No doubt the biggest argument among the Eagles fan base this offseason is what the hell the Eagles should do for a QB. Sam Bradford is currently set to be a free agent after completing 346 of his 532 attempts (good for 65%) to go along with 3,725 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 14 games as a starter last season. The Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, good for second in the NFC East, but missed the playoffs for the second straight season. With so many different opinions, lets go over the 3 main sides that have shaped this argument. There are those who want Bradford to come back on a long term deal, those who want him gone at all costs, and those who say keep him on the short term, and draft a QB to develop for a few years. Each side has positives and negatives, so let’s go over each one, and see if we can figure out the best solution.
There certainly is an argument to be made for Bradford to come back and start. After missing 2 straight seasons, many fans were concerned about the rust that Bradford would show, and whether or not he would be able to brush it off. Sure enough, in the Eagles first few games, Bradford had issues. His footwork was awful, and his timing wasn’t great, leading to lots of inaccurate passes, and many interceptions. But a definite upside for him was the fact that he did eventually shake off that rust. Fans like to comment on his first 7 vs last 7 games, but Bradford showed improvement in every game he played. It’s hard to argue that he didn’t get better with each game, because he did. So if he can continue that improvement into next season, his ceiling is high. Another huge upside to Bradford is his experience and leadership. One of the biggest issues that can come from drafting and then starting a rookie QB is his inability to lead the team effectively. But Bradford has years of experience in the NFL, and his teammates both trust and like him as a leader. So much so that the teams top two receivers, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, who combined for 160 receptions, 1,850 yards, and 10 TD’s have both said they would like Bradford back. The best thing that Bradford has going for him right now is his ability to lead, and how high his ceiling is. He needs to take advantage of those things next season assuming he’s back.
The exact opposite argument is that the Eagles should let Bradford walk. And just like the first argument, there are several very valid points to be made. First off, injury concerns. Bradford missed 2 straight seasons with ACL tears, and 2 games this season due to a collar bone injury. So then it’s important to ask if Bradford can actually stay healthy for 16 games, something that’s important if the Eagles want to make a Super Bowl push any time soon. But health isn’t the only issue. Lot’s of Bradford’s play left something to be desired this season. Sure he had some impressive throws, and good wins, but there was no real consistency in his play. What’s more, even towards the end of the season, his fundamentals weren’t perfect. While they improved greatly from the beginning of the season, there was still too many errors in both his footwork and his release. And as the Bradford naysayers point out, even his best stats weren’t that impressive compared to the rest of the league. Bradford, and indeed the entire Eagles team was mediocre in 2015, and the real question here is “can Bradford do better?”
The final argument here is kind of a mix of the other two. The Eagles should both sign Bradford to an extension, and the draft a QB in the first round. Before we get into this, lets look at the top QB candidates. Jared Goff is considered by most to be the best overall prospect this year. He is by no means perfect, but he’s both the most consistent and the most pro-ready. Which means there is little chance he’s available when the Eagles pick at 13. Another option is Carson Wentz. While he may be available when the Eagles pick, I have to be honest. I do not like Wentz at all. That’s not a slight to his ability, as he is talented, I just have no confidence that he can come into the NFL and seriously compete with the skill he’ll face at the pro level. He didn’t even compete with with the best of the college players, and I think it would be a mistake for any team in the top 20 to pick him and start him. That leaves only Paxton Lynch. In my second Eagles only mock draft, I actually have the Eagles taking Lynch at 13, and while he’s not my favorite prospect, he does have the skills to succeed. He’s inconsistent at times, and shouldn’t be forced into a starting role right away, but given time, he could be a very successful QB.
The most logical argument has to be the third one. It no only offers the Eagles the best chance to succeed in the short term, but gives them a QB for the future as well. So what would this look like for the Eagles? For starters, the Eagles would have to sign Bradford to a long term deal. Something like a 3-year, $17 million a year, with a team opt out option after that third year would make sense. Then the Eagles would go out and use the 13th overall pick to draft Paxton Lynch. Releasing Mark Sanchez would then mean the Eagles can save a decent amount of money and use Lynch as a much cheaper backup option. This is all but a perfect option for the Eagles. It gives the Eagles a good chance to succeed in the coming years, while Pederson can groom a QB for the future. There is really only one downside to this plan. If the staff decides that Lynch is ready to start year 3, the team must either pay Bradford a large sum of money to be a backup, or be forced to eat a large amount of dead money when releasing him. As the offseason progresses, the QB argument will continue to swirl. With names from Sam Bradford to Nick Foles, no one truly knowing what’s going to happen, and we wont know what the Eagles plan do to with football’s most important position until they actually do it.