With reports surfacing late last night that Sam Bradford would play the 2015 season on a one-year deal, many feel that keeping the injury-prone quarterback off the Eagles’ books for the future is the safe move: force Bradford to prove himself as an Eagle before committing to him long-term.
Unfortunately for Chip Kelly and theEagles, Bradford’s single-season contract opens the door to many more possibilities, most of which are detrimental to the team moving forward.
First, it is important to understand that, while the Eagles have had a revolving door at quarterback since Chip Kelly arrived, every single signal caller has produced in this unique offense. In 2013, both Nick Foles and Michael Vick ranked in the top-seven in yards per pass, with Foles placing eighth in completion percentage and second-last in interceptions. Last year, even the lowly Mark Sanchez saw his numbers rise: the former Jet ranked ninth in yards per pass and in the top half of the league in completion percentage, tied with Tom Brady at 64.1%. The simplicity of the scheme makes it almost fool-proof. Add to that a Pro Bowl running back, three star linemen, and a deep group of receivers, and one can’t help but notice this is one of the most quarterback-friendly settings in football.
With Bradford’s skill set and talent level, one has to believe he will perform as well as Nick Foles did here, if not better. The Eagles sent a valuable draft pick and a top-fifteen quarterback to the Rams for Bradford, illustrating Kelly’s faith and belief in the former number-one pick. Kelly knows Bradford will succeed to some extent, meaning his value as a player will only increase.
Jeremy Maclin’s Milion-Dollar Exit
Last offseason, Jeremy Maclin similarly opted to “bet on himself” and play out the final year of his contract. He turned down a five-year deal in order to raise his value and increase his earning potential. Maclin eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and led the Eagles’ receiving corps in all major categories. The current Kansas City Chief carried the offense at times, especially early in the year when the offensive line was in shambles.
Had the Eagles been able to sign Maclin last summer, his value would not have commanded as high of a contract as the one he earned after 2014. The Eagles would have been able to keep Maclin around on a cap-friendly deal, instead of having to pay full value in free agency. In the end, that full value was too much for the front office, which lost Maclin to former coach Andy Reid.
A similar scenario may play out with Bradford. If the Eagles were able to negotiate a deal prior to the season, they would be paying a former number one pick who’s last professional season is comprised of a mere seven games. If Bradford performs at a decent rate as expected, he will have he leverage to command a much greater salary than he can now, and may well choose to hit the open market in free agency. Nothing makes general managers more insane than the prospect of a franchise quarterback, and another team could easily offer Bradford an audacious offer that the Eagles wouldn’t match.
As a result, the team would be right back to square one: no quarterback. The Nick Foles trade would have been for naught, and the team would be in a worse position than before the trade happened.
The Michael Vick Experience
In 2010, the Eagles gave Michael Vick the chance to emerge as a starting quarterback. Vick, like Bradford, was also on a one-year deal. The former Falcon took the league by storm, finishing second in MVP voting and winning Comeback Player of the Year. With no other option at quarterback, the Eagles were forced to offer Vick a $100 million contract, poisoning them for the near future.
Teams seemed to figure out Vick’s weakness against the blitz, and exploited it relentlessly in 2011-2012. A player who was once an MVP candidate seemed helpless at the hands of NFL defenses. Millions of dollars, as well as two full seasons, were lost due to the struggles of Michael Vick.
Sam Bradford is in a similar situation, and may well have a big year for this team. Even if he doesn’t reach the heights Vick idid, he will still be in line for a solid payday—just ask Andy Dalton—and the Eagles may well be forced to shell out major cash. If the Eagles do end up overpaying Bradford on the merit of one season, teams will figure out his weakness the way they did with Vick. Defenses in this league are quick to adapt, and unless Bradford turns out to be a Brady-esque legend, there’s no way he will be able to match the kind of money the Eagles will end up paying. Again, look at Andy Dalton.
In the end, Bradford will simply be another Vick: a quarterback that isn’t providing enough return on investment, if the Eagles overpay to keep him With the salary cap restricting teams already, having an overpaid player is a huge obstacle when building championship team.
Whether the Eagles choose to pay Bradford, like they did with Vick, or let him go, like they did with Maclin, the team seems to be stuck in between a rock and a hard place now that Bradford won’t sign. The two sides could easily have hammered out a three or four-year deal with a team-friendly cap figure, as Bradford’s value is at its low point right now.
Bradford on a one-year deal is bad news for the Eagles’ pocketbooks, and leaves the position in disarray for the near future.