importance of having a competent second-man who can operate in an advisory role. Pederson sees a lot of himself in Daniel, and hopes that he can help bridge the gap for Bradford and the offense as a whole, given his extensive experience and the personnel’s learning curve.

Daniel potentially brings an important element to the Eagles offense in a number of ways. As the playing-time incentives in his contract suggest, the Eagles organization –much like with Bradford– has a level of confidence in Daniel. They see him as a competent bridge should the Bradford experiment fail in a blaze of glory; namely with an unforeseen injury. Make no mistake, plan A is having Bradford resume control and seize the reins for the foreseeable future with Daniel in the background, but if the former sustains another derailing injury, the organization can effectively cut ties, and move forward with Daniel as the bridge while grooming a potential franchise signal-caller.

That brings us to the present. The Eagles brass has recently taken to the skies on a cross-country marathon, probing the draft’s top QB prospects. Some have proposed that this process is no more than a smokescreen, while others have proclaimed it a measured approach in procuring the franchise’s next great QB. While it’s impossible to get inside the minds of the Eagles decision-makers, there are a number of clues that key us in on their thinking. Throughout the entire process to this point, there has been one prevailing trend: stacking contingency policies. The organization is taking a comprehensive approach to resolving the quarterback situation, which is without a doubt paramount until an effective solution is discovered.

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What’s more, there truly is little reason to believe that the organization’s courting of the top-QBs’ sole purpose is as a diversionary tactic. Although, there is reason to believe that they are simply reaffirming suspicions and finalizing a report. The fact of the matter is, teams more or less finish their evaluations by the conclusion of the Senior Bowl in late January. The boards are stacked, and the teams understand where each prospect stands in regard to the class. This isn’t a fluid situation; the Eagles aren’t taking Carson Wentz out for Filet and Merlot and saying “Wow we need to drastically adjust our board:” they’re confirming suspicions, and feeling him out as a player and person. What I’m positing here is this: The Eagles have known their plan for a long time. That’s not to say that the plan isn’t fallible, as it very well may be, but this isn’t some half-cocked expedition. They’ve already graded Lynch, Goff, Wentz, and the rest of the QB class. Now, they’re simply getting to know them on a personal level. Lurie attending these meetings himself doesn’t necessarily mean they’re closing in on a prospect (You’ll recall his visit with Geno Smith, and then the Eagles subsequently passing on him twice). Although, Lurie does seem more involved in the process than before, and is intent on having his finger on the pulse of the team’s culture.

No steak dinner is going to convince the Eagles that they should deviate from their board and trade the house to move from 8 to 1 for any of these players; that determination was made long ago. Moreover, considering the timing of the Bradford and Daniel deals, I’m much less inclined to believe that this is the case anyway. Why retain Bradford AND go so hard after Daniel if you had determined that you’d do “whatever it takes” to land a top-prospect. Of course it could be viewed as a carefully measured contingency policy, but it does seem a bit excessive to acquire both. That isn’t to say that the Eagles will/should pass on a QB at 8. As I’ve said before, the Bradford and Daniel deals should not preclude the Eagles from drafting a passer. Trading up to 1 or 2 just doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme. A franchise quarterback is a team’s most invaluable asset, and no expense should be spared in acquiring one; however, that doesn’t justify irresponsibly doling out valuable resource in a haphazard scheme. That also doesn’t seem to fit Howie Roseman’s MO.

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The way I see it, the plan is this: Bradford gets first crack while simultaneously supplemented and backed up by Daniel. If the Eagles see one of the top-QBs as a long-term solution, they’ll be aggressive, although selling the farm seems highly antithetical, and something that I don’t see happening. I also think that the organization is weighing the value of this class, but they’ll ultimately land on a mid-round option. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have pursued Bradford and Daniel so doggedly in March after coming to determinations on the class in January. In the end, it just doesn’t add up otherwise and indicates a flawed process.